The quality of our products and services plays a key role in maintaining customer satisfaction. Customers are particularly satisfied and remain loyal when their expectations of a product or service are met or even exceeded. Appeal, reliability and service determine quality as it is perceived by the customer throughout the entire product experience. Our objective is to positively surprise and excite our customers in all areas and thus win them over with our outstanding quality. We continued to aspire to this objective in the reporting period. The diesel issue has shown, however, that we must broaden our previous understanding of quality. Quality assurance now checks the compliance of our products more intensively.
We are also placing greater emphasis on our quality management system than before, thereby reinforcing the process-driven approach Group-wide across all business areas. Quality management in the Volkswagen Group is based on the standard ISO 9001: the requirements of this standard must be met to obtain the type approval for producing and selling our vehicles. Following the revision to the standard in 2015, we applied the new requirements to all the Group’s locations and brands during the reporting period. One key change in content concerns the risk assessment for non-compliance with defined processes. To ensure that these and other new requirements as well as official regulations are implemented and complied with, we have developed guidelines, recommendations and tips for quality management consultants, and provide them with support in their everyday work.
As a further step, we have reinforced application of the internal control principle – mutual support and control between the divisions – and built up important additional expertise, including in software security. This particularly affects the control mechanisms between technical development and quality assurance before and after the start of production. In product development, for example, we have introduced the same principle for the approval of powertrains. At the series production stage, too, we are working even harder to carry out conformity checks on our products with the participation of all business units involved and to perform assessments and make decisions on this basis. This applies particularly to exhaust emissions and fuel consumption.
With these and other measures, quality assurance makes sure that we not only meet all legal requirements imposed on us as a manufacturer but that our products do as well.
Observing regional requirements
Our customers in the different regions of the world have very diverse needs as far as new vehicle models are concerned. Identifying these specific regional factors and prioritizing them is an important task for quality assurance, so that they can then be reflected in the development of new products and the production of established vehicle models. Factors such as the available fuel quality, road conditions, traffic density, country-specific usage patterns and, last but not least, local legislation play a key role in this process. We mainly use market studies and customer surveys to determine region-specific customer requirements.
Product and supplier quality
In the reporting period, the large number of product start-ups made high demands on quality assurance. We nevertheless managed to maintain the high quality of the previous years. Our suppliers also made important contributions in helping us achieve this goal. We expect them to use sustainable practices, and to deliver the highest product quality and reliability of supply.
One of our key concerns is to integrate innovative technologies into new vehicles without harming customer satisfaction. We are therefore placing even greater emphasis than before on software quality and data security. Long before customers are able to experience a new product, quality assurance supports and analyzes new vehicle projects. The aim is to make our products even better and more reliable, while taking into account as many customer wishes and special regional demands as possible.
In addition, quality assurance defines the quality targets and standards for the Volkswagen Group, and monitors compliance with them. It also identifies the cause of any faults and defines the process for removing them. In 2016, we continued to standardize our fault removal process, so that we can respond even more quickly and effectively to any problems. As a result, we can increase customer satisfaction, and at the same time reduce warranty and ex-gratia repair costs.
We also continue to improve the quality of our service scope worldwide. As in previous years, this involved the further optimization of our warranty and ex-gratia instruments in 2016. Additional opportunities also presented themselves at our authorized dealers, who represent the direct interface with our customers: together we are working on identifying and preventing any problems that may occur in the emotional moment of vehicle handover at an early stage. The so-called dealer-plant teams – a proven concept, whose use in the reporting period included the market launch of the new Tiguan – are one measure taken in this area. Employees from various working areas inspect the quality of the vehicles delivered to the dealer on the forecourt and provide detailed feedback about any problems to the manufacturing plant in question.
Group quality standards
Whether they are buying a passenger car, commercial vehicle or motorcycle, our customers expect perfect quality from the Volkswagen Group. For more than 40 years now, auditors have therefore been deployed around the world to carry out an assessment from the customer’s perspective of the vehicles ready for delivery. As the requirements are constantly changing, we continually revise the quality benchmarks used for such audits. Based on the guiding principles of precision and perfection, we successfully transferred the Group’s audit system to the Commercial Vehicles Business Area in 2016, and trained and certified the brands’ product auditors accordingly.