That sounds logical. I’m sure suppliers appreciate it when their customers’ purchasing departments play nice. But I strongly suspect that the biggest thing that automakers could do to win a little supplier love is more fundamental: Issue accurate volume forecasts.
That is a big, honking deal to suppliers.
If an automaker tells a supplier to gear up for, say, 200,000 units of a part per year, that becomes the basis for the supplier’s pricing. If the vehicle sells poorly, and the supplier winds up making only 150,000 units, the supplier takes a significant hit. From what suppliers say, margins go south quickly when volume falls.
That also makes suppliers wary of adding capacity based on automaker projections. The math here is equally unforgiving.
If you’re making a nice profit on a line that’s running full out and making 200,000 parts per year, you’re in the manufacturing sweet spot. Adding a second line is perilous: Unless you get up to 400,000 units, your cost per unit won’t be quite as sweet. You’re likely to see your profit fall, or even disappear.
So, yes, it’s nice for an automaker to collaborate with suppliers to avoid late-breaking engineering changes and not to beat them up too severely over prices.
But I suspect it’s more important to give suppliers realistic forecasts -- and meet them.