Bob Emiliani, president of the Center for Lean Business Management in Hartford, Conn., agrees.
"That's, in fact, what people are doing," Emiliani said. "What they want to see is where the market is for that group of suppliers. The great attraction is to run the reverse auction and then award most or all of the work to the incumbent."
There is great pressure on buyers to ensure that parts are delivered to the factory when they are needed, Emiliani said.
"People don't want to take the risk of switching to a new supplier, because that risks, among other things, delivery," he said.
At least one automaker takes exception to the market test argument.
General Motors pays a fee to conduct a reverse auction, a GM spokeswoman said, so buyers have no intention of holding one without a desire to place business or buy goods.
Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler did not answer requests for comment.
The association began drafting the guidelines at an April 25 meeting with 15 suppliers and representatives from Covisint LLC and FreeMarkets Inc.
De Koker said he has met with Big 3 purchasing executives to determine whether they are willing to develop the guidelines.
Carlos Mazzorin, Ford's global purchasing chief, and Tony Brown, Ford's vice president of global purchasing, in another meeting agreed that reverse auctions should only be used to award business, De Koker said.
Many of the reverse auctions are done with Covisint, which says it will help develop the code of conduct.
"It's not just the automakers," said Covisint spokesman Dan Jankowski. "Everybody involved has to agree to certain responsibilities and accountabilities. You can't put the onus solely on one side. Everybody's got a responsibility to use the products wisely and appropriately."
If all parties agree on guidelines, he said, there must be some inherent trust that companies will follow those rules.
De Koker anticipates that guidelines will be voluntary, and there are no provisions for enforcement.
"But there are people who say that it makes sense to include consequences if you don't follow the guidelines," he said. "Whether that, in fact, will become part of it or not, I don't know yet. I don't know if we'll reach consensus on that."