Partnerships can be stifling if ill-conceived and mismanaged. But when they work, they are like a breath of fresh air.
Consider the story of three distinct companies based in different countries. In the face of regulatory headwinds, they validated and produced a breakthrough technology that delivers singular excellence.
The technology: MultiAir, the world’s first mass-production, fully variable electro-hydraulic valve-lift system.
The companies: U.S.-based Chrysler Group LLC, Italy’s Fiat S.p.A. and German supplier Schaeffler Technologies GmbH & Co KG.
Fiat S.p.A. conceived and designed MultiAir, which was industrialized for the European market by Schaeffler. Chrysler Group then joined the mix, leveraging its testing expertise to refine the advanced technology for North America.
This three-way collaboration so inspired 2012 Automotive News PACE Awards judges, the companies were named winners in the Innovation Partnership category.
A 24-member panel of academics, retired executives and industry stakeholders lauded Chrysler Group and Fiat S.p.A. for their “willingness to collaborate in non-traditional cross-corporate teams and share technical information and resources.”
Project teams comprising members from all three partners provided a steady flow of updates to each company’s top managers. “This allowed clear and concise communication of project challenges and resulted in quicker resolutions,” the judges said.
Key decisions included empowering Schaeffler to assume a larger role in the project. Initially contracted to provide only the hardware, the supplier took responsibility for the embedded software and calibration – a determination that demanded the partners “work together as if employed by one company.”
Schaeffler also earned a PACE Award on its own in the Product category. It calls the technology UniAir. Fuel-saving, performance-enhancing MultiAir is featured on the Fiat 500, the Fiat 500 Abarth – now on dealer lots, albeit fleetingly – and the all-new 2013 Dodge Dart, arriving in showrooms next month.
MultiAir project team accepts 2012 PACE Award for Innovation Partnership
In simplest terms, the PACE Award for Innovation Partnership recognizes “the successful global technical collaboration between Fiat, Chrysler and Schaeffler,” says Bob Lee, Chrysler Group Vice President and Head of Engine and Electrified Propulsion Engineering.
More significantly, he suggests, the partnership that helped deliver MultiAir to the North American market reaffirms the commitment to mutual support and integrity that has taken hold within the extended Chrysler organization.
Adds Lee, who also is responsible for powertrain coordination on Fiat S.p.A.’s Group Executive Council: “Each partner provided unique technical expertise and also the willingness to synthesize innovative solutions.”
A breath of fresh air, indeed.