More than half of the world's major global suppliers are suffering financial difficulties, according to a new survey by consultants AlixPartners.

According to Automobilwoche, the study found that while the number of companies in acute financial difficulty has fallen to a record low of 17%, around half of all companies, more than ever before, are operating at fairly dangerous risk levels.

AlixPartners conducts an annual survey of the key figues and strategies of the vehicle manufacturers and their suppliers. It examinies data from more than 450 companies, and assesses the financial risk position of suppliers.

The study found that there is a growing gap between the top and bottom performers in the supplier industry, showing that the strongest companies have been able to significantly improve their risk position over the past 15 years, while the situation at weaker companies remains critical.

The German component sector has shown some improvement in the last year. Around 11% of suppliers are in acute financial difficulty.

Thomas Sedran, managing director of AlixPartners, told Automobilwoche that in the future more companies will have to plan to produce more in low cost countries such as eastern Europe if they want to remain competitive. The biggest competition, however, comes from China. China exported more components to the US in the first quarter than Germany.