Depending on your familiarity with Subaru, you may or may not be aware of the brand’s struggles as of late with quality and reliability. Unsurprisingly, Subaru is racing to fix this problem, and below is their plan of attack.
These quality concerns are especially worrisome because the auto manufacturer is seeing gains in other area, like sales. But, right now, the focus is on improving quality at both its Japanese and North American plants. One reason pushing Subaru to make a change now is the looming release of the redesigned Outback crossover; one of the brands best selling vehicles.
Automotive News was able to obtain internal documents from Subaru that show that nearly half of Subaru’s supplies were operating at quality levels below Subaru’s internal target. So to fix this, Subaru has to not only improve their own processes, but also work with suppliers on improving their quality. This can be very challenging to find a way to encourage suppliers to boost quality without raising prices, and within a timely manner.
Despite these (very) recent stumbles, Subaru is on pace to set record sales numbers in the US for the jaw-dropping 11th year straight. This is the second reason for Subaru to scramble to improve quality; to preserve their image and amazing growth rates.
An internal document for Subaru’s manufacturing plant in Indiana indicates that the brand has the goal of earning Consumer Report’s top ranking in 2020 while also moving up the list on J. D. Power’s initial quality study which we covered recently.
The Road Ahead
While Subaru’s goals are commendable and impressive, they are also very ambitious and possibly far-reaching. The biggest hurdle for Subaru is going to be improving relationships with suppliers. Its much easier to improve your own internal quality but making another company improve their quality for you, while maintaining cost, production levels, and schedule, is much more difficult.
For example, one of the problems faced by their suppliers is high turnover of factory workers; given the extremely low unemployment numbers, jobs are plentiful, skilled works are not.
Subaru’s target for defects from its suppliers is 6 parts per million (ppm). Of all their supplies, 107 met this standard, but 101 other suppliers fell short. Even worse, of those 101, 32 had defects over 50ppm. So while half of their suppliers are missing the goal, a smaller portion are drastically off the mark and causing major disruptions in the QC and operations at Subaru. It appears that Subarus growth and increased demand from its suppliers, in combination with difficulty finding skilled workers, led to strain for some of the manufacturers.
Subaru has identified the issue but now to address the issue is a whole other ordeal. These issues are not easily solved and frankly none of the documents sourced from inside Subaru show a clear plan to improve the situation.