Facing red ink, Campi has not hesitated to break Detroit purchasing taboos in pursuit of a lower-cost Chrysler. Witness the recent showdown with plastic parts supplier Plastech Engineered Products Inc.
When Plastech sought another bailout from the Detroit 3 last month, Chrysler broke ranks with GM and Ford. Chrysler not only refused to pump money into troubled Plastech but also tried to transfer the automaker's molds and machines to competing suppliers. Typically in the past, the automakers stayed together to share the pain to avoid costly parts interruptions.
Chrysler's tactic backfired. Plastech — a large, minority-owned company in suburban Detroit — rushed into U.S. Bankruptcy Court and won a ruling that prevents Chrysler from removing the tools. But Campi has not given up.
At a special meeting with suppliers last month, Chrysler purchasing managers told vendors to stay ready because the Chrysler molds and business would be coming their way, said two supplier executives who were there.
Chrysler gave no explanation of how the carmaker would get around the Bankruptcy Court's ruling.
Campi declined to comment on the Plastech situation.
The urgency of Campi's global sourcing quest is understandable, says John Casesa, a longtime industry analyst now with his own auto consulting firm, Casesa Shapiro.
But going too fast creates risks, especially when Chrysler challenges time-tested ways of dealing with distressed suppliers or sourcing delicate parts such a seats from abroad, Casesa said.
In the early 1990s, former GM purchasing chief J. Ignacio Lopez proved that point. When he bid out proprietary part designs to garner the lowest prices, Lopez launched a brutal price war that created lasting animosity between GM and its suppliers. The industry is still struggling to heal the wounds.
Campi has called for an end to the divisiveness, but some suppliers think his recent actions don't match his words.
"Radical changes in the sourcing process create risks," says Casesa. "Chrysler certainly can't afford a Lopez experience."