Automakers in the Second Century of the Automobile: The Roads Ahead

References of the different versions

✔ Boyer R. Freyssenet M., “L’avenir est à nouveau ouvert. Stratégies de profit, formes d’internationalisation et nouveaux espaces de l’industrie automobile”, in Freyssenet, M., Lung, Y., (dir.), Actes de la Sixième Rencontre Internationale du GERPISA, “Les nouveaux espaces de l’industrie automobile mondiale”, 4-6 juin, 1998, Paris, Palais du Luxembourg, pp 609-632. Digital publication,, 2006, Ko.

✔ Boyer R. Freyssenet M., "The Future Once Again is Open. Profit Strategies, Internationalisation Forms and New Spaces of Automobile Industry”, in Freyssenet, M., Lung, Y., (dir.), Proceedings of Sixth International Colloquium of GERPISA, “The New Spaces in the World Automobile Industry”, 4-6 june, 1998, Paris, Palais du Luxembourg, pp 609-632. Translation in english. Digital publication,, 2006, 200 Ko.

✔ Boyer R., Freyssenet M., “L’avenir est à nouveau ouvert. Stratégies de profit, formes d’internationalisation et nouveaux espaces de l’industrie automobile”, Gérer et Comprendre, Annales des Mines, 1999, juin, pp. 21-30. Second publication in french of the previous text. Digital publications,;, 2006, 407 Ko.

✔ Boyer R., Freyssenet M., “Automakers in the Second Century of the Automobile: The Roads Ahead”. Paris, in Actes du Congrès Mondial Automobile de la FISITA, Paris, 1998, Cederom. Second publication in english, with a new title. Digital publication,, 2006, 200 Ko.

✔ Boyer R., Freyssenet M., Different Paths for Automakers at the Turn of Century, IMVP Sponsors Meeting, Cambridge (USA), 1999 October 5-7. Third publication in english, with a new title Digital publications,, 1999;, 2006, 200 Ko.

✔ Boyer R., Freyssenet M., “Rewriting the Future. Profit Strategies, Forms of Internationalisation and New Spaces in the Automobile Industry”, in Eckardt, A., Köhler, H-D., Pries, L. (Hg.), Global Players in Lokalen Bindungen. Unternehmensglobalisierung in soziologischer Perspektive, Édition Sigma, Berlin, 1999, pp 81-97. Fourth publication in english, of a longer version of the previous text with a modified title and a best translation, by a German publisher . Digital publication,, 2006, 200 Ko.

✔ Boyer R., Freyssenet M., « Riscrivere il futuro. Strategie di profitto, forme di internazionalizzazione e nuovi spazi nell’industria automobobilistica », in Lodigiani, R., Martinelli, M., Dentro e oltre i post-fordismi. Impresa e lavoro in mutamento tra analysi teorica e ricerca empirica, Vita e Pensiero, Milan, 2002, pp155-175. Digital publication,, 2006, 250 Ko. Translation in italian by an Italian publisher, from the english version published by the previous German publisher.

The different versions are downloadable. Please, go to the end of this page.


Are lean production and globalization the necessary conditions for future success, as affirm numerous commentators and experts, or is it possible to discern several paths possible? To answer this question, it would be fitting to look back upon the history of automobile firms since the beginning of the 1970s. Contrary to what the authors of the book The Machine that Changed the World stated, lean production was not the only successful industrial model. Actually, it corresponded to no existing model, since it has resulted in an amalgamation of two industrial models, which, even though they can be seen in Japan, are completely different both conceptually and practically.

Not any more than there was a single model in the past (handicrafts production at the beginning of the century followed by mass production), neither has there been one best way in the recent period. It was thus for two reasons: not only did automakers have to find original solutions because of market and labor instability different from which they had to face in their own areas, but even more so they pursued, when they found themselves in the same areas different strategies and industrial means to avoid competing directly with one another. The plurality of industrial models is not only a reality due to the diversity of economic and social contexts, but it also is an economic and social necessity when firms change in the same framework. These general conclusions result from an international research program called “Emergence of New Industrial Models in the Automobile Industry,” carried out from 1993 to 1996 by an international network of social science researchers—GERPISA—that we led and coordinated.

The three industrial models that were identified thanks to this program for the 1974-1992 period (Boyer, Freyssenet forthcoming) aren’t the models that the firms must adopt necessarly in the future. These three models met effectively in the first half of the 1990s with major difficulties which led the firms that embodied them to make them evolve, or even change them. Does this therefore mean that there are no more marks for the future? On the contrary, the analysis of firms’ history and geography allows for understanding of the external and internal conditions of profit strategy possibilities which the different industrial models implement (Freyssenet, Mair, Shimizu, Volpato 1998; Boyer, Charron, Jurgens, tolliday 1998; Lung, Chanaron, Fujimoto, Raff, forthcoming; Durand, Castillo, Stewart, 1998). At that point, it is possible to judge the future importance of these profit strategies, taking into account the current trends for reshaping worldwide economic and political areas, and the transformations of income growth and redistribution modes in the different spaces.

In actual fact several scenarios confront each other today. It is possible to see a generalized freeing of trade and homogenization of employment conditions, the formation of regional poles having their own income growth and redistribution mode, or even the affirmation of new countries as vast and populous as regional poles which are trying to form. The auto markets and types of workforces which result from these three scenarios are very different (Freyssenet, Lung, 1996). The most likely to prevail is actually a combination of the three, at least in the next decade. There is only uncertainty about their respective proportions.

The present article develops the preceding ideas in three sections. The first characterizes the three industrial models of the 1970s and 1980s and the reasons for their performance. The second exposes the turning point which is the 1990s. The third evaluates the possible paths in the framework of reshaping under way in the world space.


1.There never was a ‘one best way’. Three successful industrial models existed during the 1970s and 1980s.
2. The turning point of the 90s. Reshaping world space and changing new income growth and redistribution modes
3. What will the important profit strategies be during the next decade? What will the available means and company governance compromises possible be to implement them?

Key words

Automobile, car makers, growth mode, profit strategy, productive models, business history, theory of firm, profit strategy, labour, market, industrial relations, mergers, acquisitions, alliances, globalization, regionalization, internationalization, Fordism, fordian model, Taylorism, taylorian model, sloanian model, Toyotism, Japan, lean production, financialisation

Concerned disciplines

Economics, Management, Geography, History, Sociology.

Writing context

to personal questioning
to scientific reflexion of research laboratory or network
to national and international scientific debate
to diffusion of scientific results
to implementation of scientific results

References, commentaries, critics

Curent relevance

See also

Dates of the lining


Last presentation updating

Fichier attachéTaille
Automakers in the Second Century of the Automobile- The Roads Ahead.pdf222.7 Ko
6th IC. The Future once again is open. Profit Strategies, Internationalization Forms and New Spaces of Automobile Industry.pdf202.02 Ko
Different paths for carmakers at the turn of century..pdf203.29 Ko
Rewriting the future. Profit strategies, Forms of Internationalisation and New Spaces of the Automobile Industry.pdf233.64 Ko