``Welcome to hard times.''
That's an appropriate greeting by the rubber industry to General Motors following the auto maker's decision to eliminate 30,000 production jobs, in addition to cutting 7 percent of its salaried work force.
Automotive suppliers know what hard times are like-they've been experiencing them for years. In fact, GM, along with its brethren Ford and DaimlerChrysler, helped put them there.
Bankruptcy courts are full of automotive suppliers, big ones, too, like Dana, Collins & Aikman and even the GM spinoff Delphi. As far as suppliers to the Big Three auto manufacturers are concerned, the business model for dealing with these fickle, demanding customers is broken.
It's not that GM has had it easy. The company lost $10.6 billion last year, its sales have slumped and foreign-owned auto makers continue to gain ground on the American companies' home turf. GM, like Ford and DaimlerChrysler, has embarked on a plan to get costs and production in line with the reality of the situation.
GM doesn't want to join its beleaguered suppliers in bankruptcy court. And, fact is, its remaining suppliers don't want it there, either
If a manufacturer wants high volume, large revenues for its products, the auto industry is the place to be. High profit margins are a different story.
In general, the automotive suppliers to the Big Three already have done much of the cost-cutting and employee elimination that the auto makers now are going through So they can relate to their customers' plight.
If the Detroit auto makers can get it together, that will help their suppliers-theoretically, at least. But if they fail in this mission, there's nothing theoretical about the negative impact a failed customer has on its vendors.