Between Imitation and Innovation: The Transfer and Hybridization of Productive Models in the International Automobile Industry

Between Imitation and Innovation: The Transfer and Hybridization of Productive Models in the International Automobile Industry

Between Imitation and Innovation: The Transfer and Hybridization of Productive Models in the International Automobile Industry

Between Imitation and Innovation: The Transfer and Hybridization of Productive Models in the International Automobile Industry


Recent years have seen intense debates among management and academics on the rise of `lean production' and `Japanization'. Some authors have stressed the `universal' impact of new forms of work organization and `best practice' while others have questioned the limits of convergence, stressed the weight of national contexts or `societal effects', or highlighted the evolutionary effects of unpredictability in the external environment. The international automobile industry has been a focus for much of this debate and this book, written by a team of leading international researchers in the field, uses this industry to examine in detail the actual practice of the transfer and adaptation of productive models and the trajectories of innovation, compromise, and failure that can result. Case studies cover in detail the Japanese transplant experience in North America, and the global experience of hybrid production systems in Europe, Latin America, and Asia. The book contributes to theoretical discussions about the transfer, adaptation, or convergence of productive models. In particular, the authors argue that direct transplantation or imitation of these models is rarely feasible or even desirable. Systems cannot be transferred without being significantly reshaped. Instead, the book focuses on the process of `hybridization', the complex interaction of productive models with national and societal effects. Hybridization, it is argued, is inevitable. But this should be seen not simply as a process of compromise and retreat but also as an important dynamic of innovation and learning. This book is from the French-based international research network GERPISA (Groupe d'¿tude de r¿cherche permanent sur l'industrie et les salaries de l'automobile). See related titles below.


Gerpisa (Groupe d'Etude et de Recherche Permanent sur l'Industrie et les Salariés de I'Automobile: Permanent Group for the Study of the Automobile Industry and its Employees) was formed in 1981 as a multidisciplinary group of researchers from economics, history, management, and sociology with interests in the automobile industry. the network was initially directed by Michel Freyssenet and Patrick Fridenson at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (School for Advanced Social Science Studies) in Paris.

In the early 1990s, discussions within the Group came to focus on debates about the emergence of 'new industrial models'. the influential book, The Machine that Changed the World, by Womack,Jones, and Roos (directors of the International Motor Vehicle Programme (IMVP) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) argued that a new industrial model had been born in Japan. This model, which the authors called 'lean production', was said to be universally superior and transferable to other countries. It was set to become the industrial model for the twenty-first century, just as 'mass production' had been for the twentieth century.

The leaders of gerpisa therefore decided to invite colleagues from many different countries to participate in an international programme, the Emergence of New Industrial Models, which would seek a response to questions about the nature and dynamics of industrial models. gerpisa did not seek to imitate the centrally directed and costly research structures of the imvp. Instead it launched an open network of international cooperative research, based upon common interests and the free exchange of ideas, focused on debates and discussions at a series of international meetings and seminars.

Almost two hundred researchers from twenty countries participated in the programme, to varying extents. Four working groups were formed: trajectories of automobile producers, transplantation and hybridization of industrial models, variety and flexibility of production, and teamwork and employment relations. the most active researchers in these groups became their moderators and the editors of the resulting books. Along with a representative of the French automobile producers, Jean-Claude Monnet, they formed the programme's steering group. the scientific directors of the programme, Robert Boyer and Michel Freyssenet, were responsible for the overall coordination and leadership of the scientific debate. An annual meeting was held to present the results, to clarify theory and methodology, and to discuss successive theoretical analyses. the University of Evry and the Ministry for National Education and Research provided gerpisa with support for a secretary and two research staff, making it possible to establish a secretariat. These two institutions, along with the European Union (DGXII, Human Capital and Mobility Programme), the Committee of French Automobile Producers, psa, Renault, and France Télécom provided the financial and material . . .

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