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story by David Van Buren • photos by Marc Rozman and David Van Buren
The day included a long tour of the plant — perhaps too long for many of the reporters, especially those who didn’t really know what they were seeing — and presentations by plant manager Tyree Minner, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, Sterling Heights Mayor Notte, and the UAW’s General Holiefield. Unfortunately, with the line going almost full swing — I timed production at one car every 48 seconds, which is not far from capacity — the radio headsets were not as clear as they could be, due to static from the equipment.
At one point I noticed a status board and gleaned some interesting facts from it. The internal C/1000 quality measure has been lined up against Consumer Reports dots, so they could predict where their cars would fare in the standings based on internal measures; there were also comparisons of Chrysler cars with key competitors on the VSI index. Even in S2 (pre-production) mode, the VSI index of the Chrysler 200 was quite good, similar to that of the Volvo C70. [We did not reproduce these charts, as they contain sensitive information.]
We did find that the old Sebring had achieved impressive quality numbers, in the “good red dot” realm, for some time before issues suddenly came up, presumably with the current generation; but the future will apparently hold far more reliability for Chrysler owners. Even under Cerberus, the Sebring moved back to average quality.
Reporters mobbed Sergio Marchionne, seeking video segments; photographers shot from above, though there was no need, since he put in a long appearance during the presentations. Manufacturing man Scott Gaberding and the other Chrysler people were not quite as popular with the press.
For a time, they showed slides from the presidential visit...
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