European and North American auto suppliers have struggled to win contracts with Asian automakers, which typically have business interests in many of their auto suppliers, a setup known as a keiretsu in Japan and a chaebol in South Korea.

The growing manufacturing presence of Asian automakers in North America over the past eight years has aided Magna greatly, Tobin says, but he notes the supplier also has been able to win contracts with Asian OEMs in other locales.

“Without a doubt, we’ve grown by leaps and bounds with Nissan and Honda, mainly in North America but also in markets like China and India – and also the U.K., (where) we do business with Honda,” Tobin says.

For Nissan, Magna supplies the lightweight, thermoplastic tailgate on the new Rogue CUV assembled in Smyrna, TN, but it also supplies Renault-Nissan from the conglomerate’s supplier park in Chennai, India.

Toyota remains a tougher nut to crack.

“We do support them in some areas, but the reality of the matter is they’ve got keiretsus in place,” he says.

In some instances, to make inroads with the Asian OEMs, Magna has entered into partnerships with local suppliers.

The Rogue had been assembled in Japan for the U.S. But with the move of the new second-generation model to Smyrna for U.S. customers, the first-generation Rogue’s tailgate supplier determined it had insufficient capacity in the States.

“So we met with Nissan and said, ‘OK, we’ll put together a partnership, no complicated joint venture.’ But we worked with the Japanese supplier on our process here, their process there, so as Nissan introduces the Rogue here, and we supply the liftgate, the same process is being used in Japan by the Japanese supplier,” Tobin says.

Winning business with Hyundai-Kia also has required Magna to enter into partnerships.

“About eight years ago we said, ‘We want to grow with you guys,’ and we found out very quick that we have to have either technology that they can’t get within their supply base, or we have to partner,” Tobin says.

Magna’s Cosma developed a sheet metal partnership with (and then became a minority owner in) Hyundai supplier Shin Young, which has led to business not only in South Korea but also the Americas, China and Russia. Magna now is Hyundai’s largest supplier in Russia, Tobin says, holding the majority stake in an 80/20 joint venture with Shin Young in St. Petersburg.

Magna also supplies injection-molded painted parts to Mobis in the U.S. for models produced at Hyundai-Kia’s plant in West Point, GA, and is in a 50/50 JV with WIA in South Korea for all-wheel-drive systems for Hyundai and Kia small and midsize CUVs.

When it comes to doing business with Asian automakers, Tobin says there is no “cookie-cutter approach. “Without a doubt it takes time,” he says. “They have to trust you and know you before they do business with you.”

He describes Magna’s business with Asian manufacturers as “a lot more than 10 years ago,” but the group’s roughly 7%-8% share of Magna’s total sales is heavily dependent on the reclassification of the formerly European Jaguar Land Rover as an Asian OEM, now owned by Tata of India.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com