Mark Van Linden knows he needs some business with a Japanese automaker. And he knows that if there were ever a time to snag some, it's now, with sales and factory production rising steadily among the Japanese manufacturers.
But making that new business happen any time soon is easier said than done, he recognizes.
"We're just at the starting gate," says Van Linden, director of operations for auto supplier Preferred Quality Services Inc. of Grand Rapids, Mich. "What we're hearing is that the key is persistence, persistence, persistence."
Major Tier 1 suppliers spent the 1980s and 1990s figuring out how to break into the new business provided by the Asia-based automakers. Now a new wave of suppliers is attempting it, this time against a backdrop of eroding Big 3 market share.
Preferred Quality Services, a packaging and assembly services supplier, has survived comfortably for its 21 years handling only Big 3 business. But Van Linden wants to change that. Like other North American automotive companies, Preferred has awoken to a new reality: Its traditional Big 3 customers are scaling back volumes and consolidating their supply bases.
Twenty-one years ago, the domestic automakers built 97.4 percent of all vehicles produced in the United States. Today, the Big 3 account for 64.9 percent.