This paper explores the concept of partnerships between buyers and suppliers in the global automotive sector during product design and development. Partnerships are often the goal in a shift away from adversarial arms-length relationships. The objective of this research is to provide empirical evidence to explain the levels of mutual investment expected and achieved in partnerships from both buyer and supplier perspectives. During this research, 25 employees from 12 global supplier organisations who were in partnership with a specific vehicle manufacturer (VM) were interviewed. Twelve employees from this VM were also interviewed. The research showed the differences between partnerships and non-partnerships and the disparities in the expectations of investment from each partner. For suppliers and buyers to get the most out of partnerships, clear expectations and investments needed over time should be understood and agreed early in the relationship. © 2009 Elsevier B.V.All rights reserved.