Time for suppliers to reinvent themselves?

The age of electric vehicles has barely begun to dawn. But auto suppliers in Japan are already jockeying to reposition themselves -- lest they be left behind.

The suspects are whom you might expect: the makers of bearings, fuel injectors, piston rings. Anything intertwined with the oh-so-yesterday technology of internal combustion engines.

Consider the following from recent Japanese media reports:

• Honda affiliated supplier Keihin Corp., whose main products include fuel injectors, is aiming to bolster its business in air conditioning units, a component independent of powertrains.

• NSK Ltd., which makes bearings, plans to expand its power steering business because electric vehicles use far fewer bearings than their gasoline-burning cousins.

• Nippon Piston Ring Co. is targeting more business in anything nonengine related. Currently 90 percent of its business is in engine parts. It wants to trim that to 70 percent by 2020.

It's too early for suppliers to panic about their business model going the way of rumble seats. But as the actions of some Japanese suppliers show, it's not too early to start planning either.