What has changed among Japanese automakers in the last two years?
It is a dramatic change. First, we see a softening of the old keiretsu system, which does not work any more. It is being changed by the Japanese automakers. One reason is that they want to tap technology outside their keiretsu system [closely interlocking blocs of automakers and suppliers]. As long as they work within their keiretsu family, no one is willing to offer technology to them, because everyone knows that as soon as they have the technology it will go directly to their keiretsu company. So independent suppliers were hesitating to give Japanese automakers technology as we would give it to Ford or GM or DaimlerChrysler.
So traditional relationships are changing between Japanese automakers and suppliers?
Keiretsu is something that has started to change. It is not over yet. There will be a further softening of this system.
What else is happening?
The second major change is that Japanese automakers are trying to get more research and more product development done by their Tier 1 suppliers. In the past, this was not the case. The automakers did component development and gave the blueprint to their suppliers.
In Europe and in the last couple of years in the USA, automakers have been relying much more on the product technology and know-how of their Tier 1 suppliers. This is starting now in Japan, because they are changing what they call their competence.
It is much more systems and module assembly, and not so much component development as they still did two years ago. This is changing. They are relying on us much more, believing that we can bring something to the table.
Are Honda and Toyota using you more for filters?
We are not only supplying Toyota transplants locally, but also Toyota in Japan from Europe. Diesel filter technology is an area where Toyota and Honda lack experience. They are not at European standards.