Lars Holmqvist has not even begun his official duties as CEO of the European auto component suppliers association CLEPA, but he has already started a controversy.


Automotive News Europe said Holmqvist bluntly criticised carmakers, particularly Ford, DaimlerChrysler and General Motors, for treating suppliers poorly.


Holmqvist said Ford’s Global Terms and Conditions agreement governing its relations with suppliers was “not acceptable from any point of view… in all my experience I have never seen anything so one-sided, I would almost say arrogant.”


But Holmqvist rates Toyota highly and says the Japanese manufacturer still honours its suppliers. It’s no coincidence Toyota is so profitable, he says.


Holmqvist, aged 57 and a native of Sweden, takes over as CEO of CLEPA in May. His term of office is indefinite. He’s an imposing figure: 195 centimetres tall with white hair and a deep, booming voice.


Holmqvist is on a mission – restoring civility and trust to badly frayed relations between manufacturers and suppliers. The partnership there once was has deteriorated, he feels.


“Now there’s an abuse of the dominant position. You can’t trust any one. You don’t know if you will get paid. You don’t know if you’ll be honoured for your technical skills,” he said.


Raising money has become tough for suppliers. “We’re known by bankers as a very poor industry,” Holmqvist said.


He hopes he can make a difference when it comes to improving carmaker-supplier relationships. “I hope in this position I will be able to try to make the very old word ‘partnership’ useful again. We’re very far from that now.”


Holmqvist wants to see manufacturers and suppliers sit down and begin a bilateral discussion over the issues affecting the industry. He applauds the recent initiative of manufacturers to make their concerns about future legislation known to the European Commission. He believes suppliers have a lot of expertise to offer in areas such as CO2 emissions and pedestrian safety and can contribute to the dialogue.