TRAVERSE CITY, MI – General Motors historically has finished low in surveys dedicated to tracking relations with suppliers.
But Steve Kiefer, who took over two years ago as vice president-global purchasing and supply chain, believes it’s making strides in reversing that image.
Following his address Wednesday at the Center for Automotive Research’s Management Briefing Seminars here, Kiefer concedes GM has had work to do in mending supplier relations.
GM’s push for component and vehicle commonality has resulted in longer-term sourcing, which brings the two parties closer together in seeking shared goals, he says.
The automaker also is striving to reduce volatility in production so suppliers can better plan their manufacturing schedules, Kiefer says. Sharing platforms across multiple vehicle segments is key to smoother scheduling, he says.
“When you share platforms you can cover more volume, both on the high end and low end,” which can ease planning for suppliers, he says.
Kiefer rejoined GM in September 2013 after 20 years at Delphi, where he served as a senior vice president and president of Powertrain Systems.
As a former supplier to GM, Kiefer has experience across the table in negotiating contracts. He intends to keep communications with suppliers at a high level.
GM has 20,000 suppliers, and Kiefer is responsible for $130 billion in purchasing annually. “I talk to 1,000 suppliers each month,” he says, a logistical feat in itself.
A powertrain engineer by background, Kiefer also is a car enthusiast. He drove to MBS in a 640-hp Cadillac CTS-V.
He and his sons, ages 17 and 19, literally built the 650-hp engine in his Chevrolet Corvette Z06 company car at the GM assembly plant in Bowling Green, KY.
“We started with a basic engine block, and eight hours later we had it ready for a dyno hot test,” he recalls.