There's nothing new about surveys showing that suppliers would rather work with Japan's three big automakers than America's Big 3. But a just-released survey from Planning Perspectives Inc. adds a twist.
According to conventional wisdom, parts makers still covet business with General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and the Chrysler group - even if they complain about it. But the new survey suggests that the Big 3's rough handling of suppliers has negative consequences.
The survey drew responses from 259 North American parts makers, including 84 companies on the Automotive News list of the top 150 suppliers to North America. The respondents said they are reducing r&d spending on the Big 3 and increasing expenditures for Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co.
While GM, Ford and the Chrysler group scored significantly lower than their Japanese rivals in terms of good relations with suppliers, parts makers don't treat the Big 3 as a monolithic entity. Chrysler scored better than its domestic peers - perhaps an indication that the company's new purchasing policy is beginning to win converts.
The Chrysler group now invites key suppliers to participate in a vehicle's development early in the design process. It also posts each supplier's report card on the Internet, allowing a parts maker to compare its grades with those of its competitors.
Meanwhile, GM's relations with suppliers have gone from bad to abysmal. According to the survey, only 3 percent of the suppliers said they had a good or very good relationship with GM. Five percent of suppliers rated relations with Ford as good or very good, and 12 percent gave Chrysler a good rating.
If Chrysler sticks with its glasnost policy, relations with suppliers could improve dramatically. Time will tell.
According to the survey, suppliers said that all six automakers rate cost as the most important factor, followed by quality. But suppliers said the Japanese automakers take a more balanced view, giving more weight to quality and technology than the Big 3.
And parts makers said the Japanese automakers are more likely to grant price increases to account for the rising cost of steel and other raw materials.
For the Big 3, the danger is that suppliers may stop offering them their best technology. Unhappy suppliers vote with their wallets. The Big 3 should take note.