Chevrolet’s Built-in Quality Ensures Hardworking,  Off-Road Readiness for Trailblazer & Colorado Customers
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Chevrolet’s Built-in Quality Ensures Hardworking, Off-Road Readiness for Trailblazer & Colorado Customers


Chevrolet’s Built-in Quality Ensures Hardworking,  Off-Road Readiness for Trailblazer & Colorado Customers

The 2014 Chevrolet Colorado is built on a robust body-on-frame architecture capable of handling the rugged field work conditions.

BANGKOK – Chevrolet Thailand’s best-selling model, the Colorado pickup, and the upmarket Trailblazer SUV are built on the same body-on-frame truck architecture, tailor-made to meet the needs of users who battle more than just traffic jams.

Vehicles such as the Colorado that are built for rugged fieldwork conditions and the Trailblazer that are built for adventurous lifestyles are most popular with those living outside Bangkok.

In 2013, 82 percent of Colorados were sold to customers outside Thailand’s largest city. The model was in particularly high demand in Thailand’s rural northeastern region, with 44 percent of vehicles sold featuring the high-riding Z71 suspension for greater ground clearance. About 50 percent of sales were accounted for by the LS1 and LT variants, which are popular workhorses.

As for the Trailblazer, 65 percent of sales were in the northeastern and northern regions in 2013. Four-wheel-drive drivetrains were fitted in about 65 percent of the vehicles, suggesting use in off-road and rugged conditions.

Build quality for both nameplates must be beyond reproach to enable them to perform reliably over long periods of time. One of the enablers is the assembly process at GM’s world-class manufacturing plant in Rayong, Thailand, where quality is built in by design.

“A vehicle starts to age the moment the customer takes delivery,” said Paiboon Yodsowan, director of General Assembly at General Motors Thailand. “How it ages depends on weather, road conditions, driving style and maintenance, among other variables. Those are parameters we cannot control.”

He added, “What we can control is building vehicles of the highest quality by controlling the build process. This is what GM calls ‘built-in quality.’ It means that quality is built into our vehicles, not inspected in. By controlling the process, we control the product and quality.”

This is fundamentally different from the way some other automakers operate, only conducting quality inspections before vehicles leave the line or plant, which is known in the industry as “quality inspected in.” This containment approach has several weaknesses. It depends on the ability of quality inspectors to spot problems and requires undoing faults by dismantling and refitting the vehicles. This is time-consuming and costly.

That’s why GM developed and implemented the preventive built-in quality process, which is controlled through quality pillars. The quality pillar concept has categorized focus areas and was launched by GM North America a few years ago.

Each shop in GM’s facility in Rayong – Press, Body, Paint and General Assembly (GA) – has its own quality pillar that governs processes specific to the particular shop. This ensures a truly controlled build process and allows quality to be continuously built in.

For example, in GA – the last shop before a vehicle is shipped – team members assemble everything from engines, wiring harnesses, electrical components, suspensions, wheels and brakes, to switches, trims, pipes, fluids, dashboards and seats. It is also where the bodies of the Colorado and Trailblazer are fitted onto their sturdy frame chassis.

A casual observer may not see the quality pillars in action. The fact is, each turn of a bolt, each pour of fluid into a tank and each fitting are processes that have been developed to prevent problems. They are based on quality pillars relevant to the process. Therefore, work in GA goes beyond just making sure that each bolt is fastened properly.

Quality pillars in GA include torque, fluids, leak, fitting, electrical, mechanical and mutilation. Torque is an important pillar for ensuring components are fastened so that they do not detach, disintegrate or fail due to vibration, heat or other operational stress.

But it is not just a case of fastening a nut as tight as possible. Torque refers to the rotational force used on any particular nut or screw and is important because too much force (overtightening) may damage bolt threads, while too little force (undertightening) may result in noise and the detachment of components. Each drill, gun and machine has properly calibrated torque outputs to ensure every nut and screw is tightened correctly.

Export variants of the Colorado and Trailblazer are subjected to the same grueling quality processes. In Australia, an iron ore mining company tested a Colorado for eight months prior to purchase. The pickup never saw paved roads, but spent 29,000 kilometers in the unforgiving conditions of an iron ore mining pit. The company was so impressed with the Colorado’s performance that it ordered a fleet after the test was done. That Thai-built Colorado is now on display in the atrium of GM Holden’s headquarters in Australia, still caked in glorious dirt from the mining pit.

In early 2013, the Colorado was named Thailand’s Best Pick-Up Model of the Year by global market research firm Frost & Sullivan. Later in the year, the Colorado Z71 Extended Cab finished second in the pickup extended cab segment in a major consumer study.

Chevrolet also offers a guarantee for the Colorado and Trailblazer that maintenance costs for the first three years or first 100,000 kilometers of ownership will not exceed THB 19,900.

Such a guarantee was possible not just because of the high level of built-in quality but also because of the unique technology of the models’ second-generation Duramax turbo-diesel engine, which only requires periodic maintenance every 20,000 kilometers. This is the longest scheduled maintenance interval in its class. Launched in October 2013, the 2.8L Duramax Diesel is the most powerful engine in its class, generating 500 Nm of torque and 200 hp, while the 2.5L gasoline variant produces 380 Nm of torque and 163 hp.

“The exacting quality standards are not exclusive to the Colorado and Trailblazer. We apply identical processes based on the same quality pillars on all models and variants on the line,” Yodsowan said. “If we are capable of building tough and durable vehicles like the Colorado and Trailblazer, think of how durable and reliable our other Chevrolet vehicles are.”

GM’s facility in Rayong has produced more than one million cars and trucks to date, starting with the Chevrolet Zafira MPV in 2000, a model still common on Thailand’s roads today. Quality has been the core and integral part of every vehicle that has left the production line, from the Zafira to the latest-generation Colorado and Trailblazer.