TURIN - Japanese carmakers want to adopt the module-making expertise of European suppliers, both for production in Europe and the rest of the world.
"Europe isn't the only area of growth of Japanese vehicle makers. So we are looking for good suppliers that could help us worldwide," said Toru Onda, Honda Motor Co. managing director and chief of purchasing operations.
"We are also looking for the module approach, where European suppliers are more advanced than Japanese [suppliers,]" said Onda. He also serves as chairman of the purchasing committee for JAMA, the association of Japanese automakers.
He spoke with Automotive News Europe November 7 during a joint meeting here between JAMA and CLEPA, the European umbrella group of national supplier associations that represents 3,000 suppliers. A total of 115 purchasing executives from Japan's nine carmakers and two heavy truck makers met with 82 mostly European suppliers.
European suppliers are used to designing, engineering and making modules - pre-assembled groups of related parts - for automakers.
Japanese carmakers are focusing their search on Tier 1 suppliers, Onda said, although "we are also open to talking with Tier 2 and Tier 3 suppliers."
Japanese-European business dealings have greatly improved during the last decade, said Armand Batteaux, departing CLEPA chairman.
"Back in 1995 when we organized the first JAMA-CLEPA meeting in Paris, the business environment was not very encouraging for our Japanese friends," Batteaux said. "The European Union had just imposed import quotas on Japanese carmakers."
Since 1995, Japanese carmakers have doubled their manufacturing presence in Europe, from 614,419 units built in Europe to 1.3 million last year. Parts purchased from European suppliers increased to E10.2 billion last year from E3.77 billion in 1995. Now 80 percent of the parts used in the European production plants of Japanese automakers come from European suppliers, JAMA says.
"Cooperating with Japanese carmakers offers a unique opportunity for long-term growth for European suppliers," said Giuliano Zucco, who will start a two-year term as CLEPA chairman in January. "Japanese carmakers really believe in long-term contracts and early involvement of the suppliers in new-product