Automakers are likely to face spot shortages of parts next year if North American vehicle production tops 16 million units, a new survey of suppliers concludes.
Twenty-six percent of respondents said they had "difficulty meeting production expectations" this year, according to the survey of 100 suppliers polled in August and September by IRN Inc., a Grand Rapids, Mich., consulting firm.
Chrysler Group may be especially vulnerable to spot parts shortages. Forty-two percent of the respondents that supply Chrysler said they had trouble meeting production quotas.
It would be premature for Chrysler to hit the panic button, though. Only 15 percent of the companies surveyed were Chrysler vendors, a small sample size.
Industrywide, the survey suggests that production bottlenecks could worsen in 2014 if annual North American vehicle production tops 16 million units.
Twenty-eight percent of respondents said they lacked enough capacity to meet demand at that level of production, according to the survey.
The IRN report emphasized that spot shortages could affect all automakers next year. "Capacity may finally be at the breaking point," the survey concluded. "If current projections ... are correct, expect this to be one of the top issues for the industry in 2014."
Industrywide, suppliers of electronic components could suffer the most production headaches.
According to the survey, 38 percent of respondents who produce electronics said they lacked enough capacity if North American production tops 16 million vehicles.
Suppliers of chassis and suspension components were the second most vulnerable group; 30 percent said they would not have enough capacity.
"This suggests that the industry is maxed out," IRN Vice President Melissa Anderson says. "Among most suppliers, there is a fair amount of scrambling going on. It's not always pretty."
Chrysler and other automakers have anticipated the problem and have taken steps to strengthen ties with their suppliers. According to the survey, nearly 65 percent of Chrysler suppliers said they had been offered long-term contracts for new business. Industrywide, 55 percent of suppliers said they had been offered long-term contracts.
Anderson says that signals that automakers are building more stable relationships with suppliers by forgoing bidding wars to get the lowest possible price.