Ford Motor Co. is continuing its internal debate on whether to shift tooling costs to suppliers in coming years.
``There's a lot of talk going back and forth,'' said Jeff Webb, an interiors specialist with Ford's Global Core Engineering. He spoke at the Integrated Automotive Interior Systems conference March 8 in Dearborn, which was sponsored by ITB Group Ltd. of Novi, Mich.
The Dearborn automaker is shifting tooling costs to suppliers at its renovated assembly plant and supplier park in Cologne, Germany, as part of its new ``pay on production'' system there. Similar payment plans - in which carmakers pay suppliers for their upfront costs over the life of vehicle production, rather than buying equipment in advance - are in place at a relative handful of plants owned by a cross section of automakers.
Ford has not decided whether to expand the system to other sites.
How to deal with tooling costs is one of several dynamic questions facing automakers and their suppliers, Webb noted. Businesses also must determine the level of warranty requirements in the tier structure, while in North America they are questioning whether integrators should build more complex cockpit modules.
Most auto plants in North America are designed around existing production standards, with car-firm workers doing more extensive final assembly than some of their European counterparts, which outsource more work to suppliers. At the same time, carmakers' internal practices are geared to buy and engineer individual components - not entire systems.
But changes still are in store, he said. Ford will be looking to suppliers to improve aesthetics and craftsmanship as it considers more molded-in-color instrument panel options. It also wants firms that can create brand identity while still using common components across vehicle lines to cut costs.
``The Tier 1 [firms] that can bring that together will benefit in Ford's eyes,'' Webb said.