The Myth of Japanese Efficiency

The Myth of Japanese Efficiency

The World Car Industry in a Globalizing Age

Dan Coffey

Combining case studies with accessible but rigorous production models and historical background, this provocative book challenges accepted views on Japanese production methods in the world car industry. The book argues that the ‘lean and flexible’ production model popularly associated with Toyota MC is a myth, but one which sheds light on cultural responses to the attendant stresses of globalization. To illustrate this, Dan Coffey provides individual studies of process flexibility, labour productivity and the re-organization of work in the global car industry.

Chapter 3: Production Malapropisms: The BMW–Rover Group Controversy

Dan Coffey

Subjects: business and management, critical management studies, international business, economics and finance, industrial economics, international business, international economics


Let’s All Be Beastly to the Germans – with apologies to Noel Coward 3.1 INTRODUCTION Our contention is that Toyota and other Japanese assemblers have been the beneficiaries, if this is the right word, of a possibly quite significant cultural process in which the history and substance of a major world industry has been fictionalized – a process that clearly transcends our immediate interest in the car industry, but investigation of which must naturally first be concerned with that industry. At the same time, there has been a great deal of experimentation undertaken in the West over the course of the past 20 or so years with production methods associated with Japanese car manufacture. The purpose of this chapter is to suggest that one corollary to a wider process of myth making about an industry may be a failure on the part of investigators considering the outcome of associated experiments to ask disobliging questions, or draw awkward inferences. The illustration employed for this purpose is a case example. It is not by any means proposed that we generalize from the specific details of this example; rather we consider these details in the context of the wider themes explored in this book. The distinction is an important one, because while our chosen example sheds some light on the vicissitudes of what was the British Rover Group in its relationships first with the Japanese firm Honda, and then with the German firm BMW, thereby indirectly contributing to the rumbling debate on the ‘death’ of...

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