Smooth supplier relations have been put to the test over the past three months as automakers scrambled to get their assembly plants back online after the coronavirus shutdown.
But the pandemic's jarring effects on auto production did not dramatically shake the working relations of the six biggest North American automakers with their parts makers, according to a new survey of suppliers.
The study found automakers that have enjoyed positive working relationships with suppliers in the past several years maintained their industry-leading cool when coping with the emergency, while those that haven't performed well as customers in the past did not benefit under the stress of this year's pandemic.
The 2020 North American Automotive OEM-Supplier Working Relations Index Study, an annual survey of supplier sales personnel by the Detroit consulting firm Plante Moran, was conducted during the early weeks of the crisis, from mid-February to mid-April, when production lines were crashing and the future was uncertain.
The study compiled the impressions of 841 salespeople from 503 Tier 1 suppliers on how those companies are getting along with their automaker customers, what it's like to serve each automaker and what impact those working relationships are having on suppliers' business and operations.
Toyota's purchasing operation led the industry this year as it has in every year except for two during the study's 19-year history. Toyota actually widened its gap with other automakers in the ranking, despite the pandemic upheaval.
Honda, the No. 2 automaker in this year's ranking, and No. 3 General Motors both dipped slightly in their supplier relations, the study found. Ford remained little changed in fourth place, according to its suppliers' perceptions.
FCA, which ranked at the bottom of last year's report, moved up slightly to overtake Nissan, in last place, this year.