Market Disruptions Car manufacturers stay silent: Supplier associations in turmoil

Editor: Alexander Stark

Germany — Three associations representing mainly medium-sized suppliers are sounding the alarm: because car manufacturers do not communicate their requirements, there is no basis for planning. This is how explosive the situation currently is for machine and plant manufacturers and the producers of tools and chucks.

Suppliers sound the alarm: A lack of willingness to engage in dialogue could cost their livelihoods.
Suppliers sound the alarm: A lack of willingness to engage in dialogue could cost their livelihoods.
(Source: Daimler)

Three German associations criticize carmakers and system suppliers in a joint statement. Since the latter are holding back with their planning for the next year, there is a great deal of uncertainty among the companies, which even threatens their existence, the Industrial Association for Sheet Metal Forming (IBU), the Industrial Association for Massive Forming (IMU) and the German Screw Association (DSV) said on Wednesday.

“The market is in turmoil. The current situation has high drama potential for many of our member companies,” says IBU Managing Director Bernhard Jacobs. “Powerful OEMs are playing their cards in the market, and they fail to realize that the livelihoods of medium-sized supplier companies are at stake — and thus also their supply chain.” The situation leads to considerable planning problems and high additional costs. Banks reacted hesitantly to provide bridging loans, which SMEs need to finance their steel purchases.

Jacobs told ETMM's sister medium “MM Maschinenmarkt” that suppliers usually conclude customer negotiations in the year's first half, and they only took place in isolated cases in the autumn. The higher the price difference, the more decision-making hierarchies are involved on the customer side. “The business behaviour is different in that it makes a huge difference for the companies whether they have to pass on material prices of 30 euros per tonne or 300 euros per tonne. If a company processes 10,000 tonnes a year, this difference cannot be borne by a medium-sized company.

The procurement risk for steel lies with the supplier

The dilemma is that the pre-material suppliers are now expecting volume orders for the next year without naming prices. The automotive customers, on the other hand, “are silent, ignore requests for talks and also postpone call-offs at short notice — due to production stops caused by chip shortages. All these undermines any planning,” the joint statement says. They call on the carmakers to seek dialogue with the suppliers. Two carmakers in particular, which the associations do not want to name, stand out negatively.

The high steel prices and raw material shortages aggravate the situation, the associations state. In addition, the government supports the EU market closure, which restricts imports from third countries. Reliable price and quantity agreements with the buyers of their automotive customers are all the more critical for the planning security of SMEs. The associations also criticize carmakers for postponing acceptance at short notice. They cited force majeure due to the shortage of semiconductors.

According to the manufacturers, the procurement risk for steel lies with the supplier. Correspondingly, the procurement risk for chips lies with the car manufacturer.

Bernhard Jacobs

The association's representatives also criticize the way business is done when it comes to prices. If customers respond to the “justified demand for price increases,” then only late or proportionately.

“Cancellations or postponements by customers of schedules due at short notice also lead to considerable additional costs for our member companies, which are not reflected in any calculations,” says Hans Führlbeck, Managing Director of the DSV.