Toyota Tops 2021 OEM-Supplier Relations Study

GM and Nissan also improve on fewer late engineering changes; Ford and Stellantis scores drop.

Toyota has once again topped the annual WRI study for a record eleventh-straight year. (Toyota)

For a record eleventh-straight year, Toyota outperformed six major U.S. and Japanese automakers in a benchmark annual study of automotive OEM-supplier working relations as viewed by suppliers. “Toyota has made supplier relations the center of design, engineering and manufacturing decision-making,” said Dave Andrea, Principal in Plante Moran’s Strategy and Automotive & Mobility Consulting practice, about his firm’s 2021 North American Automotive OEM - Supplier Working Relations Index (WRI) Study.

Automakers’ WRI performance 2012-2021. (Plante Moran)

That decision-making strategy, according to Andrea, means suppliers are involved upfront when designs and specifications are determined. “Being supplier-centric allows opportunities to engineer costs out and quality in,” he told SAE International.

Based on online responses collected from mid-February to mid-April from 841 salespersons at 503 Tier 1 companies, the survey addresses suppliers’ working relations with Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US), Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Honda, Nissan, and Toyota. Those six OEMs account for approximately 60% of the annual buy from the Tier 1 suppliers.

Automakers’ WRI performance since 2002. (Plante Moran)

Now in its 21st year, the WRI study was founded by Dr. John Henke of Planning Perspectives Inc. Plante Moran acquired it in 2019. In the 2021 study, Toyota ranked best overall for having the fewest late engineering changes. “Toyota improved on on-time product timing and cost targets, but slipped related to late changes affecting quality targets,” Andrea explained.

Toyota, Honda, GM and Nissan each gained points overall in this year’s study, while Ford and FCA US/Stellantis saw their scores drop versus the 2020 study. GM and Nissan had the largest overall point gains year-over-year.

The survey identifies specific supplier feedback on many attributes that contribute to a purchasing organization’s throughput effectiveness. Honda is rated best in purchasing effectiveness overall; Toyota ranks second. (Plante Moran)

“Fewer engineering late changes and better alignment between engineering and purchasing during sourcing decisions were components of Nissan’s and GM’s higher WRI ratings,” Andrea said. FCA US/Stellantis scored the lowest overall points, and recorded the lowest points relating to timely communication, effective product development involvement and five other variables that impact overall OEM purchasing organization effectiveness.

The COVID-19 pandemic pushed a positive outcome for communicators. “Without a doubt, OEMs’ additional resources committed to communication and information-sharing showed up in improved trust, a vital driver of the WRI study,” Andrea said, noting that virtual meetings had many participants. “Rather than only the supplier’s account representative coming back with information from a meeting, engineering, manufacturing, quality and other functions required to optimize a solution were simultaneously represented,” he said.