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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fiat 500 Number One in JD Power Rankings

Fiat 500 on the assembly line

The Fiat 500 has taken the top honors in Germany's J.D. Power and Associates survey of customer satisfaction. The 500 earned a score of 81.8% in the "A Segment" category placing it first in a class that has been traditionally led by German and Japanese models.

This was the result of Fiat's commitment to achieve the highest possible standards in production, customer service and dealership performance.

In The United States

The US ranking of the Fiat 500 has yet to be done, but Fiat's determination to be the best has already begun to pay off with its partners at Chrysler (who manufactures the Fiat 500 in Mexico for the US market).

J.D. Power and Associates released its US ratings earlier today and the Chrysler Town & Country ranked highest in initial quality in the minivan segment and the Dodge Challenger ranked highest in the mid-size sporty car segment.

Three other Chrysler Group vehicles were highlighted for ranking among the top three vehicles of their competitive class: Dodge Durango in the mid-size crossover/SUV category, Dodge Grand Caravan in the minivan category and Ram Dakota in the mid-size pickup segment.

Fiat 500 Door Installation

“We’ve made steady gains, improving reliability by 58 percent in the past four years, according to our internal warranty data,” said Doug Betts, Senior Vice President – Quality, Chrysler Group. “We still have more work to do as we continue to improve the quality of all our products.”

How Chrysler is Achieving These Results

Chrysler Group continues to invest in quality improvements and has created a stronger, centralized Quality organization. In two years, the quality staff has increased from 200 people to 1,500 staffers working on a coordinated strategy.

Employing Customer Satisfaction Teams

Two years after they were introduced, Customer Satisfaction Teams (CSTs) are eliminating one of the classic issues associated with many Quality departments: problem-solving ownership. Made up of cross-functional teams that measure their success only by their ability to improve defined quality scores, the CST structure is meant to eliminate the potential for a "not my fault" attitude.

Fiat 500 Sunroof Install

"It's about putting people in the right place to foster a problem-solving mentality," Betts said. "Quality must be a shared ownership and CSTs create that environment."

Each CST is comprised of 6 - 15 problem solvers with a variety of expertise. Chrysler has 14 CSTs, one for each vehicle system (engine, interior, wiring, etc) encompassing the range of Chrysler vehicles. These teams are empowered to improve customer satisfaction for their system or area. They measure their success only by how well they do that, without regard to the origin of the customer dissatisfaction.

Defining "Quality"

In the automobile industry, "quality" has been a broadly used term referring to many different aspects of customer satisfaction. At Chrysler, Quality has now been defined into six categories that may affect customer satisfaction: Ordinary, Dissatisfaction, Regulatory, Perceived, Performance and Service, both before and after the sale.

Fiat 500 Dashboard Install

“We now have a clear definition of quality and how to measure it,” Betts explained. “A big part of the customer’s definition of quality is reliability, but it’s also perceived quality and the way a customer is treated before and after the sale.”

To improve performance quality—how a vehicle stacks up against its competition—engineers now start a project by measuring approximately 320 physical characteristics of the best-in-class vehicles. Criteria such as acceleration, braking, handling, seat comfort, fuel economy and storage space are benchmarked. This establishes high standards so vehicles are designed and built to compete with the best.

Wiring the new Fiat 500

Chrysler Group also created the Perceived Quality (PQ) Team in recognition that many consumers form opinions the first time they see a vehicle, whether it’s at an auto show or in a neighbor’s driveway. The PQ team analyzes vehicles’ fit-and-finish, materials, ergonomics, and even the sound quality of moveable parts such as doors, seats and storage compartments. Much of the PQ evaluation is now done in the digital design phase, so product improvements can be made before any tooling invesments.

Fiat 500 Lounge

“Our comprehensive strategy to improve quality and customer satisfaction has prompted significant changes in how Chrysler Group develops, builds and sells cars,” Betts said. “Our ultimate goal is to make high quality vehicles that owners will be proud to recommend to their friends and family members.”

Sources: Fiat Group Press, Chrysler Media press release

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