The French Automotive Industrial Policy: Competitiveness as a Means or as a Goal?

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Paris (2013)


The restructuring processes in France since the mid-2012 take the shape of a downsizing of the production volumes at the firm-level, and a “premiumisation of the product policy”. At the same time, at Government and Industry-levels, it appears that the challenges are balanced between economic incentives to create a value-added industry and industrial challenges to keep the working population – at least to decelerate its diminution –, and to structure the industry. The problem appears extremely complex due to these various challenges.

Nevertheless, one main issue appears to be the consolidation of the automotive industry. Such issue can be traced back to the very launch of a strong national industrial policy that was observed in Japan during, at least, the aftermath of the Second World War. According to Calmers Johnson (1982), the strong industrial policy of the Japanese MITI may greatly explain the Japanese economic miracle, and can be associated to a so-called “developmental or plan-rational economy”, in comparison with the “market-rational economies”. Based on Johnson’s assumptions, in this paper, my aim is to characterize the present French industrial policy, in trying to compare some of its main elements to the “ideal-typical” Japanese industrial policy. I will especially focus on some policies relevant to the industrial structure policy, trying to characterize it in France. In that perspective, it will be helpful to picture the present institutional matrix (North, 1990, 1994), which means the codetermination process of actors involved in the policies building (institutions), and the impacts of these institutions on the actors’ orientations.

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