TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Suppliers shouldn’t wait for the call from automakers planning the next big project with a global reach, says auto analyst Michael Robinet.

Those wait-and-see days are over, the managing director of IHS Automotive tells attendees of the Management Briefing Seminars here.

“Proactive suppliers are looking out to 2018 and 2019 and 2020,” he says. “They are saying, ‘We’ve got the technology to go with that platform.’ They are working early with OEM engineers and designers. Early involvement is important. Don’t let go of your engineers; you’re going to need them.”

Other checklist items for bold suppliers who seize the initiative include portfolio planning for optimal capacity and customer diversification, he says. “The industry is too swift for suppliers not to have regimented planning processes.”

Supplier proactivity is particularly vital as automakers build their vehicles on platforms designed for standardized, worldwide production. Seventy-five percent of the vehicles built worldwide are based on global architectures in production at multiple plants.

“Global platforms are here in a big way,” Robinet says. “If you haven’t accounted for it with tooling, research and manufacturing capabilities, you’ve missed a tremendous boat.”

Platforms with common components allow automakers to maintain a fast pace of offering new models. B-, C- and D-segment vehicles in particular share standard underpinnings. “Model proliferation is only possible with global platforms,” Robinet says.

“(Automakers) can’t sit on a vehicle for seven or eight years and think people will buy it,” he says. That’s applicable today even in countries such as Brazil, where model changes traditionally occur less often than in the U.S.

Robinet predicts worldwide new-vehicle launches will reach 161 models in 2018, compared with 73 a few years ago.

For the vehicles debuting in 2018, the heaviest product-development lifting will take place in 2015 and 2016, Robinet says.

U.S. automakers increasingly rely on platforms from Europe, especially since Chrysler and Fiat hooked up, he adds. “If you are a supplier, you need to be (in Europe). The world is becoming a smaller place.”

sfinlay@wardsauto.com