The multiple levels of trust when selecting suppliers – Insights from an automobile manufacturer
Journal article, 2020

In this study, we aim to develop a framework for the concept of trust prior to forming relationships when selecting suppliers. Entering a relationship with a supplier for an extended period requires a certain level of trust in different facets (such as interpersonal relationships, continuous supply, and compatibilities). In situations in which suppliers need to enter into relationships characterized by high uncertainties, such as sourcing for high technology, trust becomes even more important. The question raised is how this ex-ante trust is defined and used during the supplier selection, when the buyer decides to enter into a relationship with a potential supplier. The phenomenon is studied in the automobile industry, which is experiencing a higher level of dependency on suppliers for sensitive, and at times strategic, components. A single case of a major auto manufacturer is studied using 36 interviews. Our findings show that when selecting the supplier with which to enter a relationship, trust manifests itself on multiple levels: interpersonal, organizational, interorganizational, and network. Contrary to some previous suggestions in the literature, we found interrelationships across these levels.

network trust

supplier selection

automobile industry

interorganizational trust


Ala Pazirandeh Arvidsson

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Supply and Operations Management

Lisa Melander

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Supply and Operations Management

Industrial Marketing Management

0019-8501 (ISSN)

Vol. 87 138-149

Subject Categories

Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics


Business Administration

Areas of Advance


Driving Forces

Innovation and entrepreneurship



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