DETROIT - General Motors is predicting that it will score significantly better in a closely watched study of vehicle quality that will be released this month.
The company says the improvements stem from its 1999 decision to merge truck and car manufacturing organizations, which reduced internal fiefdoms and improved communications.
"When we finally got to one manufacturing system, one engineering system and one design system, then we could really start to move the needle on driving the best practices across the company," said Gary Cowger, president of GM North America.
GM ranked fourth among automakers selling vehicles in North America in last year's Initial Quality Study by J.D. Power and Associates, with 146 problems per 100 vehicles. Power asks new owners to list problems large and small. Counted are everything from engine flaws to loose interior trim. GM says it will reduce the number of problems to the low 130s in this year's survey, scheduled to be released May 30.
In last year's study, the leader was Toyota Motor Corp., with 115 problems per 100 vehicles, followed by Honda Motor Co. Ltd. at 133, Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. at 145 and GM.
Ford Motor Co. had 162 problems per 100 vehicles in last year's study. The company has launched a quality-improvement program as part of its turnaround plan.
At a three-hour session with reporters on Wednesday, May 15, Cowger and other officials described how GM's Quality as a Value program has helped improve the automaker's quality.
The program targets such things as interior design and perceived quality.
Two-thirds of GM's procedures focus on early stages of vehicle development, while the remaining are devoted to assembly and fixing problems in current production vehicles, such as wind noise or fit and finish.
Cowger said that in 2000, 43 percent of the vehicles coming off a GM assembly line needed repairs for such things as a scratched hood or dented door. In 2001, that was cut to 17 percent.
Said Cowger: "When quality improves, the cost just falls away."