It may have been a feat for Ford to build an assembly plant in the Amazon Basin of Brazil.
But it was an even bigger accomplishment to work out the relationships among lawyers, accountants and directors of a dozen companies on three continents that are at the heart of the automaker's new approach to vehicle assembly.
At the $1.9 billion (2 billion) Amazon project, which started production in April in Bahia, Brazil, suppliers do not merely build parts for the Ford Fiesta, they share in the cost and ownership of the entire complex.
Ford is beginning to unveil its two-year Amazon project, revealing one of the industry's most radical approaches to automaker-supplier relations.
Eighteen Ford suppliers and supplier partners shared $700 million of the project's cost.
In exchange, the suppliers are integrated into the venture. They review decisions on how the cars will be marketed, where they will be exported and what volumes will be.
Ford and the suppliers share some administrative services, have similar employee pay and benefit plans and have common utility arrangements. One company handles maintenance for the whole site.
The major achievement may have been working out the financial details, said Shah Firoozi, president of PAC of Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. A project management company, PAC was responsible for developing and maintaining the schedule for Ford and all the suppliers.
According to Firoozi, building and tooling the Brazilian factory was challenging enough. But Ford managers faced the additional difficulty of negotiating the business details with the heads of 18 major global corporations.
The vehicle engineering and plant construction had to stay on schedule, even though the project partners had no agreements on how it was going to work.
'There were many gray areas about what the new partnership format meant,' Firoozi said.
'A lot of time was spent by Ford's management coaching the suppliers on the fact that this was not your typical supplier arrangement.
'It wasn't until well into the project that they finally reached an accounting formula that was fair and equitable. Most of the suppliers worked in good faith in the leadership of Ford, trusting that somehow this was all going to work out financially.'
Ford has formed new relationships with its suppliers on different continents in a quest for lower product development costs and manufacturing expenses.
In Europe, the automaker has asked some tooling suppliers to link their compensation to the market success of the vehicles being manufactured. In the USA, Ford will launch a supplier park in Chicago, and possibly elsewhere, that brings suppliers onto Ford property to improve logistics and lower costs.
The key suppliers to the Brazilian plant include Tier 1 companies from Germany, France, Italy, the UK, USA and Latin America. Ford expects the venture to produce 250,000 cars annually at full production, mostly variations of the Fiesta for Latin America. But observers believe the project also will yield a world car for export to Europe, although the company has not confirmed that.
Understanding Ford's long-term plans for the Amazon project's volume was one critical issue for the suppliers that invested.
Amazon required regular meetings on three different levels: quarterly CEO meetings, involving the top management of the various partners from around the world; monthly program manager meetings, in which the partner companies attempted to resolve larger issues such as employee policies; and weekly on-site meetings, dealing with the work's daily progress.
Firoozi's program managers were not responsible for finalizing the details of the Ford-supplier relationships. That remained Ford's job.
'That was one issue that could have interfered with our success,' he said. 'Suppliers didn't have a clear commitment, yet they were committing millions of dollars.'
Firoozi added: 'It could have caused some impact on the project. But it was managed very effectively. The project managers were given authorization by the boards of their respective corporations to proceed and not hold up the job, and it worked out pretty good.'