Deal making by suppliers peaked in 1999 with 41 deals, according to Merrill Lynch. In 2007, 14 deals were done.
Many of today's deals are smaller. But they add up. And, looking back over the past 10 years or so, it often was the company that did several small deals, rather than one blockbuster, that made them work.
Flex-N-Gate Corp., a bumper and fascia supplier, is an active buyer. The Urbana, Ill., company's sales jumped 26.9 percent to $2.39 billion in 2007. Flex-N-Gate jumped from No. 58 to No. 19 last year.
Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross bought Lear's European and U.S. interior-trim business, the North American assets of the former Collins & Aikman Corp. and a number of smaller targets. His International Automotive Components Group now ranks No. 13 at $3.29 billion in sales.