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Egyptian pyramid or Aztec pyramid: How should we describe the industrial architecture of automotive supply chains in Europe?

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  • Vincent FRIGANT (GREThA, CNRS, UMR 5113)

Abstract

This article questions a terminology that is frequently used to describe automotive supply chains’ industrial architecture. Since vertical disintegration became a trend in the 1980s, this architecture has been represented using the image of the pyramid. Implicitly, authors have had the image of an Egyptian pyramid in mind, one that is pointed at the top and broad at the base. We will demonstrate that even if pyramids are an appropriate image, in the auto industry the Aztec variant, with its shortened peak and room for SMEs, is more accurate. The paper’s first section – with its more historical focus – explains the birth of the Egyptian pyramid. The section 2 puts forward the idea that the Egyptian metaphor is more misleading than informative. We start by demonstrating that overusing this metaphor will ultimately exclude a number of very strategic companies from analysis. This is followed by a presentation of the findings from a study of 750 French SMEs*, in which it is demonstrated both that some continue to maintain direct access to carmakers and also that the hierarchy of tiers comprising this supply chain features greater porosity than is commonly recognized.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Groupe de Recherche en Economie Théorique et Appliquée in its series Cahiers du GREThA with number 2011-27.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:grt:wpegrt:2011-27

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Keywords: modularity; supply chain; industrial architecture; SME; automobile.;

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References

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  1. Ulrich, Karl, 1995. "The role of product architecture in the manufacturing firm," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 419-440, May.
  2. Richard N. Langlois, 2003. "The vanishing hand: the changing dynamics of industrial capitalism," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(2), pages 351-385, April.
  3. Vincent FRIGANT (GREThA), 2011. "French mega-suppliers’ trajectories during the modular era: some evidences on Faurecia, Valeo and Plastic Omnium," Cahiers du GREThA 2011-20, Groupe de Recherche en Economie Théorique et Appliquée.
  4. Alan O'Sullivan, 2006. "Why tense, unstable, and diverse relations are inherent in co-designing with suppliers: an aerospace case study," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(2), pages 221-250, April.
  5. Vincent Frigant, 2002. "Geographical proximity and supplying relationships in modular production," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 26(4), pages 742-755, December.
  6. Josh Whitford & Aldo Enrietti, 2005. "Surviving the Fall of a King: The Regional Institutional Implications of Crisis at Fiat Auto," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 29(4), pages 771-795, December.
  7. Thomas Klier & James Rubenstein, 2008. "Who Really Made Your Car? Restructuring and Geographic change in the Auto Industry," Books from Upjohn Press, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, number wrmyc.
  8. François Fourcade & Christophe Midler, 2005. "The role of 1st tier suppliers in automobile product modularisation: the search for a coherent strategy," Post-Print hal-00262872, HAL.
  9. Asanuma, Banri, 1989. "Manufacturer-supplier relationships in Japan and the concept of relation-specific skill," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 3(1), pages 1-30, March.
  10. Vincent Frigant & Damien Talbot, 2005. "Technological Determinism and Modularity: Lessons from a Comparison between Aircraft and Auto Industries in Europe," Industry and Innovation, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(3), pages 337-355.
  11. Helper, Susan & MacDuffie, John Paul & Sabel, Charles, 2000. "Pragmatic Collaborations: Advancing Knowledge While Controlling Opportunism," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 9(3), pages 443-87, September.
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Cited by:
  1. Vincent FRIGANT (GREThA, CNRS, UMR 5113), 2011. "Three uncertainties looming over the European auto industry," Cahiers du GREThA 2011-34, Groupe de Recherche en Economie Théorique et Appliquée.
  2. Vincent FRIGANT (GREThA, CNRS, UMR 5113) & Stéphanie PERES (Bordeaux Sciences Agro, INRA, ISVV, USC 1320 GAIA) & Stéphane VIROL (GREThA, CNRS, UMR 5113), 2012. "How do SMEs to rise at the top of the supply chain? An econometric exploration of the French auto industry (In French)," Cahiers du GREThA 2012-16, Groupe de Recherche en Economie Théorique et Appliquée.
  3. Vincent FRIGANT (GREThA), 2011. "French mega-suppliers’ trajectories during the modular era: some evidences on Faurecia, Valeo and Plastic Omnium," Cahiers du GREThA 2011-20, Groupe de Recherche en Economie Théorique et Appliquée.

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