EDITORIAL – SupplierBusiness’ most read articles in 2014

Corporate developments

Month by month review of the year’s top stories, as seen by the most popular stories in our Insight news service

January – Future demand for manual transmissions

IHS Automotive took an in depth look at the manual transmission market and where it is heading. Though the technology is at a high state of development, there are still new elements being added. Six is expected to be the ideal number of speeds for manual transmission going forward.

February – Continental retunes its powertrain strategy

Continental splits its Strategy and Technology department two separate entities, in a bid to focus more on its technological and strategic planning operation. The move is seen as a proactive one, as it has become imperative for suppliers in a market place where automakers are scrambling to incorporate advanced fuel-efficient and lightweight technologies in their vehicles’ powertrains.

March - Toyota’s softening stance with suppliers shows further swing of purchasing power

Toyota’s move came a few weeks after General Motors rolled back a number of terms and agreements with its suppliers that were seen as unfavourable for the supply base. GM is also reportedly offering to help suppliers identify waste, forecast costs, reduce raw-material costs, and look for other ways to reduce costs. After several years of profitability being largely attributable to increasing transaction prices, GM has shifted to a programme aimed at driving cost out of the systems and stepping toward working more closely with suppliers to jointly find and eliminate inefficiencies and reduce costs.

April - Apple’s Carplay has already shaken up the infotainment market

As the tech giants of Google, Microsoft and Apple take their fight over onto the mass market of infotainment systems, the threat to existing automotive tier ones such as Continental, Harman and Delphi is clear. All are already rethinking their strategies, with one solution being to offer differentiated products.

May - Visteon divests struggling interiors units

The automotive interiors market struggled in 2014 as the sector proved unprofitable and the market looked to consolidate. Visteon and Johnson Controls both sold on parts of their interiors sector, moving their divisions onto financial firms rather than other manufacturers or competitors.

June- Suppliers increase investments in Mexico as conditions become more favourable

Mexico’s growth as a production hub was one of the key stories of 2014, as a number of suppliers announced investments in manufacturing operations there. Driving this production growth will be Japanese, North American and European manufacturers, who are expanding their manufacturing presence in Mexico. At the end of 2013, Mexico was the eighth largest vehicle manufacturer globally, and is forecast to overtake Brazil briefly this year.

July – Jaguar Land Rover’s new technology announcements are an opportunity for suppliers - See more

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) revealed details of key engine and comfort technologies that it currently has in development, and which are eventually expected to be introduced to its next generation vehicles. Though some contracts for these parts and other parts may already be in place, there will be a significant ramp-up of production for the new engine. Production of engines for JLR vehicles is forecast to go from 36,000 in its first year (2015) to over 540,000 units per annum by 2019 according to IHS Automotive forecast, or around three-quarters of its vehicle production at this point. The first vehicles will utilise the diesel version of this engine during 2015, with the gasoline engine joining the ranks the following year.

August – GM finishes grading of top 200 suppliers

GM and other automakers are working to improve relationships with suppliers, after many had strained the situation through high demands for decreasing pricing, as well as supplier strain during the recession. In February, GM began more actively looking to increase collaboration with suppliers. The programme was announced after GM took the step of adjusting a new supplier contract template that generated controversy and pushback

September – ZF acquires TRW; a closer look at the deal

After months of speculation, ZF Friedrichshafen announced that it was to acquire TRW Automotive, creating a combined company that will be third largest supplier in the world after Bosch and Denso, ahead of Continental. This piece looked at the potential issues facing the mega-supplier and the lessons learned from other mega-mergers that have taken place in the industry.

October – IHS Automotive forecasts global auto production growth of 25% by 2021

Mark Fulthorpe, IHS director of light-vehicle production forecasting, delivered an in-depth look at the pace of production growth between 2013 and 2021. The automotive industry has moved past recovery, with 2013 production reaching 85 million units, stronger than prior to the 2009 low of 60 million units. Over the next seven years, IHS forecasts 25% growth to 106 million units per annum (upa) in 2021.

November - Bosch develops new lane changing assist using MRR rear sensor

With infotainment, telematics, driver assistance and eventually autonomous driving systems set to take over the car in the next decade, the sensors market that will make these applications function is a key battleground for suppliers

December - Ford, Magna start up scheme highlights OEMs and suppliers need for new technologies

In looking for cutting edge automotive technologies, automakers will have to adopt a different attitude towards start-ups. The scheme will also be part of a larger strategy as suppliers fight in an increasingly fierce battle to maintain a competitive R&D edge, not only over other suppliers but also their OEM customers, who have ceded a great deal of ground on the technology front to suppliers over the last few years.