Study: suppliers will grow as they take on design engineering, production responsibilities from OEMs

Munich. Suppliers will see their business grow up to 75 percent by 2015 as they assume greater responsibility for design engineering and production, shows a study based on surveys of 80 top managers at original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), suppliers and service providers.

Automakers will focus their design engineering and production capacities on products and components important to their brand image, the report shows. BMW design engineering boss Burkhard Goeschel agrees with this conclusion.

"Being a premium brand, we will keep the core competence within propulsion, chassis and suspension and design. Electronic engineering becomes increasingly important," Goeschel said. "In addition, there is the knowledge of all the processes that are necessary to keep the brand's promise over and over again."

The study, Future Automotive Industry Structure 2015 (FAST), was produced by Mercer Management Consulting and two Fraunhofer Institutes: one that focuses on manufacturing engineering and automation; the other on material flow and logistics.

Large suppliers such as Bosch, Delphi, Visteon, Magna, ZF or Siemens VDO stand to will benefit most from the outsourcing, the study says.

Siemens VDO doesn't anticipate a big change. The company feels that suppliers' share in the value added chain will continue to rise, however, it thinks automakers will want to keep control over a high number of core competencies within all sectors of automobile manufacturing.

According to the FAST study, added value within the design engineering and production sectors will grow 2.6 percent a year until 2015 or to 903 billion euros from 645 billion euros. The report shows that automobile production volume will increase to 76 million from 57 million units during the same period, the cost of that production will be approximately two trillion euros.

Mercer auto expert Ralf Kalmbach thinks new technologies such as vehicle infotainment and passenger protection systems will make design development and production significantly more expensive, forcing automakers to redistribute the responsibilities.

He thinks that Opel's decision to award the contract for axle manufacturing to ThyssenKrupp Automotive and the transmission joint venture between Ford and supplier Getrag are indicators that change is already starting to happen.

Kalmbach said sales and service hold more attractive investment opportunities for OEMs than production.

Currently OEMs' average vertical integration within the design and production sectors is about 35 percent. According to the research, OEMs' in-house work currently is worth about 3,815 euros per vehicle. The study shows that by 2015 this number will decrease to 2,290 euros and that vertical integration will drop to 22 percent.

High-volume automakers such as Chrysler, Ford, Honda and Nissan will see a continued decrease in vertical integration, the study show, while premium brands such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz will probably focus on increasing their added value share.

Mercedes, for example is currently considering re-taking control of seat design and production to help enhance comfort.

Mercer thinks that the new division of labor will strengthen the cooperation between OEMs and suppliers.

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