Car companies are trying to reduce the number of logistics service providers they use.
They often want to find a single partner to manage the flow of components between suppliers and assembly plants, and even handle shipments of finished products.
That creates opportunities for some logistics specialists while threatening others.
Once highly fragmented and comprised of thousands of small, mostly regional companies, the logistics services industry is in the early stages of a major consolidation. Many companies are still focused on single services, such as delivering completed automobiles to dealers or sea-going freight operations.
But several consolidation strategies are emerging.
Excel and UPS Logistics, for example, are providing Ford with logistics management and information-systems design in a project called Nirvana. With Nirvana and similar projects, a specialist takes a lead logistics role for a customer and allocates the physical logistics operations to a second tier of other logistics companies that then compete on price.
General Motors has followed this approach in the USA by creating Vector, although Vector's role in translating its activities to Europe is yet unclear.
Another approach is to bulk up globally to achieve economies of scale. Operations such as the Netherlands' TNT have the size to handle large volumes of auto parts throughout Europe. But size alone doesn't guarantee success. UPS and Federal Express of the USA have tried to use their package-delivery might to enter the auto sector, with mixed results.
Meanwhile, smaller companies including Christian Salvesen, P&O TransEuropean and Hayes have concluded that they aren't large enough and their operations are for sale. Even Ryder is looking shaky in Europe. Observers believe several companies such as Penske Logistics, which is strong in North America but weak in Europe, could become global by acquisition.
There's also consolidation in shipping. Car carriers HMM and Wallenius Wilhelmsen are forging closer relationships and the Japanese - MOL, NYK and K-lines - are eyeing each other.
Container-shipping companies are taking different approaches. The march toward size is clearly seen in the giant Maersk, but others such as OOCL and NOL/APL are trying to compensate with integrated user-friendly services.
Other companies are relying on specialist skills. Companies with unique strengths can survive. German's Schneider, with its sophisticated warehousing, seems well placed to expand organically.
Here is a look at significant logistics providers in Europe.