Magazine article Management Today

Back to the Future for Cars

Magazine article Management Today

Back to the Future for Cars

Article excerpt

BACKTO THE FUTURE FOR CARS The worldwide car industry stands at a fascinating juncture. Because of the scale of the industry, and more crucially the ubiquity and world-transforming nature of its product, the automotive sector has always been a crucible for trends that only become visible much later in other fields. The production line was invented and developed in the car industry; Ford and General Motors were the first modern multinationals; the potential (and problems) of large-scale automation can be best seen in car factories. Now, the consequences of an industry's globalisation are becoming clear.

Each of the world's major economic centres has potent, indigenous car manufacturers. But only in Europe do the local contenders do battle with rivals from both other members of the economic triad. In Japan, as many lament, European and American car makers have only a tiny presence. In the US, the Japanese have made major inroads, while the Europeans have steadily dwindled in recent years. But in Europe, everything is still to play for. As detailed in 'Carmageddon' (p44), the impending shake-up in Europe's car industry will produce at least one major casualty as a very fragmented market undergoes inevitable rationalisation.

But there is another story of change in the car industry, which could be as far-reaching in its implications. Since Henry Ford developed the techniques of mass production, the industrial world has been dominated by his vision. …

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