Lightfoot said last year's economic crisis is causing distributors to reconsider their longer-term partnerships with suppliers such as TRW. Price no longer will be the deciding factor for business within the independent aftermarket, he said. Customers now want stronger partners that can offer added value.
In the second half of last year, Lightfoot said, customers and distributors began questioning in earnest the long-term benefits of staying with their major suppliers.
"There were more discussions about how we saw the future during the second half of 2009 than in the last two to three years combined," Lightfoot said.
A key element to future success will be the quality of a supplier's supply-chain management, he said. Increasingly, Lightfoot said, distributors want to partner with component suppliers that provide the widest product portfolios.
That means having to invest in inventory management, he said.
"The supply chain has become a qualifier now in supporting your customer," Lightfoot said. "If you're not able to provide first-rate service, then you won't survive for long."