Although supplier relations are often strained, there is a trend towards togetherness as more automakers and suppliers live together.
The Chrysler group's plan to have three suppliers own and operate the chassis, body and paint shops at a Jeep plant in Toledo is the most radical example in North America.
But Ford likely will use more supplier parks as it refits North American factories. The layout keeps key suppliers in a community near the assembly plant, which reduces cost and delivery time. It works particularly well with a plant that has been re-tooled for flexible manufacturing that allows several models to be produced in the same factory.
Ford already uses the concept in Chicago, where it builds the Ford Five Hundred, Ford Freestyle and Mercury Montego.
The Ford assembly plant in Hermosillo, Mexico, which will build the Ford Fusion mid-sized sedan beginning next year, will adapt a version of the supplier park. Then could come Atlanta, which likely will produce Ford and Lincoln sedans, and maybe even Oakville, Ontario, which is slated to build Ford and Lincoln sport wagons.
Ford also uses supplier parks overseas. Top execs like the concept because it makes suppliers a part of the process without giving up control of key operations.