The Automotive Industry in an Era of Eco-Austerity
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The Automotive Industry in an Era of Eco-Austerity

Creating an Industry as if the Planet Mattered

Peter E. Wells

This unique book seeks to combine economic analysis with the environmental research to arrive at a comprehensive understanding of the forces that shape change in the automotive industry. It eschews the usual focus on technologies, and gives more attention to the impact of change on the business models and strategies adopted by the vehicle manufacturers, the scope for new entrants, and the implications for policy-makers. This richly textured book concludes that the achievement of a sustainable automotive industry will not be possible with ‘one best way’, but that myriad technologies and business concepts, grounded in the distinct needs of different places and consumers, will be the basis of the future of mobility.
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Chapter 3: Contemporary Global Diversity and Cultures of Automobility

Peter E. Wells


INTRODUCTION The contemporary automotive industry actually exhibits more diversity than might at first be suspected given the comments in the preceding two chapters. Many analysts and academics tend to conceptualize the industry as being essentially global and uniform in character when in many important respects it is not – particularly in terms of the interface with the market. As a consequence, there have been several critiques of the crude ‘globalization’ concept (Rugman and Hodgets, 2001; Edensor, 2004). What these critiques have tended themselves to ignore is the rather more nebulous dimension of automobility cultures that can be quite distinct around the world, and in the future could play an important part in shaping the emergence of a more sustainable industry and sustainable mobility. This chapter therefore seeks to show that there is already a level of diversity in the industry in terms of the business structures and market structures that can be collectively described under the concept of cultures of automobility. Evidence will be provided to show that markets and cultures of automobility vary in an enduring and significant manner, and this undermines the ability of the automotive industry to achieve standardization. On the other hand, this cultural diversity could help provide the basis for multiple innovative pathways to sustainability in the future. Indeed attempts at producing a ‘world car’ have manifestly and repeatedly failed, as have attempts at producing global multi-brand conglomerates. The re-emergence of the ‘value car’ segment offers some potential for a global commodity car, but only to...

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