Global, local or hybrid? Evidence of adaptation among Japanese automobile plants in Japan, the United States and Canada

Tod Rutherford, Paul Parker, Tesshu Koshiba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

Research on the global automobile industry has both influenced, and been influenced by, the debate on the impact of globalization on the nation state and national institutions. Rather than assume that globalization operates in a uniform socio-economic environment, this paper examines how Japanese automobile manufacturers have departed from their home environment in Japan and adapted to North America in general, and the national socio-economic environments of Canada and the United States in particular. Instead of simply imposing structures from one country on another, we find that a two-way exchange of information, ideas and technology is established. Interviews were held with senior managers in automotive parts and vehicle assembly plants in Japan, the United States, Canada and Mexico. Investment patterns are uneven across the three countries. The production and supply systems used by Japanese automobile transplants in North America share many attributes with those in Japan (greater integration with suppliers through long-term contracts and supplier responsibility for innovation and cost reduction, JIT deliveries), however, important differences also emerged. The human resource and industrial relations systems used by transplants also showed significant national differences. Honda illustrates many of these adaptations as part of its 'glocalization' or strategic localization approach. Overall, the creative corporate weaving of home and local approaches leads us to the conclusion that Japanese automobile transplants in North America operate as hybrids which seek to combine the best features of both worlds to retain their competitive position in the automobile markets of the 21st century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-34
Number of pages20
JournalEnvironments
Volume29
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1 2001

Keywords

  • Automotive transplants
  • Human resource
  • Hybrid systems
  • Japanese
  • Production

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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