How Nissan is Working to Improve Its Quality

Craig Cole
by Craig Cole

Nissan’s all-new 2015 Murano crossover looks like a winner. It’s stylish, comfortable and drives well, but these aren’t the only feathers in its cap. Quality should be another one of this vehicle’s strong suits.

“As of today the Murano is the best launch that we’ve had in the Americas, period,” said Adam Strean, senior manager of vehicle program management at Nissan. Analyzing things gone wrong during the first three months of ownership he noted, “The previous leader for launch quality was Rogue and we’ve improved on their performance by 25 percent at this point,” though he mentioned they’re likely doing even better than that.

Quality hasn’t necessarily been one of this company’s strong suits. Rivals like Toyota and Honda are consistently lauded for top-notch dependability, but Nissan’s performance has been inconsistent. In fact, Consumer Reports only recommends four of the company’s vehicles, the Frontier, Maxima, Rogue and Versa Note. Additionally several of its products have poor projected reliability.

Of course third-party quality data does not exist at this time because the 2015 Murano just launched but if Nissan’s internal figures are to be believed how did they reach this dependability milestone?

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“What we were trying to achieve with the product launch of Murano was really understanding where we had historically struggled,” said Strean. “We looked at all of that and kind of made some holistic changes with how we do development.”

“By the time we got to the start-of-production phase we were down to so few issues that we actually went to start-of-production without having to make any changes at all.” Strean said this is a first for Nissan North America and possible for the company at large.

To achieve this record-breaking launch Nissan focused on four key areas. They did more digital simulation including the assembly process, they pulled portions of product development ahead to give teams more time, they conducted much more rigorous testing and finally they worked to communicate more effectively, so disparate teams knew what each other were working on.

Automatic transmissions are some of the most complex parts you’ll find in a vehicle today. Whether they’re of the continuously variable variety or feature more traditional stepped ratios they’re a box of headaches when something goes wrong.

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To ensure that customers don’t have issues Nissan exhaustively tested the CVT found in the new Murano. “We actually increased the amount of mileage by 10 times,” said Strean. Typically they test for 100,000 miles, “But in this case we did almost a million miles worth of driving.” They also changed the test cycle to make it more extreme and to include more real-world situations that have caused problems for customers.

“Another area that we, that every company typically has trouble with, is electronics integration,” said Strean. With the 2015 Murano they rigorously tested every single build combination that’s offered, running the electrical system “through the wringer” to prove its quality.

Beyond obvious stuff like taking more time to engineer a vehicle or doing more rigorous evaluation Nissan also worked to improve its manufacturing processes. The Murano is built at the company’s plant in Canton, Mississippi, which hasn’t necessarily been one of their top performers. “Historically the quality of the vehicles coming out of Canton has not been the best for Nissan,” said Strean. “But they’ve turned that around; their view on things is totally different now.”

Hopefully for Nissan these engineering and manufacturing changes result in a higher quality Murano and happier customers. To build on this success they’re turning the lessons they learned into written procedures so future launches can be even better.

Discuss this story on our Nissan Forum.

Craig Cole
Craig Cole

Born and raised in metro Detroit, Craig was steeped in mechanics from childhood. He feels as much at home with a wrench or welding gun in his hand as he does behind the wheel or in front of a camera. Putting his Bachelor's Degree in Journalism to good use, he's always pumping out videos, reviews, and features for When the workday is over, he can be found out driving his fully restored 1936 Ford V8 sedan. Craig has covered the automotive industry full time for more than 10 years and is a member of the Automotive Press Association (APA) and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA).

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  • Linacostaa Linacostaa on Mar 21, 2015

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  • DroidGee DroidGee on Mar 31, 2015

    Its nice that their shiny new redesigns are working, but how about fixing the elephant in the room otherwise known as failing CVTs in almost every model they've put a CVT into? I was willing to seriously shell out $$$ for a new QX60 (Infiniti Pathfinder, if you will) until I read of all the CVT issues. For an MSRP of almost $60K youd figure they would get right on fixing it, yet people are still having issues. I love my Frontier, and I love my G37, but they are really pushing me away with all the issues Im reading/hearing of (Q50 electrical bugs, CVT issues across the line, etc)