DETROIT — As Ford Motor Co. makes more global vehicles, it is agitating some suppliers by asking for their permission to let other suppliers produce their parts.
Here's the problem from Ford's viewpoint: Say a supplier can't provide a part for a Ford assembly plant in China or Thailand. Ford wants the ability to hire a local contract manufacturer to produce it.
But to the original supplier, this means turning over technology secrets to an outsider.
Ford's request for suppliers to sign the so-called design transfer agreement comes as the company wins higher marks for supplier relations. But the tension also shows that Ford isn't letting up pressure on suppliers as it strives to cut costs and increase production of global vehicles in far-flung markets.
One supplier source who spoke on the condition of anonymity called Ford's request to share technology a "tough proposition." Another worried that contract manufacturers could take the designs and sell the product to customers other than Ford.
The second supplier also suggested that language in the agreement could allow Ford to pressure suppliers for price cuts. A copy of the agreement obtained by Automotive News says in part: "In order to achieve the best local cost structure and maintain commonality on a global basis, this design transfer agreement will enable the sharing of technology."