DETROIT — For volume-starved North American auto parts suppliers, the proposed Chrysler LLC alliance with Fiat S.p.A may look like an opportunity to gain a new customer.
Message to suppliers: Get in line.
Global suppliers, including some from North America, are well represented in Fiat's supply base. And Fiat's own Magneti Marelli S.p.A. parts-making unit supplies its parent and virtually all the world's automakers with an array of critical parts.
"There will certainly be opportunities to gain business," says Neil De Koker, CEO of the Original Equipment Suppliers Association. "But the excitement is a few years down the road when Fiat begins launching vehicles by 2011" in North America.
Chrysler plans to produce small cars in North America using Fiat platforms. In addition, Fiat aims to grow around the world, particularly in Brazil.
A combination of the two mid-sized automakers could save money through joint parts sourcing. That is particularly true for commodities such as batteries, wiring harnesses, glass, tires and especially steel.
Fiat is serviced widely by the big global suppliers. Robert Bosch GmbH, for example, supplies parts — including fuel injection systems, alternators and antilock braking systems — to more than three dozen Fiat models, says SupplierBusiness Ltd., a consulting firm in the United Kingdom.
TRW Automotive Inc., Federal-Mogul Corp., Mahle GmbH, Valeo SA and Hutchinson SA are among Fiat's largest outside suppliers, according to SupplierBusiness.
Magna International Inc. supplies convertible tops and large body stampings on the soon-to-be-launched redesigned Fiat 500 built in Tychy, Poland. Magna is said to be looking for more opportunities because Fiat could sell that vehicle in North America.
Magneti Marelli is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. The company has seven parts-making units that produce electronic systems, lighting, exhaust systems, powertrain components, suspension systems and shock absorbers, among others.
Analyst William Pochiluk of AutomotiveCompass LLC in West Chester, Pa., says green technologies offer an opening to North American companies hoping to supply a Fiat-Chrysler alliance. These include electric and hybrid vehicles, where the alliance is not strong.