Chrysler to Improve Nitro and Sebring

By: Lauren Woods

Consumer Reports recently gave the Dodge Nitro and the Chrysler Sebring poor scores. For the Chrysler Sebring and the Dodge Avenger, Consumer Reports stated that they are not competitive with most family sedans. For the Dodge Nitro, Consumer Reports says that it has "some nice features, but unimpressive overall".

This, of course, stirred a hornet's nest inside the Chrysler Group. A top executive for the car manufacturer recently admitted to its employees that the Chrysler Group apparently misjudged the market in the development of the Chrysler Sebring and the Dodge Nitro.

Bob Lee, the head of powertrain engineering for the American car manufacturer, said that there are many people inside Chrysler who are "outraged" at the blunder given to the Nitro and the Sebring. He said that Chrysler's Chief Executive Officer Tom LaSorda and Chief Operating Officer Eric Ridenour are "quite upset and agree the company missed where the market was to end up versus our projection."

The Sebring and the Nitro failed miserably since Chrysler underestimated their competitors which are already established brands such as Toyota. The company is also reported to set too low standards in some areas of the two vehicles released last year. Fuel economy, interior quality and noise and vibration reduction are things that Chrysler needs to improve on the Sebring and the Nitro to make them competitive in the market.

"As a result of these embarrassing 'misses,' there are extremely aggressive actions being taken on many of the existing products - and also the yet to be introduced products to get us at least to the middle of the competitive pack in very short order," says Lee.

After admitting the flaws on the Nitro and the Sebring, Bob Lee said that they are already in the process of overhauling their product development system. The company hopes that with the revamping of their current system, the blunder with the Nitro and the Sebring will not happen again. This is especially important to the auto manufacturer since they are on the verge of turning around their awful performance in the car market.

Frank Klegon, Chrysler's product development chief, said that: "We're certainly not satisfied with where we are. We have to get better." Klegon also outlined a number of actions that they will take to improve their current system.

The company said that they will be focusing on sourcing more parts or materials from low-cost countries and will invest more on the interior of their vehicles. Aside from that, the Chrysler Group will also establish design studios which will help them better design the interior as well as the exterior of their future car models. These design studios will complement their engine development team which will produce more fuel-efficient engines probably with a help from the system among many others.

The company also hired the ASI Consulting Group which will help them to understand consumers better. The company has already worked for Hyundai. According to Klegon, the think tank was hired to help them "make a cultural change to move that needle to be proactive". Klegon added that: "We're taking this on as an extreme change in the way we do predictive quality from the standpoint of customers. It's embedded in our vehicle teams and it's embedded in our components team."

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