The panel agreed that the domestic automakers, which have tended to trail their Japanese counterparts in the quality of their supplier relations, are trying to improve. But the initiatives are too new for observers to determine whether the changes will be more style than substance.
"They're telling us no in a much kinder way this year," Orchard said.
He said the starting point for discussing price increases with the automakers is proving that waste has been eliminated from the supplier's design and manufacturing process.
But suppliers that think collaboration is a synonym for price increases are mistaken. "Cost-shifting to the OEs (original-equipment makers) just isn't going to happen," he said.
Magna's Hogan said the domestic carmakers have to get suppliers involved early in design and engineering because vehicles are getting increasingly complex. Subassemblies such as brakes and suspensions increasingly are being controlled electronically rather than mechanically. To get innovations, close collaborations are needed, he said.
Magna is the world's third-largest parts supplier, producing interiors, exteriors, chassis subassemblies, seats and drivetrain products.
The traditional purchasing model of putting parts out for competitive bidding is giving way to a relationship in which the automakers develop products jointly, Hogan said.
"I'm a big believer in early sourcing because that's when you can build the quality in and get the cost out," he said.
In its annual survey of suppliers this year, Planning Perspectives Inc. found that relations between suppliers and both GM and Ford had improved after deteriorating for years.
The improved relations, though still lagging suppliers' relationships with Japanese carmakers, were a tip of the cap to new purchasing initiatives, such as Ford's preferred-supplier program. Ford aims to reduce its supplier base to a few hundred companies so it can work more closely with fewer, larger suppliers.
Orchard said Faurecia is scheduled to be named a member of Ford's program soon as a preferred maker of exhaust systems. But that has been delayed while Ford clears up internal issues over how the announcement might affect Ford's efforts to divest plants in its Automotive Components Holdings group, Orchard said. That's the company created to dispose of ex-Visteon plants that Ford bought back from the supplier.
Ford spokesman Paul Wood said he would not comment on the Orchard statement without knowing all the details. He said Ford decides how and when suppliers are brought into the collaboration program.
You may e-mail Dave Barkholz at [email protected]rain.com