Economics professor embarks on auto industry study.

The recent recession and global competition has taken a toll on the U.S. auto industry. Researchers at the Case Western Reserve University Weatherhead School of Management have begun a study of the nation’s auto supply chain to gain insight into how to strengthen the industry in the face of such challenges.

The study will provide the first in-depth look at all levels of the supply chain in the United States since the recent economic crisis, says economist and auto industry expert Susan Helper, lead researcher. “We are surveying the full spectrum of companies of every size all across the country-suppliers of everything from fasteners to complete seat assemblies,” she says. “We hope to understand the challenges confronting this vital industry after its near collapse.”

The study will survey thousands of suppliers, and participants will receive free access to the findings. Helper and her team hope the results will help guide both government policymakers and decision-makers at automakers like Ford and Honda.

“From our discussions with suppliers, we know that people in surviving firms are really busy, so we designed the survey to be really easy to answer,” says Brain Peshek, project manager/technical consultant. “Investing only 15 minutes to confidentially answer a few questions will certainly yield returns to individual firms and to the industry as a whole.”

The study is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor and is endorsed by a variety of trade associations.