The last five years have brought an astonishing reversal at Chrysler Corp. While redesigning its entire product line from the dowdy, boxiness of the K-car to the slick curves of its cab-forward concept, Chrysler has become the low-cost developer of new cars and trucks.
That feat has transformed the company into one of the most profitable automakers in the industry. But there's plenty more to do.
Chrysler's platform teams have changed the breadth of their model lineups; now they are taking on the depth. That's evidenced in Chrysler's 1996 models. They exhibit few external changes because engineers are addressing the touchy-feely stuff as they improve the components of their product line-up to exorcise noise, vibration and harshness (NVH).
It ain't easy. One top Chrysler executive laments that he has engineers working for him who have never heard of Ettore Bugatti, the legendary Italian coach builder who designed and manufactured cars in the 1920s and 1930s that are considered among the finest ever built.
"It's difficult to change attitudes," says the executive, who wants his engineers to realize that every part, even the smallest and most remote from the customer, is very important. He asks if they had to sign every part they designed for a car, what would they want said about them 100 years from now if it was taken apart - was this guy a genius or a dumb SOB?
There's more on the line than just pride. A Chrysler marketing executive concedes that when Chrysler starts making major sheet metal changes, beginning next year with Jeep, there will be big trouble if the new offerings are still plagued by squeaks. knocks and rattles.