In the name of consumer: The social construction of innovation in the European automobile industry and its political consequences

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Paris (2012)



Automobiles, industry, inequalities, Market Regulation


The paper questions the conventional representation of innovation and product policies dynamics in the European automobile industries. It shows that the proliferation of models, their faster renewal and the increasing technological content of new cars have not been pulled by the “postfordist” demand of the new “king consumer”, but pushed by corporate strategies within a well defined conception of control. The paper focuses in particular on the political consequences of this innovation dynamic. At the market level, it shows that this trend has led to an increasing inegalitarian access to new cars reinforced by the rising cost of ownership of second hand cars. At the production level, it shows that in order to manufacture and sell profitably this wide range of new models carmakers have increased work productivity while reducing the cost of work. The paper argues that this double antifordist dynamic has locked-in the sector in a conception of control that is both economic and socially unsustainable.

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