TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- After years of quality problems, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is making noticeable progress, says the automaker’s head of quality, Scott Garberding.
FCA is improving its vehicles in internal tests and third-party studies, he said Monday at the CAR Management Briefing Seminars here. In 2017, FCA has had a 16 percent reduction in warranty problems, a 10 percent boost in its annual J.D. Power Initial Quality Study performance and an 11 percent improvement in warranty expenses per vehicle sold, Garberding said.
“Today we’re in a far better place than where we were seven years ago, when very few people were betting we would make it,” he told the audience. “Our consumers expect [top quality], and they’ll turn to our competition, frankly, if we don’t deliver.”
Garberding was named to his position in 2016 amid a management shake-up as FCA tried to improve vehicle quality after years of struggling in independent studies.
The Fiat brand scored last in the 2017 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study with 163 problems per 100 vehicles. The Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler brands all scored below the industry average of 97 problems per 100 vehicles.
But Ram tied the Ford brand for the fourth-best spot in the rankings, the highest mark Ram has ever scored. It improved 25 percent over a year ago.
And the new Chrysler Pacifica was the highest ranking minivan in the Power study.
Garberding said the improvements have been part of a three-pronged approach that includes proactive, reactive and preventive steps.
They are part of FCA’s companywide World Class Manufacturing initiative, which Garberding says has started a “cultural revolution” on the company’s factory floors.
The Pacifica, for example, was tested for more than 3.4 million miles before it hit production.
The Ram 1500 pickup’s quality improved because of changes made at the Warren Truck Assembly Plant where it is built.
Team leaders and FCA management held quarterly town hall meetings with plant employees to discuss what they’re doing right and wrong. The company also worked to make product improvements on the shop floor using customer feedback, within 24 hours of receiving it.
“We know there’s a lot of work to do but we’re encouraged because our products have improved and they’re continuing to improve,” he said. “All of our employees are engaged and are taking ownership of quality from initial design to production and interactions with customers.”