BLOOMFIELD HILLS, MI – Chrysler Group LLC is attempting to instill a sense of urgency on the customer-service front by pushing its dealers to log 6-day weeks.

Independent repair shops are “eating the lunch of the dealers,” says Pietro Gorlier, president and CEO- MOPAR Service, Parts and Customer Care, who wonders why so many OEM dealers are closed Saturday in the land that “invented 24-7.”

Most dealers, not just those in the Chrysler network, offer oil changes at lower cost than places such as Wal-Mart, Gorlier claims.

“But why do you go to Wal-Mart? You go simply because Wal-Mart is convenient,” he says, adding his goal is to see 80% of Chrysler’s stores offer Saturday hours by year’s end. But he would be satisfied if that target was reached in two years.

Some 65% of the auto maker’s 2,315 dealerships now open their doors on Saturday.

The initiative is one of several Gorlier is implementing as part of CEO Sergio Marchionne’s turnaround team. Before joining Chrysler, the native of Turin, Italy, held similar posts at Fiat Auto SpA and C.N.H. Global N.V.

“One of the most exciting experiences for a European is to come here to the U.S. and be able shop overnight, shop on Saturday and Sunday,” Gorlier tells Ward’s in a wide-ranging interview. “It’s something (Europeans) don’t have in most cases.”

But the U.S. auto sector is a holdout. “An important number of dealers are not offering service on Saturday,” Gorlier says. “It is simply something that I cannot understand. The same for the Express service.”

Express Lane is a quick-service initiative launched well before Chrysler’s financial crash last year, but he views it as another crtical step in making Chrysler and MOPAR “synonymous with excellent service and excellent parts.”

Quick oil changes are the hallmark of Express Lane. Gorlier wants Express Lane service in 80% of Chrysler dealerships within three years, and those dealerships must deliver.

“You cannot tell someone you take 20 minutes for an oil change and keep the guy 40-50 minutes,” he says. “And this must be throughout the day. Because it’s easy to deliver one oil change in 20 minutes. The process must be rapid and consistent.”

That’s how Chrysler will change consumer perception. Citing third-party surveys, the auto maker’s service is regarded as “weak,” Gorlier admits.

A 2010 J.D. Power report on customer service put Chrysler in the middle of the pack among 13 mainstream brands. But Dodge and Jeep were bottom-dwellers.

But Gorlier knows dealers can’t be left to fight the good fight all on their own.

“I cannot blame the dealers if I don’t provide support to them,” he says. “And they were claiming that they were not getting support.”

To remedy this, Gorlier offered extended-hour access to Chrysler’s technical support lines, including Saturdays.

The Fiat-inspired World-Class Logistics system also portends promise. Based on Fiat’s World-Class Manufacturing system, which is transforming Chrysler’s assembly plants, World-Class Logistics engages employees and preaches vigilance and accountability to ensure delivery of “the right part, to the right place, at the right time with the right quality.”

This goal “is in the hands of the guy who is packing and shipping,” Gorlier says. “I can implement, all the possible strategies, all the possible fixes, but if I don’t empower that guy and the technician in the shop of the dealer to take care of the customer, I will fail.”

He wants to prevent Chrysler from becoming the butt of an old joke. It’s about an employee who is asked how he feels as he receives a gold watch acknowledging decades of faithful service.

“He says, ‘I had a great time with the company. I cannot really say anything negative. But there is one thing that I’m still trying to understand. I gave you, for 35 years, my hands. And you used them. I have a brain available and nobody asked for it.’”

emayne@wardsauto.com