4 Top Third-Party Automotive Suppliers

While most car parts are produced in-house, other manufacturers also develop and supply a myriad of components. These producers vary wildly in scope, from third parties with a singular specialization, to another car manufacturer entirely.

ZF Zeppelin
ZF is one of the largest automotive suppliers in the world.

Four Noteworthy Automotive Suppliers

Without further ado, here are four third-party automotive suppliers.

1. Denso

Denso Corporation is a Japanese manufacturer that mostly specializes in electrical parts, their name being a blend word of the Japanese words for “electricity” and “device.” Their scope is massive, being in the top five biggest automotive component manufacturers worldwide. Despite Toyota owning 25-percent of the company, they also provide electrical parts to European, American, and Japanese cars alike.

They’re most renowned for their supreme understanding of ignition and engine management systems, with Denso spark plugs being one of the best choices on the market. Seeing how we’re talking about engine management systems, they also provide a multitude of sensors, small electric motors, and controllers. Moreover, they also showcase great prowess regarding air conditioning systems, fitted both on regular cars and on heavy-duty vehicles. (1)

Reliability is a great concern for Denso, with faults being few and far between. Notwithstanding, in late 2021, a recall was made for over 100,000 Mazda cars regarding a faulty Denso fuel pump, which can fail unexpectedly, even while running. In the 100,000 cars affected, there are also several 2018 and 2019 Mazda MX-5s on the list. (2)

2. ZF Friedrichshafen A.G.

ZF Friedrichshafen A.G., ZF for short, is a German manufacturer that specializes in transmissions, differentials, and chassis development. It’s one of the oldest companies around, being founded in 1915 with the task of producing gears and cogs for Zeppelins. Not only that, but they also remained fully independent, allowing them to push transmission technology to the future, being one of the first producers to create a fully synchronized automatic transmission or the now basic six-speed manual.

They’re most famous for transmissions, especially for German manufacturers like BMW, Porsche, and Audi, but they also showcase great expertise regarding active and passive safety systems. However, German producers aren’t their only focus, with American and Japanese brands using ZF transmissions too, like the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, the 2019 Honda Odyssey, or the all-new Infiniti QX60. (3)

Most of their products are great, but as always, there are a decent number of outliers, especially with their later products. In 2016, a huge 500,000-car recall was emitted on their 9HP nine-speed automatic transmission, due to a faulty sensor that happened to shift the gearbox out of park and into neutral randomly. This was the case even when the engine was turned off, resulting in cars randomly moving around parking lots and out of driveways. (4)

3. Continental

Known for developing premium tires, Continental is also highly proficient in regular car parts, especially in braking systems and motion control technologies, with a gigantic push as of late towards eco-friendliness. It was founded in 1871 in Germany as the tire manufacturer we’re all familiar with. Nowadays, they’re supplying most car manufacturers currently on the market, from Volkswagen to Toyota and even the all-new Stellantis conglomerate, on top of their successful tire endeavor.

Their motion control technology is vast, from regular anti-lock braking systems to futuristic autonomous mobility and electric mobility, which they test on agriculture equipment. Notwithstanding, Conti is also quite visionary, winning an award in 2020 for their virtual A-pillars which eliminate the A-pillar blind spots that can easily mask a pedestrian or cyclist. Consequently, their tire wing is just a smidge of Continental’s unique vastness. (5)

However, not even they can provide fantastic products constantly. In 2021, almost 100,000 tires were recalled due to a major risk of a blowout, which could result in fatalities if it happened while the vehicle was in motion. A significant portion of those vehicles were new but fitted with Continental, General, or Barum tires from the factory. (6)

4. Magna International

Magna International is the largest independent manufacturer in North America, originating from Canada in 1957, and highly specialized in chassis development, panels, and aerodynamics. It’s one of the most recent companies around, being founded only 65 years ago by Frank Stronach, who is 89 as of this writing. Generally, its main partners are General Motors, Ford Motor Company, Stellantis, and Tesla, just to name a few.

Their proficiency regarding chassis and body panels is unmatched. Magna International usually provides complete body-in-white components and assemblies, manufactured from a wide range of materials to satisfy all the current trends and needs. Thus, if you’re driving a newer vehicle, there’s a significant chance that its structure was developed by Magna International. Moreover, they also showcase a fair bit of expertise regarding seating and mechatronics. (7)

There haven’t been many issues regarding their products. In 2008, Chrysler sued Magna due to a recall on their heated seats installed in 161,500 Dodge Grand Caravans and Chrysler Town & Country minivans. (8)

Third-Party Automotive Suppliers

This list offers just a glimpse of the wide scope of third-party automotive suppliers. If you had a problem at some point with a specific part, you could always check the producer and assess whether the brand is to be trusted or not. It’s easier on the soul to blame a third party than your beloved and trusted brand.


1. Denso. Products & Services. To a better daily life and the technology that supports it.

2. Consumer Reports. Mazda Recalls Over 120,000 Cars and SUVs That Might Stall While Driving. The affected vehicles are equipped with a faulty fuel pump from automotive supplier Denso.

3. ZF Friedrichshafen A.G. Producs & Technologies. Performance and Quality in Products and Technologies from ZF.

4. E3 Spark Plugs. Huge Transmission Recall Impacts Over 500,000 Cars.

5. Continental. Products & Innovations.

6. Consumer Reports. Continental, General, and Barum Tires Recalled for Blowout Risk. The problem is due to a manufacturing error. Here’s how to find out if your tires are included.

7. Magna International. Made by Magna.

8. Reuters. Chrysler suing Magna over costs for minivan recall.

See AlsoAt Long Last, North Carolina Snags a Major Automotive Manufacturing Plant

Image by Thorsten Schulze from Pixabay

Cristian Puscasu
Author: Cristian Puscasu
Cristian Pușcașu started loving cars and wanted to become a “racing driver” thanks to some computer game that lit the fire almost two decades ago. Since then, he came to his senses and decided that becoming an automotive engineer is more sensible, and pursued such a degree in his home country, Romania. Cristian decided to try writing about what he learned, in an attempt to correct certain misconceptions and to use his degree a bit unconventionally.

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