TOLUCA, Mexico - DaimlerChrysler is determined to raise Chrysler's quality image in Europe with the launch of its Mexico-built PT Cruiser.
When the retro-styled model goes on sale in Europe in the summer, DCX is confident its build standards will satisfy even the most demanding German customers. For example, the space between the PT Cruiser's body panels has been reduced to less then 1mm - the same standard demanded by Mercedes-Benz.
'Production technology today is the same all over the world,' said Gary Henson, executive vice president of manufacturing at DaimlerChrysler. 'The decisive factors are the people, the processes and how these two fit together. That's why we invested $250 million in PT Cruiser production at our plant in Toluca (Mexico).'
Toluca will build both left- and right-hand drive PT Cruisers for the world market. At full production this summer, it will have a capacity to produce about 180,000 units annually. In 2001, DCX will supplement PT Cruiser production by using its Eurostar plant in Graz, Austria, to build another 50,000 units.
Henson said the Toluca plant has been reorganized to ensure maximum working efficiency.
'Top quality is not only a matter of state-of-the-art production processes. A good working atmosphere is also important,' said Henson.
For example, clear windows have replaced tinted glass sheets in the Toluca plant's roof. Henson said that improved the spirit of the work force and cut down on electricity consumption in the plant.
Currently, the Chrysler Sebring Convertible, Stratus and PT Cruiser are assembled in Toluca on the same line. But Chrysler intends to phase out Sebring Convertible and Stratus and transfer the models to its plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan, USA.
Although it will be cost effective to build the PT Cruiser in Europe, 'there was never any doubt about the quality of the Mexican production meeting out worldwide standards,' said Henson. 'But transporting a car from Mexico to Europe consumes the benefits of the low wages in Mexico.'