The Greening of the Global Auto Industry in a Period of Crisis

Call for papers of the 18th GERPISA International Colloquium

Wednesday 9 June 2010, 11:00 CEST - Friday 11 June 2010, 19:30 CEST

WZB - Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung Gemeinnützige Gesellschaft
Reichpietschufer 50
D-10785 Berlin-Tiergarten

Factory visit the 10th of June 2010 : AutoUni
Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft
Brieffach 12310
38436 Wolfsburg

Organisation committee
Deadline for sending the proposals: 
Fri, 02/19/2010 - 23:59
Deadline for submitting the papers: 
Fri, 04/30/2010 - 23:59

Within the framework for Gerpisa’s 5th International Research Programme, “Sustainable Development and the Automobile Industry”, the 18th International meeting calls on researchers to examine the different dimensions of the sustainability of the automobile’s development. While the principles of sustainable development tend to highlight automobile firms’ social and environmental responsabilities, the current crisis has focused attention on the economic sustainability of many of the firms within the industry. With governments at both regional and national level called upon to invest heavily to preserve the automobile sector, a political dimension of sustainability has also emerged. A new series of compromises is emerging as these four dimensions of sustainability interact, termed The Second Automobie Revolution.
The 2010 International Meeting calls for contributions on the development of knowledge and analysis of the questions that are currently being asked across the global economy, at every stage of the value chain, across all corporate fonctions and at all levels of public intervention.  It is no longer only the traditional participants within the automobile system that are involved as new actors emerge whose future role within the industry is generating much speculation and interest from both investors and researchers.
Seven categories are proposed within this general framework of analysis to organise the sessions of analysis and discussion coherently and to facilitate plans for future publications.


Macroeconomic configurations and national policies in the crisis

Theme N°: 

The crisis underwent by the economies since the 2008 fall is first and foremost the crisis of an economic regime. Each national and regional automobile industry was structured to different degree by this regime. Therefore, the economic questions raised today at the macroeconomic level deserve to be taken into account in order to grasp how the automobile industries behave within the crisis and how they might be able to recover. More precisely, the research of a way out of the crisis has led policy makers to seek meausures to support their automobile industries. Such measures have been implemented in multiple forms and, in some cases, involving massive state investment throughout Europe, in the U.S., Brazil, South Korea and Japan. The question is whether these measures are leading to sustainable configurations both for the industries and the national economies concerned. The economic, environmental, social and political issues that were already raised before the crisis by the greening of the automobile will also have to be recast within these new scenarios. By presenting the diversity of the steps taken, the coherence with which they were developed and implemented and the continuity or disparity within the on-going framework of industry-state relationships, we hope to initiate a series of comparative studies. The measures adopted have often generated heated debate among different stakeholders, highlighting the challenges of “political sustainability” that face regulators as they seek to conciliate environmental perfomance on the one hand and national economic performance on the other. Detailed studies will generate much-needed insight into the variety of alternatives that have emerged.


Car makers strategies in the crisis

Theme N°: 

Since its foundation, GERPISA has persistently analysed, compared and conceptualised the trajectories and strategies of car makers and The Second Automobile Revolution published in 2009 bears witness to the dynamism of this research stream within the network. The impact of the current crisis on the world’s car makers has varied depending on their strategies, the breakdown of their markets and their specific production-related problems. Since 2008, their reactions to the crisis have, as a result, varied.
This session delves into this comparison in order to understand the range of solutions that have emerged as each firm seeks to achieve a new balance between the economic survival and improved economic performance. The comparison will question the stability of the current hierarchy of firms in the global economy.

New players and alliances in the greening context

Theme N°: 

New categories of actors are entering the automobile arena as part of the search for alternative technologies and as the automobile’s place in the overall system of mobility is being revisited. Understanding the importance and the consequences of these on-going changes requires an analysis of the strategies of these new actors and the alliances and conflicts these strategies create in their relationships with traditional automobile firms. In this respect, the case of the electric vehicle springs naturally to mind as it creates market opportunities for battery manufacturers, energy providors, mobility specialists and infrastructure management companies. Other categories of new actors may be involved in other new business areas.

Changing mobility patterns, municipal policies, new user types and product and service policies

Theme N°: 

Improving the environmental performance of the automobile is not simply a technological issue. What is at stake is the role of the automobile in the broader system of mobility that is situated in a broader context of public policy on urbanism and regional planning. Car manufacturers are obliged to rethink what it is they bring to the marketplace in this new landscape. Multiples experiments are thus underway giving rise to a vast literature on the reconception of the mobility chain and the respositioning of the automobile. This structural reconfiguration of the autombile’s role will impact on the technologies adopted and the  business models promoted by the industry and is thus a key question for researchers of the automobile industry. Research on the wave of new experiments concerning new forms of mobility will be particularly welcome.

First tier suppliers approaches to the crisis

Theme N°: 

The challenges facing first tier suppliers in the current crisis are even greater than those facing automobile manufacturers. These suppliers have been the most important vector of technological progress in the industry over the past years and have already had to restructure massively in order to maintain their R&D activities in the light of the financial pressures imposed downstream. The recession has further undermined their financial situation at a time when they are called upon to finance research to respond to the need for significant technological change. Their ability to survive the crisis and restructure their value chains successfully around the major car manufacturers or within national or regional innovation systems will vary and analysis of different trajectories of suppliers will thus enrich our understanding of the impact of the crisis on the automobile sector.
In addition to R&D and innovation, suppliers are also facing key choice in relation to their human resources strategies in relation to the distribution of competencies and the diversity of working conditions offered to employees. These questions are central to the research topic of social, environmental and political sustainability in the automobile industry during and after the crisis.

Industrial relations and transnational trade unions coordination

Theme N°: 

The potential Second Automotive Revolution involves major technological disruption and a repositioning of the products and activities linked to the automobile. This will impact significantly on traditional training and employment practices and firms will be faced with the need to identify their core competencies and manage the transition of large numbers of employees. GERPISA’s previous research has successfully highlighted the large diversity of practices adopted by firms in this respect, termed “national models”. These existing differences will be both altered and renewed in the current context technological rupture and these changes are  worthy of study from both an operational and a scientific perspective.
Industrial relations settings at company and national levels and transnational union strategies at international level will also have to deal with these changes. Under the present context of crisis the shift toward a more sustainable development will probably imply more trade-offs than synergies, and the place and the future of the employment in the industry appear to be very much at stake. How this will affect the evolution of company compromises of governement and of national social compromises will be also of particular interest here.

Proposals could encompass the organisational restructuring of the activities of design, manufacturing and the commercialisation of automobiles in the past and in the future at the level of the firm, of labor pools and of individual countries. Papers focusing on the role and input of union actors at local, regional and national levels will be also particularly welcome.

Local policies/cluster approaches

Theme N°: 

Given that automobile production is frequently concentrated in specific geographic areas, who are thus heavily dependent on the activity, regional policy makers have been very reactive in proposing iniatives in response to the current crisis. The objectives of the different measures adopted have varied between those that seek to improve the competitive position of different sites in light of falling volumes and those that seek to insert the automobile industry into a broader movement towards “green growth”. The measures have also varied in terms of the operational means adopted as local policy makers do not all have access to the same ressources and competencies. In addition to concerns about production and associated regional pressures, local authorities are also now entering the decision-making arena as they tend to be responsible for the road and transport networks that will be key to future choices in relation to overall mobility. Understanding regional policies and initiatives is thus central to analysing the reactions to the current crisis and the potential new forms of competition that will emerge in the future.

  GIS Gerpisa /
  4 Avenue des Sciences, 91190 Gif-sur-Yvette

Copyright© Gerpisa
Concéption Tommaso Pardi
Administration Juan Sebastian Carbonell, Lorenza MonacoGéry Deffontaines

Powered by Drupal, an open source content management system