Management Briefing Seminar Update: Ralph Gilles Says Interiors "The New Battleground" For Chrysler

So there's this thing called the Management Briefing Seminars up at Michigan's Grand Traverse Resort in the sleepy resort community of Traverse City. While we've partaken in said seminar a couple times ourselves, we kind of feel like it's just a way to get automakers and media outlets to foot the bill for a short August vacation. Don't get us wrong, we're OK with that, and frankly if the boss-man would foot it, we'd be there ourselves — but we've found it difficult to make the case for going just to do some industrial navel-gazing so we haven't even tried. Nonetheless, with the first day complete — the folks who did go have eked out a wee bit of product news from Michigan's pinky ring resort town. That news revolves around interiors from the newly independent Chrysler, Siemens looking to build their very own gasoline-electric hybrid and Ford execs touting their quality and Sync-ing with their dealers. Our round-up of the best of coverage from the "hard-working" folks fromAutomotive News below the jump.


  • First off we've got Chrysler claiming they'll be focused on the inside of the vehicle now in addition to the outside.
    ..."interiors is the next battleground," Chrysler LLC design whiz Ralph Gilles said Monday that the carmaker intends to begin interior design work up to a year earlier than usual so fresh ideas can be introduced.
    Of course proof of this new focus is given via a "unique" investment decision:
    "Gilles, who championed the successful Chrysler 300 sedan, said Chrysler's recent $3 billion commitment to new powertrain plants speaks to the company's emphasis on innovation."
  • Second item of note out of Traverse City is FoMoCo's Joe Hinrich was talking up Ford quality improvements:
    "Ford has benefited by standardizing manufacturing processes across plants and through greater use of computers to foresee production obstacles."
    But that's not the only reason. Apparently it's also working closely with the UAW that's improving their numbers:
    "But teamwork with Ford's unionized work force may be the biggest reason for improvement, he said.

    UAW locals at every Ford plant in North America have instituted flexible work rules codified in competitive operating agreements, Hinrichs said.

    The agreements, which reduce job classifications and promote team building, are expected to save Ford more than $500 million annually. Hinrichs said those workers who stayed after about 27,000 Ford hourly workers volunteered for buyouts did so with the expectation that labor conditions would change."

    You mean if you work with your employees instead of instituting an unfriendly work environment, you'll actually see quality levels improve? Who knew?
  • Third item of note revolves around Ford's new "Sync" system. Automotive News spoke to Hinrichs about the new music/phone/bluetooth/Personal Jesus system in addition to quality gains, and here's what he had to say:
    "Hinrichs said Sync is expected to be a key product differentiator, so ease of use and quality are critical. That's why Ford is training dealers to make sure they're ready to sell it and educate drivers on how to use it.

    He said: "We are putting a tremendous amount of resources on it because we see it as an exclusive opportunity for us to lead in this regard."

    Yeah, they get to lead up until Microsoft lets every other automaker start to play with the system at the end of 2008.
  • Last item is auto parts supplier Siemens is looking to build their very own gasoline-electric hybrid. Sure — why not, everyone else is doing it. Oh wait, it's just for seminars. Well, good luck with that.