The financial performance of vehicle supply companies decreased 25% in 2001 as suppliers were stung by a 3.7% decrease in global vehicle production, according to the sixth annual analysis of financial performance at 66 global vehicle suppliers by EDS subsidiary AT Kearney.

The study, which analysed cash flow return on invested capital (CFRIC), found that average performance of North American vehicle suppliers decreased by 28%.

The average CFRIC of Japanese vehicle supply firms was off 3% and European suppliers were down 32%.

CFRIC is a comprehensive measure of overall financial performance based on cash flow generated relative to the capital invested to generate that cash flow.

“The financial performance of North American suppliers, though down in 2001, continues to exceed the financial returns of S&P 500 companies in 2001 and over the past three-year period,” said AT Kearney vehicle industry practice leader John Hoffecker.

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The company examined the financial performance and strategic activities of 66 vehicle supply companies, 17 vehicle manufacturers, 14 dealer groups and 11 aftermarket retail concerns.

In addition, the cash margins (cash-in divided by sales) of Japanese suppliers averaged 9.7% in 2001, the first year Japanese suppliers have lead the category during the six years of the study.

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The cash margins of European firms averaged 8.5%, down 4.2%age points from 2000, and North American companies’ cash margins averaged 7.7% in 2001, down 2.5% from the previous year.

“Although the Japanese suppliers did relatively well last year compared to 2000, European and North American vehicle supply firms still financially outperform them overall. From a global perspective, the vehicle supply industry reflected a downturn in CFRIC that was evident across all industries,” Hoffecker said.

“Some suppliers are continuing to perform well despite the downturn. Among the best practices that set these firms apart are strategic sourcing initiatives, lean asset structuring and careful analysis of make-versus-buy decisions.”

Additional findings included:

  — During the last 10 years, OEMs have produced higher shareholder returns than their suppliers in every region of the world.

  — In 2001, the dealer and aftermarket segments of the industry outperformed automakers and suppliers in key metrics, including CFRIC and total shareholder return.

  — Only glass, interiors and diesel engine sectors of the global vehicle supply industry have achieved positive total shareholder returns over the past three years.

  — High debt and low liquidity continue to pose major challenges for over one-third of Tier 1 suppliers studied.

  — Global acquisition activity continues to decline worldwide, with the largest drop occurring in North America.

According to the study, the top 10 best financial performing vehicle suppliers in the world for 2001, based on 2001 CFRIC, were:

1. American Axle (US); 16.5%

2. Wagon (UK); 14.8%

3. Johnson Controls (US); 14.6%

4. Linamar (Can); 14.2%

5. Magna (Can); 14.0%

6. Lear (US); 14.0%

7. Superior (US); 11.9%

8. Dura (US); 11.5%

9. Autoliv (Sweden); 11.2%

10. Keihin (Japan); 11.0%