Nissan Quality Center Speeds Up Response To Defects

Automaker’s Field Quality Center brings suppliers and developers under one roof to speed up response to defects and improve quality.

ATSUGI, Japan (AP) - Defects aren't something automakers usually like to spotlight. But Nissan's new facility, shown to reporters Monday, does just that.

Panel photos of cars that had caught fire and an exhibition of other examples of problems are among the features of Nissan Motor Co.'s Field Quality Center, which opened last month in this town just west of Tokyo.

Nissan's North American headquarters is in Nashville and the automaker has U.S. plants in Smyrna and Decherd, Tenn., and Canton, Miss.

The center also includes special simulator machinery that recreates rocky and swerving road conditions to test vehicles indoors for problems. It also houses a huge storage area where some 150 problem parts are brought in a day from dealers for study.

At a time when global sales are sliding, Nissan is investing $7.3 million in the center, which brings suppliers and developers under one roof to speed up response to defects and improve quality. In the past, Nissan did not have a central location where such problems were handled.

''Transparency about defects is crucial,'' said Takashi Terada, general manager overseeing quality. ''We are that confident about our quality.''

One problem is that globalization has necessitated contracts with dubious suppliers, particularly in China, where automakers are rushing to meet growing demand.

When suppliers were closely examined, company researchers found that about a fifth of suppliers in China fell short of Nissan's standards and all future business with them had to be halted, according to the Tokyo-based manufacturer.

In one demonstration to reporters, a worker put a fiberscope, with a tiny camera at the end, to peek inside an engine to look for problems.

In another, laser lights and a computer checked for correct wheel alignment.

Nissan hopes to halve the time needed to deal with defects by the next three years, officials said.

Nissan has recently opened three other product defect testing centers, including two in the U.S., at Smyrna, Tenn. and Farmington Hills, Mich., and another in Cranfield, Great Britain.

''Quality is an eternal challenge with no end, and no shortcuts,'' said Nissan Senior Vice President Kazumasa Katoh. ''Whenever a problem arises, we will potentially lose our customers. They will never want to buy that brand again.''

The Field Quality Center is part of several new buildings Nissan has set up recently, including one for developing technology and another for training workers.

More in Global