On the in­side

The Advertiser - Motoring - - COOL GEAR -

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.

Paul Gover

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