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Chrysler quality improving

by Bill Cawthon on

Long-plagued by quality problems, both real and perceived, Chrysler is taking big steps to bring its reputation for fit, finish and reliability up to the standards of the leading imports.

Doug Betts, an engineer whose background includes stints at Toyota and Nissan, came to Chrysler in October 2007 to oversee product quality and his work is beginning to pay off.

Betts organized Chrysler’s quality control people into 18 cross-functional teams of about eight members. Instead of being organized by department, Betts says the teams are each focused on specific parts of the vehicle and tasked to fix problems immediately.

Last year, Chrysler recalled just 361,065 vehicles, the fewest of any of the top six automakers and less than half the total recalled by Honda and Toyota.

Warranty claims are down, as well. In the last four months of 2008, Chrysler saw a 21 percent drop in claims during the first 90 days of ownership. For the year, claims were down 30 percent.

Chrysler still has a way to go in shaking off years of sub-par quality during its ownership by Daimler AG, but Doug Betts and his teams have made a good start.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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