DETROIT -- In March, brothers Lloyd and Gary Kimmen answered an all-too-familiar phone call at Top Craft Tool Inc., their small machine and tool company in suburban Detroit.
On the line was one of their customers, Tower International. The Kimmens say the big supplier wanted a 30 percent cut on the $65,000 price of an assembly line tool Top Craft was preparing to deliver and other tools that already had been delivered.
The call also brought back bad memories. While Tower was in bankruptcy in 2005-07, a judge had allowed it to cancel a $93,000 payment to the Kimmens.
"We were thinking, 'We just can't escape these guys,'" said Lloyd Kimmen, 55, who, along with 50-year-old Gary, carries on the company their father started in 1968.
Now, despite the givebacks, the Kimmens are putting their business back on solid footing. But to survive the industry's meltdown the brothers had to offer their homes as collateral on new loans. And they worked 60-hour weeks to diversify Top Craft's business into defense and aerospace.
Politicians and business leaders in Detroit are high-fiving each other nowadays for the success of the bankruptcy process and auto bailouts, which saved General Motors, Chrysler Group and tens of thousands of jobs. But the Kimmens' and others' struggles underscore the high cost of the triumph.
Since late 2008, several hundred U.S. suppliers have gone out of business after being swept up in their customers' bankruptcies or denied bank financing, said Neil De Koker, CEO of the Original Equipment Suppliers Association.
Before that, he said, scores more had succumbed to a series of major bankruptcies that began around 2004, including those of suppliers Tower, Delphi, Visteon, Dana and others.