TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - Chrysler Corp.'s demand that suppliers use a single computer design system allowed it instantly to check the progress of parts makers working on the new LH series.
The new LH models, scheduled to begin launching this fall, are the first vehicles Chrysler has designed without producing physical mockups at various stages, the company said. It built the first prototypes for the vehicles from parts produced directly off its CATIA computer design system.
The result, say Chrysler executives in charge of LH production, is a car that has greatly improved fit and finish from the outset. Because the computer system is used to check how parts fit together, flaws are caught earlier and fixes are easier and much less expensive.
The interior of the new LH fit together remarkably well except for a glitch involving the installation of the new instrument panel. The CATIA system did not catch a minor problem involving the loading of the panel into the interior of the car at the assembly line. An enhancement to CATIA will allow Chrysler to flag these kinds of assembly problems in the future, said Frank Klegon, executive engineer for interiors and thermal systems on the large car platform. Klegon spoke here at the University of Michigan Management Briefing Seminars.
Chrysler reduced development time for the new LH to 31 months, some eight months less than it took to develop the first-generation LH. Klegon said CATIA allowed Chrysler to stay in constant contact with interior suppliers that were involved in key areas: Textron Automotive Co., instrument panel and door trim; Johnson Controls Inc., seating; Prince Automotive, headliner module and floor console; Venture Industries, hard interior trim; and Valeo, cooling and climate control.
While suppliers were involved in development of the vehicle, Chrysler retained design control of some key areas of the interior. Instrument panel design was one of them. Said Klegon: 'Certainly, the design office had the lead with the styling.'