To paraphrase Sigmund Freud, uncertain expectations about the future produce anxiety.
If so, plastics parts suppliers should be ready for the psychoanalyst's couch as they await word of Ford Motor Co.'s plans for its Automotive Products Operations.
This month, the world's No. 2 carmaker plans to unveil its grand scheme to transform its APO division into a major independent supplier, not only to Ford but to outside customers.
What puts suppliers on pins and needles is wondering how much business they'll get from Ford APO and, transversely, how much business no longer will be outsourced to them.
Ford APO has tossed out some discreet clues about how it will function after it breaks free of its parent's grasp. Look closely, and you'll find that the division is starting to make some of the industry's first blow molded bumper beams at its Milan, Mich., plant.
Suppliers are concerned that some business they do now with Ford soon will be folded into APO's operations like an egg in a cake recipe. And they wonder whether Ford's use of plastic parts will diminish while the division whips up a confection of alternative materials for a trial run.
Consider what was heard at the recent University of Michigan Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Mich. There, Ford APO group vice president Charles Szuluk said that a high level of system integration by one supplier would provide the highest value to a customer.
Yet, in another speech at the same conference, Peter Beardmore, Ford chemical and physical sciences laboratory director, said aluminum and magnesium offer the most promise for future materials, while the steel industry also has been ``tremendously responsive'' in developing materials that bring gains to automakers.
Add that to Ford's recent announcement that it will build a mega-fuel-efficient vehicle under the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles program. The vehicle's body and structure are to be stamped from aluminum.
Here's another possible snapshot of what the future might hold: If you do a lot of work with Ford, you could be bought by the carmaker. Two weeks ago, Ford did just that when it acquired a 35 percent share of Toledo Molding & Die Inc., a climate-control plastic parts maker that primarily works for the auto company.
To lessen the stress, the plastics industry must do a better job selling its material and processing capabilities to Ford APO.
Otherwise, many suppliers could be looking at the new, assertive Ford APO from the outside in. If that happens, couch time in the analyst's office will be booked solid for months.
Pryweller is Plastics News' Detroit-based staff writer.