Quality is a core value of Mazda. It starts with its human-centric design process and comes out naturally as the engineers and designers work to infuse their cars with the Jinba Ittai driving experience, making the car feel as though it’s an extension of the driver. But to get to the level of quality Mazda expects from its vehicles, it needs experts who make sure every part that goes into a Mazda meets its high standards.
And, often, for this Japanese automaker, that quality comes from a place you might not expect: Detroit, Michigan.
“Our team is responsible for quality assurance for all the Mazda accessories that are manufactured here in the United States,” said Fred Sype, quality engineer for Mazda North American Operations. “We also have an export quality group that takes care of parts that are manufactured here in the United States and then shipped to Japan to be put on the vehicles there.”
In order to ensure that top quality standards are met, Mazda has positioned its quality control operations close to its suppliers. People are often surprised to learn that this center is located in the capital of Motor City, USA.
“Probably 80 percent of our parts suppliers are east of the Mississippi,” Sype said. “One of the big reasons for this facility is because of that supplier base.”
Quality control is critical to making sure that every Mazda product fits on your car and works as it was intended.
“All our suppliers are accountable to a set of specifications,” Sype explained. “We make sure that every part we buy is made to Mazda’s expectations of quality. We also collect every part replaced under warranty throughout North America. We find out what that part’s supplier is going to do to not only prevent the problem from getting out into the field again, but also preventative measures to make sure that that issue doesn't ever happen again.”
About 25 people work in Mazda’s Detroit operations at any given time, and are solely focused on supplier quality control. Many are longtime automotive industry professionals. Most who come to Mazda stay with the company for the long-term.
“What’s really unique about the group is that most of the people have been working with Mazda for a long time,” Sype said. “I’ve been here for almost 25 years, and the majority of the people here have been working for Mazda somewhere between 15 to 25 and even closer to 30 years. So it's a good group of people; we've all worked together for a long time.”
That kind of longevity in employment is unusual in the fast-paced automotive industry where people in the Detroit area have the ability to jump to any number of automakers during their careers, but Sype has an explanation for it.
“I'm not just saying this because I worked for Mazda a long time, but they are a great company to work for,” he said.
Sype and the Michigan Mazda team are critical to Mazda’s U.S. and worldwide operations, even as a small satellite in a company of more than 700 U.S.-based employees and thousands of others who work with Mazda in the U.S. daily. He credits Mazda’s singular focus on the wellbeing of customers as the reason for his team’s strong bonds and Mazda’s quality reputation that has earned praise throughout the industry.
“The bottom line is that we never stop striving to make our customers happy,” Sype said. “And that's one thing that I really like about Mazda--that we take care of our customers."