By Douglas A. Bolduc, Automotive News / May 23, 2005
BARCELONA, Spain - Suppliers want automakers to give them more responsibility for developing vehicles. And they're looking for earlier involvement in the process.
â€œWe are the component experts. You are the car experts,â€ Hari Nair, managing director of exhaust specialist Tenneco Automotive Europe said here this month at the Automotive News Europe Congress.
He was one of four panelists who discussed the relationship between automakers and suppliers.
Nair said he thinks auto suppliers can help customers by designing more components because the automakers often prolong the process and continually redesign some parts.
â€œThis process never ends with some customers,â€ Nair said. â€œSome of it is avoidable. I think suppliers can take on more responsibility for this.â€
Delphi Corp.'s Volker Barth, president of Delphi Europe, Middle East and Africa, also thinks automakers and suppliers should start cooperating sooner.
â€œEarly involvement is the right way to get the right technical solution at the right cost,â€ he said.
Paul Stokes, Ford Motor Co.'s executive director of European purchasing operations, agreed, calling early involvement crucial.
Stokes, who spent five years working in Japan for Mazda, said one of the biggest differences between the supplier-automaker relationship in Japan and Europe is the â€œlength of time the two have worked together.â€
Japanese suppliers â€œdon't have to look over their shoulders,â€ he said. â€œIt is all about knowing you are going to grow your business with a company.â€
Barth said other keys to a successful automaker-supplier relationship include empathy for the challenges that suppliers face and clearly defined conditions for doing business.
Jean-Philippe Collin, vice president of purchasing for PSA/Peugeot-Citroen SA, agreed with Barth on the importance of providing clear guidance.
â€œWe pursue business consistency,â€ he said. â€œWe set the rule and enforce the rule.â€