Automakers and suppliers are trying hard to work together productively. At a panel discussion at last week’s Automotive News Europe Congress in Barcelona, participants stressed the need to come up with joint solutions to problems.
But questions from the audience to panel members and speakers at the Congress underscored – to no-one’s surprise – that relations between the two sides continue to be under great pressure.
Supplier executives in the audience used the anonymous question-and-answer session to attack Ford’s terms and conditions as overly rigid. They also complained that production forecasts are often adjusted without taking into account suppliers’ plans. And they made clear that price pressures are straining relations to the breaking point.
A supplier survey conducted for Automotive News Europe by researchers SupplierBusiness revealed that, when the relationship with a carmaker is strained, suppliers no longer do all they can to please that customer. They would rather do more business with a more cooperative competitor.
For automakers, that is one of the clearest incentives to make the relationship work. Car companies increasingly outsource research, development and the production of complex components.
This has led to a symbiotic relationship that only works when the two sides feel they have a true partnership.
Suppliers like working with BMW and Toyota much more than with Ford Europe and General Motors Europe. Obviously, it is easier to do business with a highly profitable carmaker than with one that is having financial difficulties. But it could also be the other way around: carmakers’ financial health could be a direct result of how well they work with their suppliers.