Purpose The purpose of this paper is to understand the impact of the recent recession on both the automotive manufacturer as well as their suppliers. The research aims to identify if the impact has been the same at each of the organizations, or if there has been a difference. Design/methodology/approach This paper carries out a case study research, into the need for suppliers to increase their responsiveness following recession and the impact this has had on supplier relations. Face-to-face semi-structured interviews were carried out at the vehicle manufacturer with two members of production control staff from VMUK plus seven production control staff at seven tier 1 suppliers to VMUK. Findings Supply chains have been enhanced through an increased level of responsiveness, following the economic downturn and supplier relations have had a positive impact post-recession. Research limitations/implications Literature argues that competitive advantage can be achieved through responsiveness, and that responsiveness is critical during a period of volatility and market uncertainty. Furthermore, literature also argues that competitive advantage can be achieved through positive supplier relations. This study investigates both of these arguments. Originality/value This study concludes that the positive supplier relations offer a competitive advantage when there is no cost advantage to be found elsewhere. Furthermore, this study concludes that as a direct impact of the recession, supplier relations have improved within the case studies investigated.