There's one general truth about the relationships between auto makers and their suppliers that doesn't change: The better the two sides work together, the more likely both sides will be successful.
It's no accident that the vehicle companies suppliers give the top rankings to stay pretty consistent, and the ones trying to play catch-up know they can learn a thing or two from the leaders.
According to the Working Relations Index, one of the most trusted sources of how suppliers see their auto maker customers, it's pretty clear who gets the top grades each year. John Henke and his company, Planning Perspectives Inc.—now part of Plante Moran—have been publishing this study annually in North America since 2001, and either Toyota or Honda has topped the ranking every year. Toyota has been No. 1 the past eight studies with Honda the runner-up each of those years.
Both of those companies give a clear vision of how they view the OEM-supplier relationship, which gives a glimpse of why suppliers want to work with them. The Toyota group vice president of purchasing cites the "three C's" as key. That's as in communication, collaboration and consistency. As long as Toyota follows this path, then its suppliers know what is expected of them and can plan accordingly.
For Honda, it's all about being in a partnership, according to its vice president who oversees its North American purchasing division. She said this type of approach leads to the communication and transparency that serves as the foundation of the relationships with its suppliers.
That's not to say those following Toyota and Honda don't know how to treat their suppliers. General Motors, which ranked third of the six auto makers surveyed in the latest report, has made significant strides in its grades since 2015, when it tied for last. The senior vice president of GM's purchasing and supply chain had an idea of which OEMs treated suppliers well, and wasn't shy about adopting the tools he thought would help his firm improve its supplier relations.
Ford's executive vice president of product development and purchasing said vendors look to do business with customers who give them opportunities for growth, act fairly and honorably, and are consistent and predictable.
The OEMs also are clear that they have certain expectations of what they expect from their suppliers, and all agree that they need to be ready to help out suppliers that may be in need.
After all, the auto makers know that as valuable as suppliers can be in helping them succeed, they also realize one mishap can lead to a catastrophic failure in the delicate balance of an intricate supply chain.