Suppliers are trying new tactics to get their automaker customers to pay for rising raw materials costs.
Some parts makers are being more direct, negotiating harder and continually asking for relief.
Other suppliers won't negotiate on commodity prices.
"If we bring up the subject with our customers," said a supplier executive, "they send over a bunch of auditors who leave no stone unturned."
The success of these new approaches has varied.
Some suppliers -- those with must-have technology, profitable customers or few competitors -- fare better than those with commodity products or parts with high raw material content, said Lars Holmqvist, CEO of CLEPA, the European supplier association.
"Most OEMs compensate their preferred suppliers fully (for higher materials costs) because they would like to keep them," Holmqvist said in an interview. "But in other cases, the OEMs say, 'It is your problem.' "
Suppliers and analysts expect prices of key raw materials, such as steel, plastic, aluminum and copper, to continue rising, although less rapidly.
"The pressure is definitely rising," says Juergen Kratzmann, vice president of manufacturing for Lear Corp.'s interior product division in Europe.
Suppliers say initial ways to cope with high materials costs, such as pooling purchases, cost sharing and redesigning parts to use less of a raw material, are losing effectiveness.
Being more forceful worked for one German supplier last year when two automakers slowed the negotiations on price adjustments.
The supplier issued an ultimatum: reach an agreement within 60 days, or the supplier would stop delivering parts in 90 days.
You may e-mail Jens Meiners at [email protected]