On the inside
CABIN quality is the newest battlefield in the car business. Any company chasing sales success has to have its cabin quality right to win people in the ‘gee whizz’ moment when they first drop into the driver’s seat.
Toyota Australia learned all about this in the early months of its Camry export program to the Middle East. None of its customers were remotely interested in a test drive, they just wanted to look and touch and smell to see if the Camry was good enough.
And it failed . . . The Camry project was teetering on the edge until Toyota set up a pair of major-league rectification stations, one in Singapore and one in the Middle East, while it tracked and fixed the source of the complaints at its production line at Altona.
Cars were rolled off in Singapore and tweaked by one team, then given a final onceover and update just before heading to showrooms in the Middle East.
The quality commitment worked, thankfully, and the success of today’s Camry is largely down to the number exported from Melbourne to the Middle East.
I am reminded of this cabin quality contest as I jump into the latest Grand Cherokee from Jeep, a brand which has plenty of room for improvement.
Audi was the first to make a big deal about its cabins and quality – with classy design work, luscious materials and fabulous finishing – and it has paid off from the brand, as well as forcing its rivals to lift their game. Audi is today’s interior benchmark and will stay in front for a long time. So, what about Jeep and Chrysler?
Several times I was involved in heated arguments with the American company’s former design boss, Trevor Creed, about the sub-standard finishing at his brand. Creed used every excuse in the book, from sub-standard suppliers to the cost of parts and even a need to keep a rugged look at Jeep.
It was, of course, all rubbish. The Grand Cherokee of 2010 proves it, and sets a new direction for Chrysler, because the cabin is classy, creak-free and well finished.
It’s not an Audi but it is way, way better than anything that has worn a Jeep, Dodge or Chrysler badge in the past. So Chrysler is on the right road for inside-out success, like every other brand – from Hyundai to RollsRoyce – that knows you only get one chance to make a first impression.