Where Did It Go Wrong? Hybridization and Crisis of Toyota Motor Manufacturing UK, 1989–2001

Publication Type:

Journal Article


International Sociology, Volume 20, p.93-118 (2005)


crise, Europe de l'Ouest, hybridation, lean production, Royaume-Uni, système de production Toyota, TMUK, toyota, travail en équipe


In 1989, the Japanese carmaker Toyota established in Burnaston (UK) their first European transplant. Expected to become one of the most efficient auto factories in Europe and to be as successful as the American transplants set up by the company during the 1980s, Toyota Motor Manufacturing UK (TMUK) has failed to fulfil these expectations, cumulating in 10 years of production losses of more than £600 million and since 1999 falling into a serious crisis, which has put into question the internal compromise between the actors of the firm. The article traces back the trajectory of TMUK from its foundation up to the present crisis. It shows how the crisis emerged progressively from the initial shortcomings of the hybridized employment relationship of the transplant, and how it deepened under the difficult economic conditions faced by the company on the European market. The article also introduces an alternative theoretical approach based on the notion of the ‘productive model’ developed by the GERPISA international research network, which aims to deconstruct the functionalist idea of a unique and superior Japanese model transferable everywhere and by everybody, and to re-establish the Japanese transplants as full historical objects and as social and political organizations.

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