Son, you can’t escape the car biz

For decades, automakers have slashed their supplier ranks: consolidating sourcing, buying modules and systems instead of individual parts, and ruthlessly whittling down the number of Tier 1 suppliers.

The goal is to reduce costs and complexity and improve quality, but automakers each have hundreds, rather than thousands, of direct suppliers. Top suppliers measure auto-related revenue in the tens of billions.

So I was surprised when my son called last night to announce his company had become an automotive supplier -- and a Tier 1 at that. Yes, Wood Finisher’s Depot of Baytown, Texas, with 11 employees, is now in the car biz.

“We shipped it the same day the order came in,” Brandon said. After a childhood steeped in family shop talk and press vehicle rides, he instantly recognized the manufacturer and headquarters city.

Automakers rarely like their suppliers talking about them, so we’ll skip the product specs and the customer’s identity.

Shhh. I don’t want to jinx any long-term contract.

I mean, this deal could be worth hundreds of dollars annually.

Even at a company with seven-figure revenue, $57 plus shipping is a small first order. Brandon smiles, but he chooses to see it as a fourth-generation car-biz family link.

It’s not like assembling Studebakers or crafting Chevrolet machine tools, as two of his great-grandfathers did. But it is a tangible touch-point to them and the grandparents, parents, great uncles, uncles, brothers-in-law and cousins who have designed, engineered, built and marketed cars the past seven decades.

I think he’s right. It’s the family business.

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