LORDSTOWN Study: GM cars top industry average

GM's quality ranking among all automakers is third behind Toyota and Honda.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The quality of cars produced at General Motors' Lordstown Assembly Plant improved so much that its quality ranking is better than the industry average, an industry study says.
The plant improved 24 percent last year, according to figures released Thursday by J.D. Power and Associates.
"Clearly, Lordstown has made significant improvements," said Dan Flores, a GM spokesman.
The improvement in quality is significant because the Chevrolet Cavaliers and Pontiac Sunfires produced there last received a major overhaul for the 1995 model year, he said.
Reason for improvement
He credited the quality improvement largely to a new production system that GM is implementing nationwide. Its Global Manufacturing System is designed to arrange work stations so that line operators can operate as efficiently as possible.
The quality study, which is based on survey responses after people have owned vehicles for 90 days, ranks vehicles on the number of problems per hundred vehicles.
Lordstown's number dropped to 124, down from 163 the previous year. Lordstown's number of problems has been dropping in recent years. The number in the 1999 survey was 182.
GM's overall number in this year's survey is 130 problems per hundred cars, compared with 146 last year and 187 in 1998.
"The performance of Lordstown has helped GM to continue to move the quality needle forward," Flores said.
The industry average in this year's survey is 133, compared with 147 last year.
Top three in quality
Among automakers that make a full line of cars and trucks, GM placed third in quality behind Toyota and Honda. Toyota had the best ranking with 107 problems per hundred cars.
GM had four vehicles that were ranked best in various product segments, which was second only to Toyota.
GM also had the top three plants among those in North and South America. Its Oshawa #2 plant in Ontario, which makes the Buick Regal and Buick Century, ranked No. 1 with 93 problems per hundred.
It was followed by its plant in Bowling Green, Ky., which makes the Chevrolet Corvette, and its C plant in Lansing, Mich., which makes the Pontiac Grand Am and Oldsmobile Alero.
Ranked first among all plants that make vehicles for the U.S. market was Toyota's plant in Tahara, Japan, which makes the Lexus SUV models and had 63 problems per hundred.
The Chevrolet Malibu made a 58 percent gain in quality, which was the best of any vehicle. It was followed by the Buick Century, Chevrolet Corvette and Lexus GS, which each improved by 49 percent.
J.D. Powers, which is an automotive consulting company based in California, said the overall quality of cars improved 10 percent.
"This kind of improvement in quality doesn't happen by accident," said Brian Walters, director of product research for the company.
The improvement comes from a concentrated effort by designers, engineers and assembly line workers of both manufacturers and their suppliers, he added.

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