THE UK & JAPANESE AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRIES: ADOPTION & ADAPTATION OF FORDISM
Takahiro Fujimoto* Joe Tidd**
The purpose of the paper is to examine how Fordism was introduced to the U.K. and Japanese automobile industry in different ways. In Japan, Toyota is chosen as a typical case, and Austin and Morris (now Rover) in the UK. The discussion covers both the pre-War and early post-War periods.
The UK and Japanese auto industries have at least one thing in common: both tried to adopt Fordism directly or indirectly. In both cases, though, the auto firms could not apply Fordism directly to their production system, and thus had to adapt it to their domestic situations. In Japan, both Ford and GM built knock down assembly plants and dominated the market in the 1920s, but the transportation of full scale Fordism factories was virtually prohibited by a strong protectionist regulation by the military and the government in the mid 1930s. Toyota, Nissan and other Japanese makers of those days did not introduce the Ford production system as a package. In the U.K., Ford attempted to transplant Fordism to its Manchester Plant (1911) and then Dagenham plant (1931), but direct transfer of the American system was unsuccessful due to differences in market conditions and subsequent resistance of trade unions.1
How the Ford system was modified was very different between the two countries, though. The performance results, as measured in the 1980s, were also strikingly different. For example, assembly productivity was generally lower in the UK mass producers than the US mass producers, and even most of the producers in continental Europe. In contrast, the manufacturing performance of the Japanese auto companies was on average higher than the US during the same period. This striking difference seems to be caused partly by such environmental factors as...