TRAVERSE CITY, MI – General Motors Corp., for several years, has been pursuing a strategy to appoint supplier “integrators” to oversee development of interiors for future vehicles.

The strategy remains in place, but the players are changing.

GM announced in January 2002 that Magna International Inc.’s Intier division would coordinate the interiors for the next-generation fullsize SUVs, while Lear Corp. would integrate interiors for the pickups from the same GMT900 architecture.

Lear, however, has declined the interior integrator role for the pickups (although it will continue to supply the seats). Instead, Intier will handle integration for both the SUVs and pickups, representatives from both companies confirm.

Because the SUVs launch in 2006, prior to the pickups, and because the two interiors share many parts, Lear says it makes better sense to let Intier handle both platforms.

2005 Chevrolet Silverado.

“A lot of the SUV content will go into the pickup,” Patrick Murray, vice president of Lear’s VisionWorks unit, tells Ward’s. “We wanted to keep the momentum of the team that did the interior for the SUV consistent with the cadence to the pickup.”

Murray, scheduled to speak Wednesday at the Management Briefing Seminars here, says it made little sense to have a new interior integrator (Lear) repeat for pickups the same process that will be used for the SUVs.

Lear, however, is embracing interior integrator duties for the upcoming Buick LeSabre and Cadillac DTS, a Lear spokeswoman says. The vehicles launch in early 2005.

The stakes are high for the upcoming GMT900 platform, which by far will be GM’s highest-volume vehicle program.

The current-generation GMT800 architecture includes Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups and Chevy/GMC Suburban, Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade SUVs. In the U.S. in 2003, GM sold 1.5 million light-duty trucks and SUVs from the architecture, according to Ward’s data.

Intier says the decision to switch the interior integrator roles with Lear was made within the past 12 months, says Scott Paradise, executive vice president-sales and marketing for Intier Automotive.

GM declines to comment on the sourcing arrangement for the GMT900 or to confirm whether the decision is final.

The auto maker introduced the interior-integrator concept three years ago as a way to reduce costs and provide interior specialists the opportunity to develop passenger compartments that are comfortable and stylish.

GM retains sourcing decisions, however.

Paradise says Intier has done well with other interior-integrator projects for GM over the last three years, including the Cadillac SRX and Cadillac STS and the new small Chevrolet Cobalt.

“It’s all been going very well,” Paradise tells Ward’s. “It’s been a good educational process for us understanding GM and their expectations.”

Taking the integrator role for GM, however, does not ensure more business with the No.1 auto maker. “But it puts us in the forefront of working with GM to know where they are going,” he says.

Paradise also says he does not see other auto makers showing the same interest in appointing interior integrators for future programs. “GM is the most pro-active.”

He declines to comment on whether interior-integrator work is more or less profitable for Intier. “It’s a different kind of program with more design responsibility,” Paradise says, adding the relationship has been “very collaborative,” and that GM has been responsive to the supplier’s ideas for upcoming interiors.

“They (GM) are under pressure to take costs out in engineering,” Paradise says. “In the past, they had been reticent to ideas we brought forward.”

tmurphy@primediabusiness.com