Heritage | 24 September 2013

Chrono 115, Episode 1 - 1988, Renault launches Total Quality Plan

by Claude Viret

As a volume manufacturer, Renault has always placed particular importance on the quality of its vehicles. In the 1980s the company encountered some quality problems that tarnished its image and ate into its market share. In 1988, at the urging of the then Chairman, Raymond-H. Lévy, Renault adopted a global policy of improving quality and cutting costs known as Total Quality. Its slogan was: “Bringing the customer into the company.

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The Chairman appointed a new Quality Director, Pierre Jocou, and gave him a free hand to implement improvements. Formerly Aftersales Director, Mr Jocou knew better than anyone what customers had been complaining about.

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The Total Quality plan was launched in 1988. It covered the entire company, from the factory floor to senior management, and also included suppliers, subsidiaries and dealers. In particular, the campaign highlighted the three pillars of competitiveness – quality, costs and deadlines – but with the aim of improving them simultaneously rather than letting them compete with one another.

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Some concrete examples:

  • The Renault Quality Institute trains senior managers, who pass on what they have learnt to other employees and ultimately become an example for the whole of French industry.
  • In 1990, basic work teams were introduced. These groups of 15 to 25 employees helped everyone to become more closely involved in the quest for quality.
  • “Just in time” production aimed to reduce consumption of any resources that were not strictly necessary for customer satisfaction.
  • Project management became cross-functional. Every project was led by a project manager, who negotiated as a customer with the various departments involved. Twingo was the first vehicle to be designed using this system.
  • Product development was steered by numerous customer surveys.
  • Renault also introduced innovations in aftersales by setting up Renault-Minute and Renault-Assistance, and by systematically carrying out customer satisfaction surveys.

A symbolic example: the R19. As soon as he began his new job, Pierre Jocou postponed the launch of the car by several months because its initial quality was considered inadequate. The decision sparked some strong reactions, particularly because of the resulting costs, but it marked the transition from a policy of compromise to one of demanding quality.

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