• Bloomberg


Ford Motor Co., following its first annual profit since 2005, became the only non-Japanese automaker ever ranked among the top three in a survey of suppliers.

Ford’s rating for its working relationship with parts makers in North America rose 14 percent, placing it ahead of Nissan Motor Co. to capture third place in the annual Planning Perspectives Inc. ranking that started in 2002. Honda Motor Co., the leader in the 2010 report, was followed by Toyota Motor Corp. in second place.

Ford and other U.S. automakers “finally realized they can’t treat suppliers the way they had been,” said John Henke, chief executive officer of Planning Perspectives. “They’ve got to be absolutely vigilant that they don’t revert back to their old ways.”

Positive relationships with suppliers can help automakers trim costs, improve quality and spur innovation in the design of parts, which typically make up 70 percent of a vehicle’s value.

Toyota had led the survey since its inception until falling from first place in 2009, and its rating slid a further 2.6 percent this year.

General Motors Co., still ranked in the lower half of the survey, improved the most of the top six U.S. automakers in terms of sales, with its rating by suppliers gaining 25 percent.

Chrysler Group LLC, the lowest ranked since 2008, improved by 15 percent. Both Chrysler and GM entered and exited bankruptcy last year.

The scores for Honda and Toyota have declined since 2007, “probably the result of the dramatic growth of these companies who were then hit with the recession and falling sales,” Henke said. “This, in turn, led them to become somewhat adversarial in getting price reductions from suppliers.”

Mike Goss, a spokesman for Toyota, said his company will analyze the results and “adjust accordingly.”

The study tracks suppliers’ impressions of their working relations with the top six U.S. automakers across 14 purchasing categories, including electronics, interior and chassis. The survey includes responses from 646 salespeople at 510 suppliers.

“A lot of the technology that’s in our vehicles comes from our suppliers, and certainly a lot of the cost of our vehicles comes through our suppliers,” Tony Brown, Ford’s global purchasing chief, said Friday. “So we can’t have a profitable Ford without an effective, efficient and profitable supply base. And the company embraces that notion now.”

Chrysler, controlled by Fiat SpA, said in a statement that “we are working very hard to fix our internal processes and talk with suppliers in a transparent, fair and collaborative way,” adding that “we are on the right path, and we know we have more work to do.”

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