“We are the component experts, you are the car experts,” Hari Nair, executive vice president of exhaust specialist Tenneco Automotive, said at the Auto-motive News Europe Congress.
He was one of four panelists who discussed the relationship between automakers and suppliers.
Nair thinks partsmakers can help their customers by designing more components because the automakers often prolong the process and continuously redesign some parts.
“This process never ends with some customers,” Nair said. “Some of it is avoidable. I think suppliers can take on more responsibility for this.”
Delphi’s Volker Barth, president of Delphi Europe, Middle East and Africa, also thinks that automakers and suppliers should start cooperating sooner.
“Early involvement is the right way to get the right technical solution at the right cost,” he said.
Paul Stokes, Ford Motor Co. executive director of European purchasing operations, agreed with Nair and Barth, calling early involvement “crucial.”
Different time frame
Stokes, who spent five years working in Japan for Mazda, said one of the biggest differences between the supplier-automaker relationship in Japan and Europe is length of time the two have worked together.
Japanese suppliers “don’t have to look over their shoulders,” Stokes said. “It is all about knowing you are going to grow your business with a company.”
Barth included longevity, which he defined as the belief the automaker’s commitment would last, as one of his criteria for a good relationship between the two sides. He said other keys to a good relationship include empathy for the challenges suppliers face and clearly defined conditions for doing business.
Jean-Philippe Collin, vice president purchasing, PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, agreed with Barth on the importance of providing clear guidance.
“We pursue business consistency,” he said. “We set the rule and enforce the rule.”