General Motors Corp.'s top purchasing executive will outline the auto maker's attempts to achieve first-rate interiors for vehicle programs launching globally, while wrestling with challenges such as high raw-material prices, in a special strategy panel set for 11 a.m. Thursday, June 7, at the Ward's Auto Interiors Show at Cobo Center in Detroit.

Bo Andersson, GM group vice president-global purchasing and supply chain, will be joined on the panel by Kim Brycz, GM executive director of global purchasing-interiors; Ray Scott, Lear Corp.'s senior vice president and president of North American seating; and Jeff Williams, Johnson Controls Inc. group vice president and general manager-North American automotive.

Moderating the panel will be John Henke, president & CEO of Planning Perspectives Inc., whose firm publishes an annual study that explores the evolving relationship between auto makers and suppliers. The study is being released Monday, June 4.

Andersson will discuss GM's attempts to strengthen ties with its suppliers, while leveraging purchasing and engineering synergies on a global scale. He has spoken extensively on the company's goal to achieve comfortable, functional, harmoniously designed interiors that sell vehicles.

Andersson is the second top executive at GM to speak at the Auto Interiors show in as many years. Ward's Automotive Group acquired the show in spring 2005.

At the 2006 confab, Vice Chairman Bob Lutz said interior design was such an afterthought in the old GM culture that it took a while to convince a company executive he was being promoted, not demoted, when he was moved to lead interior design.

But Lutz said interiors are one of the few remaining areas where auto makers can differentiate their vehicles.

“It's the last place in the world where you want to advertise the cheapness of your product,” Lutz said last year. “It's no longer permissible or possible to strip the interior.”

Likewise, Andersson is emphasizing interior excellence as his office sources components for future GM vehicles.

As part of that initiative, GM attempted to outsource interior development in 2001 to Tier 1 integrators such as Lear, JCI, Magna International Inc.'s Intier Automotive and others.

GM dropped that strategy in late 2004 as the auto maker determined it needed to regain more control in interiors. However, Andersson says suppliers remain critical to the success of interior programs for GM vehicles.

Other speakers on tap at the Ward's Auto Interiors Show include Chrysler Group's Ralph Gilles, vice president-Jeep/Truck, Color and Trim Studios and Specialty Vehicles. His keynote address about Chrysler's innovative new design studio is set for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, June 6.

Delivering Thursday's keynote address at 9:30 a.m. is James Orchard, president North America for French supplier Faurecia SA. Orchard will discuss the “Changing Supplier Landscape” and Faurecia's ambitious growth strategy for the North American market.

Kathleen Parikh, senior manager in Mitsubishi Motors R&D of America's Design Engineering Dept., will provide a Japanese OEM's perspective for future vehicles with a keynote speech 2 p.m. Wednesday, June 6, as part of the ITB Cockpit and Door Modules Conference run by the ITB Group, a Michigan-based technical and business consultancy.

This marks the first year ITB's conference is being held in conjunction with the Ward's Auto Interiors Show.