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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: July 2010

10 - Conclusion – the global automotive industry's perspective on the twenty-first century and tasks for the Japanese automotive industry


In the past quarter century, dynamic and dramatic changes, unimaginable twenty-five years ago, have occurred in the world's automotive industry. This industry started in Europe as car assembly by craftsmen, and then developed dramatically in the US, where a manufacturing system based on mass production was established. The automotive industry in Europe and the US developed along mass-production lines, but in Japan it lagged behind for more than forty years, and nobody would have predicted that Japan would become a world leader. There was a time when the automotive industry was expected to be mature once it entered a certain growth stage, and a kinked growth curve was also much discussed. Almost all of these predictions were completely wrong, and the automotive industry has shown a more dynamic development. Japan's automotive industry took the lead, adding vitality to the whole industry, and contributing a dynamic industrial model.

If the world's automotive industry had not departed from Fordism's mass-production system, and, as W. J. Abernathy pointed out, had stayed an industry, which settled for economy of scale, moving from a learning curve to a mature curve, then it would certainly have become a mature industry, and technology for production, development, and parts might have stagnated. Maturation would not be simply because automobile demand was saturating, but because the industry had lost its dynamism. Certainly, the Japanese and other automobile markets in advanced countries have experienced several periods of growth stagnation caused by saturation.

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