How Long Can Auto Parts Suppliers Survive?

At a plant in Plymouth, Mich., that makes everything from bolts to cup-holders for the Big Three, multi-million dollar machines sit idle, barely a worker in sight, CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers reports.

"This facility used to run 24/7," said Wes Smith, president of E&E Manufacturing. "Now we are shut down."

For four generations Wes Smith's family has been one of the biggest employers in this Detroit suburb. He once had 550 employees, now there are 305 and dropping.

"I've got dozens of people with over 20 years seniority here at this facility," he said. "I know these people, I know their families; we have picnics and parties. It is very difficult."

He says most Americans may not realize it is non-union shops like his that make most of what actually goes into a car. About 70 percent of the 15,000 or so nuts and bolts and seats and electronics are made by not by the Big Three, but by outside suppliers.

They're wondering how long they can hold on.

"Every day people on the floor ask me, 'How long am I gonna be here?'" said shop supervisor Danny Bobowski, who's been there 28 years. "Are we working next week?"

People here worry that Americans may not be seeing the big picture-that as go the Big Three, so go 3,000 times that number of auto supply companies, who support nearly 700,000 jobs and prop up countless others businesses across the country.

"The most noticeable impact has been the speed of decay," said Peter Dodd, whose company tests cars and car parts.

He's caught in the middle between automakers who can't pay their bills and suppliers who have fewer orders to fill. Six hundred customers are all anxious about the future.

"The ship is sinking; now is not the time to figure out why it's sinking," said Dodd, who does defiance testing and engineering services for General Motors. "Now is the time to launch the lifeboats."

Because there's a lot more riding on the fate of the car industry than just the carmakers.
  • Cynthia Bowers

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Follow Us

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

On Twitter