The quality of Jeep Wranglers could suffer when three suppliers hand each other partially assembled vehicles at a remodeled Chrysler group plant in Toledo, Ohio.
A leading consulting firm has raised caution flags.The company acknowledges the potential problems -- and knows that the stakes are enormous.
Running the first jointly operated assembly plant in the United States "is a challenge," says Craig Corrington, Chrysler vice president of assembly and stamping operations.
"The suppliers are makers of equipment. Now they will actually be producing a product."
Chrysler announced last week that the three suppliers will invest $300 million in the complex and will run the paint, body and chassis operations.
In addition to ceding an unprecedented degree of control to suppliers, Chrysler faces other potential headaches:
All in all, it's a tough assignment. And industry watchers see potential pitfalls as well as opportunities for efficiency.
Chrysler's "intent is to reduce the cost base," says Laurie Harbour-Felix, vice president of Harbour Consulting in Troy, Mich, which specializes in issues of plant productivity. "You still have the same people and the same union. But they're working for suppliers. I don't think you have control over the quality."
Corrington knows coordination will be a problem, and says of the suppliers: "We will need to work closely with them on the actual production systems so we are assured that as we go from facility to facility we are in sync, delivery is on time and quality is where it needs to be."