Dynamics of New Industrial Knowledge Flows
Edited by Philip Cooke, Carla De Laurentis, Stewart MacNeill and Chris Collinge
Chapter 8: Knowledge Processes and Networks in the Automotive Sector
Ulrich Jürgens, Antje Blöcker and Stewart MacNeill 8.1 INTRODUCTION The automotive industry holds a special place in the hearts and minds of the public and is viewed as a ‘flagship’ by policy-makers, politicians and academics alike. It is highly competitive and more structured than any other industry and has thus been the focus of considerable study in economics, management, environment and other fields. Since the early part of the twentieth century the industry has set the paradigms for work organization and business models, such as ‘Fordism’, ‘Taylorism’, ‘Toyotaism’ and ‘lean manufacturing’ and has been a base for wider economic thinking. Its history dates back more than 100 years to when Karl Benz produced his first car at Mannheim, in Germany, in 1885. Large numbers of manufacturers sprang up in the 20 or so years that followed, producing vehicles based on ‘short runs’ of individual models largely carrying out assembly of ‘craft-based’ components which were often subcontracted to different workshops. Some of these became car makers in their own right or developed as suppliers. Most early companies were absorbed through mergers and acquisitions but some remained to the present, including Daimler (1890 – later Mercedes-Benz), Fiat (1899), Austin (1905) and Ford (1903). In the course of this history the industry has experienced radical changes discussed in terms of three ‘industrial revolutions’ (Womack et al., 1990), the first two being the introduction of assembly line production by Henry Ford and lean production by Toyota. Since 1970, the industry has experienced further...