Do Parts Suppliers Matter More than Manufacturers?
An interesting trend has been happening of late – automotive suppliers are getting quite a bit of attention.These days, more and more manufactures are blaming parts suppliers for recalls. Cummins diesel engines are all the rage (not just a diesel engine, but a Cummins). And now, news of Tesla and Apple working together to build an iCar. This begs the question – are manufactures becoming less relevant? Does Toyota even matter or do their supplier choices matter more?
I realize the above thoughts aren’t exactly “automotive news,” but follow along with me here. There are several news items of late that got to me to wondering about this.
- Toyota recalled 109,000 Tacoma pickups because of a part failure that they say came from an Ohio supplier. They have since switched suppliers.
- An Autonews.com story it was supplier BorgWarner who first approached Ford with the idea of a turbocharged engine, not the other way around. The story goes that without BorgWarner’s insistence, the EcoBoost wouldn’t have happened. Good story, check out the link.
- Media reports state Tesla is working with Apple and they may develop an “iCar.” The interest here is Apple and less about Tesla.
- Consider the rise of ZF and their 8-speed transmission with Ram. ZF is just a supplier that has seen their stock rise almost overnight. At the 2014 Detroit Show, both ZF and Asian had displays (a first for me).
I would also submit that in the world of computing, this switch is already occurring. Consider that you used to buy an IBM computer. Yet, these days, the marketing is “Intel inside” or “Powered by AMD,” instead of you are buying an IBM.
This brings me back to my original question. Are suppliers getting so popular that they will outweigh the larger, manufacture’s brand? Maybe, Consider last weeks news that the next-gen Tundra could have a Cummins engine. That story captured the media’s attention and it was all about Cummins and less about Toyota.
If suppliers significance grows, does this help Toyota’s brand with their known high supplier quality requirements? Maybe so. The reality is that parts suppliers are now in the driver’s seat. They now pitch new ideas to manufactures trying to meet CAFE requirements and fast changing technology advancements. This hasn’t always been the case. In the past, automakers would dictate to suppliers what they wanted.
For example, many automakers have been pressing Alcoa for the secrets behind the F-150’s aluminum panels. In the past, automakers wouldn’t have had to press any supplier for information. The supplier would have simply bent over backward to give it to them. In fact, the aluminum F-150 was only possible with Alcoa’s help. You begin to wonder if Alcoa approached Ford or if Ford approached Alcoa.
Keep in mind that parts suppliers don’t have to share these ideas. The sharing seems to come down to basic things like trust and communication. Autonews.com has this tid-bit in their story:
Last year, consultant Planning Perspectives Inc. asked North American suppliers whether they were willing to share new technology with automakers without a purchase order. Ford ranked third, behind Honda and Toyota. GM ranked fifth out of six automakers studied.
Can we then expect Toyota to continue to develop quality products BECAUSE OF their relationships with their suppliers and not Toyota themselves?
What do you think? Did you think about parts suppliers when you bought your truck?
Filed Under: Auto News