Problems between car makers and their suppliers have been well documented in the industry, going back decades. Some auto companies normally stand above the crowd, while others can be counted on to receive poor marks.
But apparently things currently are so bad that not a single automotive firm scored high enough in Planning Perspectives Inc.'s annual North American Automotive OEM Supplier Working Relations study to get even a grade of “good.” Not even Toyota and Honda, the firms that have held the top two spots in the ranking each year since 2002, including this year.
Some of the reasons for the heightened tension are obvious. There have been changes in the purchasing organizations, both for the car companies and their suppliers. And a record number of recalls and warranty campaigns can cause rifts between the two sides.
Other reasons that can bring down scores might not be so obvious. Toyota and Honda, for example, received top-notch scores in the survey during the years when much of their global product lines were based on shared platforms that simplified relations with its suppliers. But as the Japanese-owned companies have started to diversify their product offerings, that has brought complexity to their production needs and, in turn, brought some dissatisfaction from their supply base.
There was some reason for hope in the survey. GM and Ford saw their marks go up, but even the higher score still left GM barely in the “adequate” range.
However that improvement for the largest of the Detroit 3 may be reason for hope going forward.
Bill Kopicki, GM director of global purchasing and supply chain for brakes, tires and wheels, spoke at the recent annual meeting of the International Institute of Synthetic Rubber Producers. He acknowledged that over the years, GM was guilty of talking a good game when it came to nurturing supplier relations.
But Kopicki said the company has made real strides in the past several years. He said GM wants to learn about ideas for new technology from its suppliers, as strong relationships will build trust and benefit both sides in the long run.
If that proves true for GM and others, maybe at least one company can earn a “good” rating next time around.