In a move that could herald the arrival of the single-sourced full interior, General Motors Corp. will name five suppliers in early May as “lead interior integrators” to manage the sourcing of parts for the passenger compartment of every North American vehicle the company produces.

GM invited 10 suppliers to prepare feasibility studies on ways to improve sourcing, quality and parts harmonizing and, on future programs, engineering and design. Five of the 10 submitted feasibility studies, and GM plans to announce the results of those studies in early May, Bo Andersson, GM's executive-in-charge of worldwide purchasing, tells Ward's.

The five suppliers are Johnson Controls Inc., Lear Corp., Magna International Inc.'s Intier Automotive, Faurecia SA of France and Detroit-based Venture Industries Inc.

Based on the study results, GM plans to assign each supplier to separate platforms to assume day-to-day purchasing of parts for those vehicles. Despite the shifting of this work, downsizing is not expected in GM purchasing. Instead, GM will assume an “overseeing and benchmarking” role, a spokesman says. Some GM engineers will now begin working more closely with the lead suppliers.

Instead of dealing with multiple suppliers of interior components, GM wants a handful of Tier 1s to take a program management role, to be more integrated with GM's overall vehicle development process and to achieve faster time to market and lower cost. Mr. Andersson says it's too early to estimate GM's savings.

“Typically it takes a long time for engineering changes at GM. It's embarrassing,” he says. “This is a tough thing for suppliers to do, but I'm very impressed with what they're doing.”

If the suppliers can meet cost and efficiency targets in purchasing parts for existing platforms, they will have key roles in designing and sourcing interior systems on next-generation vehicles, Mr. Andersson says. That doesn't mean one company would produce every interior component in the vehicle; it may find a better price for some components from a competitor.

Automakers remain largely in control of interior design and parts sourcing, although suppliers have been pitching the “complete interior” concept for several years.

JCI and Lear have made several acquisitions in recent years in pursuing the strategy. Magna is preparing to spin off its interiors business under the new name of Intier Automotive, whose focus is single-source interiors (see Ward's Automotive Reports — April 16, '01, p.3). Magna will supply a full interior, except for the seats, for the new '02 Cadillac Catera replacement.

A lesser known European player is Faurecia, whose acquisition last year of Sommer Allibert's automotive business for $1.2 billion makes it highly competitive in complete interiors, with seats, cockpits, door panels and floor systems.

Absent from the list of five is Delphi Automotive Systems, which had been an internal supplier to GM until its 1999 spinoff. Having sold its seating, interior lighting and some trim business, Delphi is less interested in supplying complete interiors than in specializing in telematics, electronics and safety systems.