Question of the Month<br />May 2001

Have shortened development times led to the recent rash of quality problems for the Big Three automakers?

Yes 50% No 50%

No: It's the environment

Shortened development times are not solely responsible for the recent rash of quality problems at the Big Three, but rather the pressure from executives at the Big Three that expect unreasonable price reductions regardless of whether the suppliers can actually produce these parts and still make a profit. Shortened development times are merely a part of a bigger scheme of attempts at cost reduction without having the backing of a well-matured quality system.

It's like getting blood from a stone. Why is it that cars cost so much more, and yet part prices are lower than ever?Really, something must suffer. Instead of giving directives that compromise product quality, the focus should be on maintaining and improving quality, which in the end will allow cost reductions across the board.

Currently, it's like the cart before the horse, isn't it?
Norm Turner
Quality Assurance Analyst Stackpole Ltd.
Stratford, Ont.

Yes: New culture needed

A product development recipe for the puzzling improving fit and finish numbers with simultaneous, increasingly ugly announced and silent recalls:

Take two parts staff turnover and older worker experience loss, one part lack of emphasis on reliability and one part chimney organizational structure. Make sure you keep warranty and engineering budgets separate.

Season with a dash of corporate politics. Bake for too short a time at a higher temperature, and rush to a “survivor” marketplace.

It will take a boardroom emphasis on developing a new culture where T1s and OEMs agree to put reliability at the same level of importance as cost and timing.
Charles Stanton
Durability Solutions, L.L.C.
Kalaheo, HI

May's cover story “Who's Next?” (see WAW — May '01, p.32) and the Survivor television show analogy grabbed my attention.

In the 1980s General Motors spent tens of billions of dollars for state-of-the-art equipment and technology without enhancing quality, efficiency, or market share. The Big Three have got to improve.

Hiding behind the QS-9000 facade doesn't cut it. They shouldn't expect U.S. consumers, struggling for their own survival, to subsidize them by purchasing their vehicles with inferior quality. I hate thinking of “American Quality” as an oxymoron.
Ted Stalla
Designer, consumer & American

Requiem for the Cherokee

Jeep Cherokee: b. 1983 d. 2001. A dearly beloved vehicle that will be sorely missed. Congratulations to DCX on killing off one of the most successful SUV designs of all time. The indestructible 4L inline-6 gives way to an overcomplicated V-6 that had to have counterbalance shafts added because it shakes so badly. We won't even get into the fact that the pre-cat. emissions of that old AMC 4L are less than the new 3.7L V-6.

The Cherokee has a LIVE front axle (a Dana no less), like all Jeeps should. If you ever have to replace the u-joints it will cost you about $15 a side for the parts. A Liberty has IFS. Get ready to pay $1,200 for all four CV joints.

The Liberty weighs at least 500 lbs. more than a Cherokee. But hey, that whopping extra 15 hp will offset the difference … right? Hmmm … maybe not. It also has 5 cu. ft. less storage space in back.

The Liberty looks like all the other annoying, jellybean shaped “cute-utes” (i.e. CR-V, RAV4 and Escape) that have cheesy car drive trains. So congrats, you have sunk to their level and managed to further dilute the Jeep brand. Why didn't you spend all that money it took to develop the Liberty on reducing the cost of a Cherokee? Can you imagine selling a Cherokee for around $15,000?

Jeep buyers are not going to buy the Liberty instead, trust me.
An anonymous Cherokee owner

An evolutionary solution

Drew, instead of all of the high-tech safety equipment (see “Bad Drivers, Good Credibility” WAW — April '01, p.9), why don't we let natural selection weed them out of the gene pool?
Jim Villano

Jerry, Si

To respond to letter-writer Duane: “GM fit and finish is flawless” (see Letters, WAW — May '01, p.11). While I am happy that you buy two GM vehicles a year (it pays my bills) you need to realize vehicular inbreeding can cause blind spots, gene deficiencies, and idiocy. You and your wife should rent a Toyota Camry or Honda Accord on vacation for a week and spend some serious butt time driving them around. Play with the interior. You will then understand the basis for Jerry Flint's grouchiness.
Disgruntled Employee 51,294
Pontiac, MI

Jerry, No

As usual Jerry's got his head firmly and confidently up his tailpipe (see WAW — May '01, p.19). How does a schmuck in an ascot get to write for Ward's in the first place? Shouldn't he be covering cotillions at Grosse Pointe!
Dursun Sakarya
Dover, NJ

A TDI fan

I wish the EPA would give a break to turbodiesel powertrains. I would love to have a turbodiesel minivan for my family. My family of six won't fit in a VW TDI and we can't afford a 12 passenger heavy duty turbodiesel fullsize van.
Jim Siegel

Alas, poor Uno we knew ye when

There is a little mistake in the text under the Opel Corsa picture (see WAW — May '01, p.53), the Corsa does not share parts with the Uno, which is out of production and replaced by the Punto.
Martin de Klark
Information Analyst Power Systems
DaimlerChrysler AG

Editor's note: Our sources tell us that, indeed, the Uno is still produced in South America and Poland, although assembly stopped in Italy in 1995.

No Cigar for Cuba piece

Wow! Old American cars in Cuba (see WAW — May '01, p.21)! When did this happen? Why didn't the world know about this? Thanks so much to John McElroy for shedding light on such news.

There is no indication that John even visited Cuba in the story. Not a single “I saw this” or “I talked to this person.” What happened to journalism? Is this the best that your magazine can do?
Jim Harkness
Visteon Corp.
Dearborn, MI

John responds: You seem to confuse news reporting and editorial opinion. The latter involves insight, analysis and opinion, which is exactly what this column delivered.

Am I showing my age?

Jerry Flint is right on! (see “Young Losers,” WAW — June '01, p.15). Or is my agreement with him just a confirmation of my advancing years? A great example of “know everything” (but know nothing) management comes to mind: the recent switch of Northwest Airlines CEO to Burger King. I guess that knowledge of product and customer is unnecessary these days. Or maybe there is a link there, in that both organizations are in the “junk food” business.
Waldemar Semrau
Washington, MI

We &#8216;auto&#8217; know better

In your “Global Automakers Aggressively Consolidating Platforms” (see WAW — March '01, p.49), I read the following: “After announcing a linkup last year that included General Motors Corp. buying a 20% stake in Fiat SpA….” The real truth is quite different: GM bought a 20% stake in Fiat Auto SpA. Fiat SpA bought some 6% stake in GM Corp. Fiat SpA is the holding company of Fiat Group. Fiat Auto SpA is the passenger car and LCV arm of Fiat Group.

As Fiat SpA's ADRs are listed on the NYSE, we have to be even more careful in monitoring inaccurate information.
Gualberto Ranieri
VP, Corporate Communications Fiat SpA

Question of the Month<br />July 2001

Are U.S. consumers ready to give diesels another chance?


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