The Strategic Behavior of Japanese Carmakers and its Impact on Employment

Type de publication:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Kyoto (2014)


In the context of the world financial crisis triggered by the subprime mortgage crisis in 2007, Japanese carmakers suffered from special quadruple accidents: a dramatized Toyota bashing in the USA because of the bankruptcy of GM and Chrysler in 2009; the earthquake in Tohoku as well as the Thailand floods in 2011, both of which disrupted the supply chain of Japanese carmakers; the Chinese anti-Japanese insurrections, caused by the Senkaku Island dispute, which made difficult their operations in China. In fact, the Japanese vehicle exports dramatically reduced from 6,727 thousand units in 2008 to 3,616 thousand units in 2009. But the overseas production of the Japanese carmakers as a whole relatively well resisted the long-term world recession because it reduced from 11,859 thousand units in 2007 to 10,117 thousand units in 2009. However, the Japanese carmakers seem to have got back on their long-run development track in 2012. And our discussion treats their long-run development track, which shows their firm specific strategic behavior affecting their employment policy. In fact, the landscape of Japanese automobile industry has deeply changed since 1993: the rise of Suzuki and the loss of Mitsubishi are remarkable. The main factors affecting the strategic behavior of carmakers are the long-run stagnation of the Japanese economy, the globalized fierce market competition, and the environmental issues. Under the same constraints, the Japanese carmakers however have deployed their differentiated ‘profit strategy’ (Boyer, Freyssenet 2002), based on their own competitive edge and weakness. And their strategic behavior has affected their employment policy: some of them (Nissan, Mitsubishi, Honda) have considerably reduced their employees; the others (Toyota, Suzuki, Mazda) have tried to keep and increase their employees. Even in the same group, the reason for reducing or increasing their employees differs from each other, due to their differentiated profit strategy. So, by determining their profit strategy empirically confirmed during two decades since 1993, we characterize the Japanese carmakers profit strategy and its impact on their domestic as well as global employment. (Reference: Boyer, Freyssent (2002), The Productive Models, Palgrave Macmillan.)
Key Words: Japanese carmakers, Profit strategy, Long-run development truck, Employment

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