Here´s something interesting. Car and Driver reckon that the Mercedes C-class has the best automotive interior under $40,000. Let´s say that interior is not better than the one fitted to the S-class coupe.
Then consider the interior of the Citroen DS5 and while it´s nice enough it’s not stellar. Now visualise the interior (or much of it) for the Audi Q7. Audi interiors regularly get called the best in the business. Then sit inside the unremarkable Peugeot 508. What do the S-class, Q7, DS5 and Peugeot 508 have in common?
A press release for the 2011 Shanghai automotive show indicates the scope of one firm´s reach into the car business: “the Audi Q3 and A7 Sportback, the BMW X1 and BMW 6-Series Coupé, the Chevrolet Aveo, the Citroën DS5, the Peugeot 508, the Renault Mégane CC, the Volkswagen Eos and the Volkswagen New Beetle II” all feature Faurecia componentry to a large extent. What the brands listed in the intro have in common is that Faurecia supply the major part of the internal systems. How is it then that the same firm produces such sterling work for the likes of Audi and Mercedes and yet also serves up less notably fine work for other makers? I had fondly imagined that Peugeot and Renault could not help themselves but it seems that some part of their quality woes stem from the fact they ask for this kind of thing. They could get the same quality as Mercedes do but don´t.
I was aware in a vague way that much of the internal, visible parts of a car were supplied by firms other than the ones whose names appear on the bootlids and steering wheel bosses. A casual examination of the records shows that Magna, Lear, Faurecia (number one globally in interiors) and Johnson Controls are behind the most of the bits of cars people prod, stroke and thump when they carry out a show room test. And behind them are hundreds of what are known as Tier 2 suppliers, the people who supply the suppliers to the OEMs. When you think that the seats of car can be supplied by Recaro, the electronics by Bosch and the dashboard and doors by Visteon, the concept of OEM is a little outdated. Chances are even the badge is made by someone other than the name glued to the car. Actually the badges are made by someone else.
Bosch is number one globally in supplying parts to the OEM´s but very little of what they make is visible to the customer unless they want to fit a fuel pump themselves. The first name on the list for something visible (in 2012) was Magna Systems; Johnson Controls came in at 6 followed by Faurecia (that year) at 7. Johnson Controls have been eaten up by Visteon who until 2000 were a part of Ford. Lear came in at 17 (you sit on their seats more often than you think).
If we look at the cars that use elements supplied by these firms we find they are of quite wide variability. Seemingly the quality and reliability of the vehicles is driven as much by the client as by the supplier. This is good news for laggards like PSA who, it seems, could improve their vehicle interiors by fiat: give us the same quality you have in the Mercedes, please. At the same time, I wonder if they don´t already do this but are stymied by other factors such as workplace culture or management practices that throw stumbling blocks down despite the best efforts of the supplier to deliver.
Who´s the second largest supplier to the automotive industry? It´s Denso who are Japanese. I have been looking at their website for ten minutes and the only client´s name I can find is Hino trucks. If you want an electric power steering unit, a millimetre wave radar sensor or a passenger presence sensor, click here.