Toyota UK deputy managing director Tony Walker left, deputy managing director of Toyota UK, was speaking at the Growing Your Manufacturing Business event staged by the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership in Milton Keynes.
He called on small and medium-sized enterprises to have at least one differentiating factor if they are to join the automotive giant’s supply chain.
The head of production at the Burnaston plant in Derbyshire said: “I do not think quality and price are differentiators – we kind of expect that automatically. What can you do that no one else can do?
"Companies in the UK and close to the manufacturer may be able to differentiate their business if they are able to supply just-in-time, or in sequence to our line. You have the advantage of location for Toyota in the UK."
Toyota purchases on a pan-European basis for its nine plants across Europe, while some common parts are even bought on a global basis.
Mr Walker said: "Most of our tier one suppliers are global businesses so it may be difficult to become a tier one supplier but there are many tier two and tier three suppliers in the UK that are much smaller businesses."
Toyota also seeks suppliers which have a long-term vision and strategy so a relationship can be formed over a five- or ten-year period, he said. SMEs should focus on products, relationships with customers, financial sustainability and the skills of employees.
Also speaking at the event, held at stadiummk, was Lawrence Davies, the newly appointed deputy chief executive of the UK’s Automotive Investment Organisation.
The nation’s manufacturers are on course to produce more than two million vehicles a year by 2017, he told delegates.
"In the next couple of years, we are going to make the same number of cars that we were making in the heydays of the 1970s.Have we got as many employees? No, we haven’t, but we’re making the same number of cars now."
Mr Davies praised the investment and progress made by Jaguar Land Rover, which is on a "fast, fast track" and indicative of the "great situation" the UK’s motor industry is in at the moment.
The event was organised by SEMLEP, in partnership with Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership and Bucks Thames Valley LEP. It attracted delegates from across the manufacturing and advanced technology sector.
SEMLEP board member WEalter Greaves, a, former director of Mercedes Benz (UK), NEP head of investment Tim Bagshaw, David Manby, managing director of Aylesbury Automation, and Jim Davison, region director of South East at EEF, also spoke at the event.
Pictured: Tony Walker, Walter Greaves and Lawrence Davies.