DETROIT -- The Chrysler group will use a mission to South Africa to help its minority-owned suppliers become more global.
On Nov. 4, Tom Sidlik will join 15 minority-owned U.S. suppliers on a weeklong trip to South Africa. Sidlik is on the DaimlerChrysler management board and is responsible for global procurement and supply.
The goal is to help Chrysler's U.S. minority-owned suppliers form ties with South African black-owned businesses, the company says. Meetings are scheduled with black-owned suppliers and representatives of the South African government.
"A vision of mine is having minority suppliers get more global, get bigger," Sidlik says. "The world has gotten so small that you can't just be a small supplier and be successful in the next 20 to 30 years. You've got to have a niche. You have to get more global."
South Africa is a logical fit, Sidlik says. "We have a plant there," he says, "and the government has active programs to support black ownership and develop more opportunities."
An assembly plant in East London, South Africa, builds all right-hand-drive Mercedes-Benz C-class cars. Markets include Africa, Australia, Japan and the United Kingdom.
"Maybe there can be some joint ventures, some partnerships, some ownership with American diversity suppliers," Sidlik says.
Jethro Joseph, the Chrysler group's senior manager of diversity supplier development, says the South African government is working to boost content from black-owned businesses in a range of industries, including automotive. Joseph will be on the trip.
George Hill, owner of Diversified Chemical in Detroit, says he will seek a partner in South Africa.
"We have chemical products used on the body-in-white," Hill says. "It is exportable chemistry. They are the kind of products that do not require huge capital investment but are mission-critical. These same technologies can apply across a range of things, not just automotive."
Sidlik says his "gut feel" is that initially more ventures are likely to result in nonproduction areas such as transportation, consulting and support services. The group will visit Johannesburg, Pretoria and East London.
Frank Fountain, the Chrysler group's senior vice president of external affairs and public policy, will go on the trip. He also is chairman of the Corporate Council on Africa in New York.
Chrysler said it spent $3 billion with minority-owned businesses in 2003.
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