The world's biggest auto parts suppliers have their hands full this year. But for many of them, the challenges were already piling up in 2019.
Well before the coronavirus pandemic brought down global vehicle production in March and turned suppliers' operations upside-down, the parts industry was taking it in the gut over a steep business decline in China, a protracted labor strike at General Motors and a fraught reordering of product plans in Europe where regulators are clamping down on the production of traditional CO2- emitting vehicles.
But even as parts makers navigated those market potholes last year, they managed to remain in much the same competitive ranking as they have for the past two years, according to this year's Automotive News top supplier ranking of the industry's largest parts companies.
Bosch, Denso, Magna, Continental and ZF Friedrichshafen remain the world's five biggest suppliers, as they have for the last two years. Of the top 10, only two — Lear Corp. and Faurecia — changed rankings last year. They swapped positions on the list, with Faurecia now No. 8 and Lear No. 9.
Eight of the top 10 have in-house plastics.
"Last year we really were at the back end of a long, strong growth cycle for the automotive industry," said Dietmar Ostermann, U.S. automotive advisory leader at PwC, which tracks global automotive activity globally.
And all of last year's challenges compound the struggles suppliers now face as they tread water from pandemic-induced liquidity issues and parts shortages, he said.
"It blows enormous holes into those auto suppliers, and some of them will not make it," Ostermann said.