The latest look at the relationship between automakers and their suppliers shows once again how urgent it is that the Big 3 create consistent, mutually beneficial purchasing strategies that are guided by more than just getting the lowest price.
In that survey, by Planning Perspectives Inc., suppliers consistently rated the big Japanese automakers best in every measure.
Trust? It was highest at Toyota and Honda, lowest at Ford and General Motors.
Which automakers would suppliers be most eager to share their technology with? Toyota and Honda. Least eager? Ford and GM.
Which give the most rewards for cost-saving ideas? Honda and Nissan. The fewest rewards? Ford and GM.
And it's not just that annual study that tells the tale. A survey of suppliers conducted this year for Automotive News by J.D. Power and Associates ranked BMW, Nissan and Toyota as the best in North America at sparking supplier innovation.
Ask most any supplier for a candid assessment of its customers, and you'll get the same message: The Big 3 don't get it.
True, supplier relations are not a popularity contest. This business is brutal, and anyone who expects anything to be warm and fuzzy should look for another line of work.
Nor are problems in the relationship always the fault of the automaker's purchasing department. Late engineering changes, for example, drive suppliers crazy - yet they're typically a red flag for problems in product development.
But consistent, dependable and fair purchasing philosophies make a huge difference. Honda and Toyota remain beacons of consistency, and their suppliers reward them with better technology and lower costs.
The strong sales and profit records of those companies are testaments to their strategies.
Ford, GM and Chrysler, meanwhile, seem to bounce from initiative to initiative, from cooperation to confrontation, as their CEOs, purchasing chiefs and fortunes come and go.
Each of the Big 3 is once again trying to get its house in order. Each needs to remember that a purchasing policy that relies chiefly on beating down prices won't yield much.
Working with suppliers to succeed together - listening for new solutions and being open to innovations - clearly works better. And it doesn't cost any more.