Chrysler Getting Smart: Recalls, New Transmissions, Lean Production

While GM continues to shoot itself in the marketing foot—a memo to all Chevrolet employees advises they should stop saying “Chevy” to promote consistency for the brand. Can you believe that?—Chrysler is making some internal moves that make a lot of sense.

In terms of their latest recalls, my blogging buddy tgriffith seems to think that since there haven’t been any injuries, deaths, or crashes reported, Chrysler’s lawyers and PR people are just running scared. I say that’s a good thing, even if recalls are increasing in number and frequency: GM just recalled 1.4 million cars for potential fires in the heated windshield washer system, which had problems in 2008 (see photo).

Automoblog’s Chris Burdick makes the point that, with regard to sticking accelerators on the Jeep Compass and Dodge Caliber (34,721 cars affected), Chrysler is trying to get on top of the problem before it, umm, accelerates. Which is just what Toyota should have done.

Chrysler is also being smart in other ways that are going to produce better cars.

The company is licensing an eight-speed automatic transmission from the great German manufacturer ZF to build in its Kokomo, Ind., plant in 2013. Presently used in the BMW 760Li, the 5 Series GT, the upcoming Bentley Mulsanne, et al., the new tranny promises smoother, more efficient performance and a big boost in Chrysler’s CAFE averages. “The transmission will be offered across the Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram Truck lineups.”

Chrysler has 28 plants in North America and has begun to adapt Fiat’s World Class Manufacturing system in all of them. Basically, the system combines lean production techniques from many automakers, but adds to them “a complete buy-in from management at all levels” and a “culture of worker involvement” on the shop floor.

The story of what’s happening at the Jeep plant in Detroit is truly encouraging. It demonstrates that Fiat is bringing a new energy and new kinds of production practices to Chrysler that are clearly going to show up in its products.

Are you willing to consider a Chrysler vehicle for your next purchase? Tell us why or why not.

—jgoods

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