BERLIN - Nissan Europe's most critical strength is manufacturing quality, and the company has maintained its high standards while running Europe's most efficient factory, said Ian Gibson, president.
'You cannot achieve quality at all costs but if you link quality and productivity and if you work correctly with your people, you have a virtuous circle,' said Gibson, speaking to the Automotive News Europe Congress here.
Repeated surveys have shown that the quality of Nissan vehicles exceeds that of the competition and is far above the average, said Gibson. Nissan's Sunderland, Eng., plant is the maker's best outside Japan and the factory outside Barcelona, Spain, is within the top 10, he said.
In the last five years, productivity has improved 44 percent at Sunderland and 59 percent in Spain, a brownfield plant that has been extensively modernized. The improvement has been achieved without installing expensive robots, said Gibson. 'Production has the responsibility of managing quality through the process.'
Nissan continues to do much of its own sub-assembly, in stark contract with the philosophy of Renault, its new partner. Renault has a vertical integration level of 20 percent. Nissan Europe's is about 35 percent, said Gibson. This is an area the two will have to discuss, Gibson admitted.
But Gibson's own belief is that modules are not the total answer.
'I am not fond of the rush to modules,' he said. Nissan continues to build its own instrument panels, doors and fascias.
Much of the product quality has been achieved using a 'no touch' principle, meaning that the assembly process has been perfected to the point that 80 percent of the Micra cars put together on the line need no further work, he said.
It takes Nissan eight hours to assemble the Micra and 10 hours for the larger Primera. The Sunderland factory is so flexible it could 'build anything,' said Gibson, in response to questions whether Nissan could build Renault products.
A decision on whether to base the next Renault Clio and Nissan Micra on the same platform will be made this summer, said Gibson, adding, 'my vote is yes.'
Speaker: Ian Gibson
Title: President, Nissan Europe.
Theme: Why quality equals efficiency
Quote: 'The drive to achieve quality targets through the philosophy of production responsibility has reinforced the focus on being the best in productivity levels.'