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Infiniti quality effort features a woman's touch

Infiniti focuses on hiring female quality inspectors to improve the fit and finish of the Infiniti M.

Automotive News

KAMIGAMOU, Japan--Nissan is beefing up quality control at its flagship Infiniti factory, partly by adding more female inspectors to improve the fit and finish of the redesigned M sedan, which arrives next spring in the United States.

According to Nissan, women show better attention to detail. But there are other quality stopgaps, including new laser measuring devices and better instructions for line workers.

"We have been making drastic changes in terms of quality assurance," said Mikio Aoki, general manager of quality at Nissan's Tochigi plant, which builds several Infiniti models including the M. "We are trying to build more robustness into the manufacturing process."

Aoki said some quality checkpoints that used to have human inspectors now use machines that can pinpoint problems more consistently. One additional process entails a new jig that holds the chassis so lasers can measure whether the gaps between the door and body are up to specifications.

Previous checks measured only the seal on the outside; the new one checks the interior seal, too.

"It costs us, so we really had to look at the cost-benefit point," Aoki said during a press tour of the factory this month. "But this is a new idea we applied to the Fuga."

The Fuga, known as the Infiniti M in the United States, goes on sale in Japan this month. A hybrid version of the Infiniti M is due stateside in spring 2011. Nissan is introducing the new quality measures for the luxury sedan's redesign.

A more advanced paint-check system has been brought online to assess the body's color consistency when viewed from different angles. This was introduced to ensure the perception of even color, especially on the M's more curvy body panels and fenders.

This year, Nissan added more women to the final inspection. It's partly to relieve them from more strenuous assembly work, but there are other reasons.

"Women tend to be sensitive and can better check quality elements," the Tochigi production control manager, Yasuhiko Obata, told reporters as he guided them past female inspectors poring over the final finish of cars coming off the line.

"We want to encourage women to work in the processes where they can best exhibit their high level of skill."

Nissan's Tochigi plant, just north of Tokyo, also makes the Infiniti G sedan, EX and FX crossovers and other high-end models, including the Nissan GT-R sports car and 370Z. About 83 percent of the factory's output is exported.

(Source: Automotive News)