Improving shareholder value is a tough topic for every supplier executive, including Delphi Automotive Systems President J.T. Battenberg III. An attendee at the Traverse City conference asked how he's improving Delphi's stock price.

The former General Motors Corp. subsidiary has rounded up billions of dollars in new business. Still, its stock performance has been lackluster - down from about $17 in early 1999 to just over $15 per share on Wednesday.

His advice: Be patient. Within a year, automotive valuations will be heading north.

Forty years ago, he says, automakers and large, public suppliers recorded price-to-earning ratios that were about 80-90% of those recorded by the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index. Three years ago, that figure declined to about 70%. "Today, it's running at about 25% of the P/E ratio of the Standard & Poor's. We're at a 40-year low," Mr. Battenberg says.

He notes that Delphi has $9 billion in sales to non-GM customers this year. And net income growth has been 13% - over $1 billion, and well above the 10% promised to analysts.

"I think the 40-year cycle will move," he says. "I think we're going to see some real return to value stocks. Many of us at this conference next year will be feeling a lot different about valuations. It's at 25% P/E ratio to the Standard & Poor's, and it will move back up to where it belongs in the 70-80% ratio."