The nature of buyer-supplier relationships has been closely linked to nation specific explanations and concern has been expressed in literature regarding the transferability of co-design best practices to different firms and countries. On the other hand, many attempts to isolate best practices and apply them on a global scale have been proposed in literature. This paper contributes to the issue by analysing a controversial case study based on the Italian automotive industry. Results show that few aspects of the Japanese contextual features (considered by many scholars as “necessary” for co-design practices) and American ones (functional to a tight control on the supply chain) existed when the major Italian car maker decided to outsource component design and dramatically change its supply chain management approach. Moreover, despite the massive involvement of suppliers at a very early stage of the car maker new product development process (NPD), not all the best practices deemed to be necessary when implementing a co-operative buyer-supplier relationship have been applied. The paper argues that these results lead to question the very nature of effective buyer-supplier relationships as described by dominant literature and suggests implications for practitioners and future research.
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