Outlook Sprearheaded GM's New Approach to Improving Vehicle Quality

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The Detroit News published an interesting story today about General Motors' latest approach to improving quality. One of the first vehicles that reportedly went through the new process early on was Saturn's Outlook crossover utility.

The article explains how GM put 1 million miles on pre-production Outlooks, GMC Acadias, and Buick Enclaves six months before the crossovers ever went on sale. "GM sent test cars to dealers in San Francisco, Anchorage (cold weather), Denver (high elevation) and Florida (humidity) and asked the dealers, as well as marketing employees, to rack up mileage," wrote the newspaper. GM's goal was to "catch glitches before buyers do."

The company collected vehicle performance data using OnStar as a way to immediately report any problems or issues that occurred during the test drives. This new method of actively hunting down and eliminating issues is refreshing. Significantly, the process doesn't end when a car goes on sale – its applied throughout the vehicle's life cycle.

Jamie Hresko, GM's vice president for North America quality, told the paper in an interview at the 2008 NAIAS that he and his team hold weekly calls with dealers to discuss vehicle issues. "We talk to their service people about what they are seeing," he said. "Real time – don't wait for the warranty claim system to print reports."

Any issues that arise are dealt with swiftly, culminating with a recall if deemed necessary. "We are very quick to move," he said. "The quicker you move, the faster you fix the problem and the less of the population you pollute" with a poor ownership experience. The results so far are encouraging. This proactive approach to correcting issues is credited with a 61% drop in the number of GM vehicles recalled in 2007.

In order to be competitive in the marketplace, GM is targeting a minimum 15% improvement in quality year-over-year. The goal is for the company's brands to consistently top influential survey studies like J.D. Power and Consumer Reports. "It doesn't matter if we have a 100,000-mile warranty," Hresko told the Detroit News. "That's how hard we have to go."

It looks like the company is on the right track. GM's efforts were rewarded this past fall when the Saturn Outlook was added to Consumer Reports' highly coveted "recommended" list.

Source: Detroit News

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