Before financial Stargate opened in September of 2008 and transported us to an entirely new economic dimension, it was oh so common to read about domestic automakers hammering Tier One suppliers to lower their prices. Of course, suppliers are still asked to find efficiencies, but pre-2008, it seemed a point of honor to hold a supplier's feet to the fire. No more: in the latest Working Relations Index survey of suppliers by Detroit firm Planning Perspectives Inc., General Motors and Chrysler rocketed up the charts to bring the bunch much closer together.

Admittedly, the two companies are still in last place, with GM just ahead of Chrysler and Toyota and Honda still up top. But perspective and improvement is the issue here: in 2005, Toyota scored 415 and GM scored 114. In this year's survey, Toyota scored 296 and Chrysler scored 248. It is the first time in the 12 years of the survey that the six automakers covered have been separated by less than 50 points. Chrysler's jump was led by the efforts of the the late Dan Knott, whle GM's improvement has been led by Bob Socia.

And yes, this is also a matter of the perennial leaders, Toyota and Honda, suffering a dip: in 2010 Toyota scored 327 and Honda 309, two years later, Toyota has dropped 31 points. Every automaker, however, from top to bottom acknowledged that they still have work to do with supplier relations. The benefits of good feelings are that suppliers tend to present their newest tech to, and make better parts for, the automakers with whom they have the best relationships. Naturally, it has been found that the reverse is true as well.

Nissan and Ford make up the middle two spots, where they've been for years. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and Hyundai aren't on the list yet; PPI feels it doesn't have enough data on the Germans to yet to officially include them, and it doesn't have enough data on Hyundai to rank it at all. If the data gathered on the Germans was included, though, they would sandwich the rest of the field: BMW and Mercedes at the top, Volkswagen at the bottom a point shy of Chrysler.

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