Who is the Second Largest Supplier to the Car Industry?

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.

Made by the same people who supply the Peugeot 508. Image: Faurecia.com
Made by the same people who supply the Peugeot 508. Image: Faurecia.com

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.

Johnson Controls lighting concept. Image: JCI
Johnson Controls lighting concept. Image: JCI

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be supplied by Recaro, the electronics by Bosch and the dashboard and doors by Visteon, the concept of OEM is a little outdated.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.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

16 thoughts on “Who is the Second Largest Supplier to the Car Industry?”

  1. Everything is manufactured to a cost. I hope you’re not suggesting that Peugeot is paying the same as M-B for their interior fittings and components and somehow hands up with lower quality gear, just because they didn’t ask?

  2. I am suggesting that if PSA so willed it, some of their cars could have better interior quality. I don´t think there´s anything inherently wrong with French production workers and apparently the suppliers can provide the goods if asked. For some reason, managers can´t bring themselves to insist on parts that are as good as they could be. This is a real shame as the Peugeot idea is a good one and self-evidently, the traditional approach has not worked so well. It´s time to up the ante and insist that a 508 is made of the same good stuff VW and Mercedes use. While that´s not easy as the cost has to be made up somewhere, plainly not addressing this is not a good strategy in the very long term.

  3. Thanks for that reply above Laurent. It really doesn’t matter that the same company makes all the bits. Heck it is not rocket science to work out that Citroën are paying the exact same 20p for a door handle in the DS5 as they do on a C1 – and boy does it show. The same company might make the same bit for Audi but Audi sure as hell don’t pay 20p – and again it very clearly shows.

    Here’s a snapshot from the latest Automotive News Europe about some of the main suppliers of the new Espace:


    1. Very few things are made by a car company by themselves – the engines mainly are though and the bodywork of course. Car companies are really just the designers, make the body and engine and assemble the bits made by a whole host of other suppliers.

  4. I suspect cost is the main factor, and not purely in terms of prices paid for components. Mercedes Benz is likely able to allocate more engineering time for liaising with suppliers and to pay for a larger number of iterations during development than PSA can muster.

    1. You seem to be a bit of a whizz at printing. Do you have any insight on the flat appearance of most photography in Car magazine (and others)? The latest example is a photo of the Corvette on the road in the latest edition of Car. The image is quite unrealistic and hard to “read”. Is this a function of printing or digital photography? A nerdy acquaintance of mine got a photo printed using about ten different combinations of process – some analogue and some pure digital. In the end the differences were really slight. But if you dig out a photo from Car in say, 1997 and one today, the new ones seem more saturated and have almost violent late-shade contrasts. Thoughts?

    2. It is most likely under-inking. Longer run magazines are offset printed on web presses where paper is spooled off a reel. These operate at a rate of knots, with the consequence that the page is often not hit hard or long enough by the inked plate. A secondary consideration is drying time; a heavily inked page will take longer to dry, so print managers sometimes consciously under-ink sheets with heavy coverage to avoid delaying finishing (i.e. book making, binding, cutting to size).

      I imagine Bauer has a system in place to ensure that display and output profiles are consistently applied, so another possibility is an automated colour conversion error, whereby artwork is automatically adjusted for consistency prior to the RIP stage (Raster Image Process, the data needed to make plates). If the final printed photos appear washed out and yellow tinged, it could be that the RIP was asked to convert RGB photos to CMYK. But no designer worth his salt would ever place RGB photos in a CMYK document (cough-cough).

  5. Johann: I must admit the extent to which suppliers supply is a surprise. I knew this at an abstract level but had not so far been confronted by real data.

    1. Automotive News Europe has a pictogram like that in every issue. It’s subscription only but a mate works in the industry and forwards it to me. So yes seeing those every month also opened my eyes as to what goes into a modern car and who makes it. Here’s two more from previous months:

  6. Thanks Johann. I see the Jaguar has a Takata airbag….hmmmm.
    And Chris: is there a difference between the printing used in the 90s and now? I find the photography of the 90s looks readable and seems to be quite like a version of reality I recognise. Recent photos have a much more intense look to them, with few graduations within colour fields. There was photo that caught my eye a year or two ago. It showed three cars parked on a gravelly area. The gravelly area looked like a flat plan parallel to the page and not at right angles. In a possibly related matter, some family friends have wedding photos from 2006 or 2007 and the bride and groom look like cardboard standees set against a big, equally 2D back ground. I notice in both the magazines and the wedding photos that the depth of field is “forced” into planes. Each object seemst to be in its own plane. In comparison, web photos seem quite alright and perfectly legible. I know it´s not the most vexing problem in the world but it does mean I don´t look very hard at print photos in the magazines. There´s little to gain.

    1. The Espace also has Takata airbags… which have been locked into the design years before Takata started to have its problems. So a bit expensive to change them this late in the game.

    2. Jaguar have to log on to alibaba and dial in their specs. I am sure there´s a Chinese supplier who can make things that look quite like air bag units for a much,much lower price.
      What the diagrams don´t show is the engineering consultancy work. EDAG, IAV and Bertrandt a.g. supply staff to all the main manufacturers. There are also the clay modellers who are supplied by labour-rental firms in the UK, among others. There was one firm where of the forty staff in the section, only five were OEM. The rest were hired on a project-by-project basis (which was permanent anyway).
      I suppose Lotus don´t do this though but someone like VAG and Opel might.

    3. Not really. The dominant technology across the period has been offset litho, the only major process change (admittedly quite a big one) being “direct to plate”, which removed the step of creating film separations from plate making. The things you mention may be down to the adoption of digital photography rather than film, the loss of detail stemming from image compression. Or it could just be that costs have been hacked out of the magazine printing process, with a resulting attendant reduction in the care taken therein.

  7. I see Magna stamped the body for the Jaguar and the Lamborghini. Body stamping should be one of the hallmarks of a car maker. Body by Fisher, it used to say on GM USA cars in decades past, from the time when Fisherbodies were supposedly an independent supplier.

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