Leading article, August 2006. The World that changed the machine. An interpretative essay of carmakers history

During July, preparatory texts for a book in project with Robert Boyer since a long time were put on-line. The book will be probably entitled The world that changed the machine. An interpretative essay of the world history of the motor firms. These texts are four. It remains ten other texts, that will be put on-line in August and September.

Why to publish these texts, from which the most recent are written in 1999? First, because they have an interest in themselves. The first article treats the Ford production system and its early crisis, the second the car manufacturers wrongly "craft" qualified that Ford did not remove, the third General Motors and Chrysler that surpassed very fast Ford, the fourth the national growth modes of the post-war years that were favorable or not to the development of the car industry and to the various profit strategies of firms.

The second reason of the publication of these texts is they are the informative and analytical background of our book The productive models. The readers of this book will find in these texts the detailed historical data with which some only were summarized there.

The third reason is that the work we began, Robert Boyer and myself, was interrupted by ceaseless urgencies and protacted by our own requirements. We would like indeed to integrate the most recent researchs, to make the numeric tests of our interpretations when it is possible, to show how the notions which we presented in The productive models were gradually elaborated during the revisiting of the history of the industry and of the employees of the motorcar, and to end by proposing a new representation of this history, that was everything except the succession of three ages according to the canonical story which is usually made it. In brief, there is still a lot of work. But the stake is exciting. A date of the end being difficult to fix, it seemed so careful, in the meantime, to publish the preparatory texts.

These texts are besides longer, more illustrated with figures, more informed by statistics than the final work can not be it. But they are as well less rich in reflections and conclusions as will be the book, as we hope for it.

The title requires an explanation. It is the exact inversion of the title of the book The Machine that Changed the World written by our colleagues of the MIT in 1990. They asserted there that the new productive model about which they had theorized from the practices of the Japanese carmakers, the lean production, was going to change the world, as the fordian model would have changed the world of the last century. The preparatory texts show that the story was different. No productive model was able to appear and to assert itself without the societal conditions that authorize it.

As it was predictable, the number of visits of the site fell in July. 60 daily visits on average (1847 in month) instead of 74 in June ( 2217 ). 38 % of the visits are made from France, 36 % from the United States, 7% from the other countries of the European Union, the rest from numerous countries. The number of downloaded texts fell in the same proportions as the number of visits: 490 against 620. 11 % of the visits lasted more than 5 minutes. 7 % of the guests joined in to be able to send possibly comments.

Good holidays. The next leading article will be published the first October.