Background The automotive supply chain (ASC) is mainly composed of Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) who are the most crucial drivers of South African economic activities. However, the sector faces many challenges that threaten its survival. Besides the added impact of COVID-19, the industry is experiencing financial and operational pressures, which are exacerbated by the proliferation of cheap imported components that have flooded the local market. These factors affect not only the component manufacturers but also the complete automotive supply chain. Hence, in order to survive, management has realigned its operational strategies to the open innovation archetype to stimulate sustainable competitive advantage. Objectives This study investigates how an open innovation strategic alignment influences sustainable competitive advantage decision-making amongst the various levels of management of selected automotive supply chain in South Africa. Method This article adopted an exploratory, qualitative approach. Fourteen semi-structured interviews were conducted amongst Chief Executiver Officers (CEOs), senior managers and Research and Development (R&D) managers of four selected firms who understood their organisation's research and development initiatives. Thematic analysis was used to process the data Results This study identified that the process of strategic alignment is central to the implementation of open innovation strategies, which hinges on the operational levels of the employees in an organisation. Conclusion This study provides a further academic understanding of the open innovation strategic alignment imperatives and assists management to understand how they can ensure that strategic alignment between and amongst themselves, as managers should cascade to all levels in their firms to enhance sustainable competitive advantage.