Convergences and divergences in the historical experience of the automotive industry in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico

Type de publication:

Conference Paper


26th Gerpisa International Colloquium - Theme 5 Public policies - national and regional clusters: between path dependency/inertia and structural change (Sigfrido Ramirez, Bruno Jetin), São Paulo (2018)


Automotive industry - Argentina and Brazil and Mexico, Automotive industry - NAFTA and MERCOSUR, Industrialization - Latin America, State and private corporations


This research aims to systematize the main economic and political traits of the historical process of the automotive industry implantation in Latin America, based on the experiences of the three countries that received the largest investments in this industry and which constitute so far, the largest consumer markets in the region: Argentina, Brazil and Mexico. The main goal is to expose convergence and divergence points among these three experiences, taking as a framework the fact that they are peripheral economies and in which the majority of investments in this segment of industrial production came from foregin capital, in most cases supported by public policies undertaken by local states. As specific objectives, the research provides information about the installationcharacteristics of the first plants in those countries (early 20th century), still dedicated to completly knowcked down (CKD) assembly of vehicles, followed by investments in the nationalization of production (in mid-twentieth century), and finally contributing within the recent context (since late 20th century) of globalization, productive restructuring and formation of regional economic blocs (namely NAFTA and Mercosur). Certain methods of work organization, correlative to certain production technologies, will be shown at each moment in these three experiments, how they prevailed, as well as specific forms of the State action were present, which mostly sought through the encouragement of the automotive industry, to stimulate the industrialization process as a whole in those countries. The results show that there were three distinct moments in the trajectory of the automotive industry in those three countries, corresponding, in turn, to two different dynamics. At first, when the first production units were set up in those countries, and in a second moment, in which the processes of nationalization (internalization) of automotive production had advanced, there is a convergence in the experiences between the three countries. In a third moment, in which these countries are subject to an opening borders process (to foreign goods and investments) and subsequent formation of regional blocs, it is evident that, although there are convergence points (such as the restructuring of production and work processes in the plants), aspects emerge that suggest different trajectories in each of those nations, especially in relation to market objectives (internal or external), to production sites (traditional or new territories) and to the degree of technological development in the installation of new factories In terms of practical implications, we consider that the design of such a scenario is useful in that it allows not only researchers in the automotive industry, but also public policy makers, business managers and union leaders to have a broader and more complex understanding of the advances that transnational automotive companies have been making in Latin America for a century, the strategies adopted by those corporations, their objectives and the political and institutional environment they have for their worldwide expansion (especially with regard to the aid programs funded by the state; the outlook for the domestic and regional markets; the availability of a diversified industrial fabric; the emergence of new productive territories; the relations that have been established with the trade unions; among other things). Finally, regarding to the methodology, the authors reviewed a series of studies pertinent to the subject, from academic articles and books (including own authorship), to recent matters in the specialized press.

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