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Complementarities in Automobile Production

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  • Johannes Van Biesebroeck

Abstract

The number of different car and light truck models produced in North America has increased enormously over the last decades. The data suggests that producing this increased variety of vehicles is associated with a productivity penalty. We show that manufacturers can adopt complementary activities to reduce this penalty. Flexible technology, defined as the ability to assemble models derived from different %u201Cplatforms%u201D on the same assembly line, and bringing previously outsourced activities in-house are two such activities that we identify. Both are costly themselves, in terms of lower productivity, but they reduce the cost of producing greater variety. The results are robust to controlling for the endogeneity of the adoption decisions using activity-specific instruments, as proposed by Athey and Stern (2003).

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12131.

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Date of creation: Apr 2006
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Publication status: published as Johannes Van Biesebroeck, 2007. "Complementarities in automobile production," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 22(7), pages 1315-1345.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12131

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  1. Miravete, Eugenio J. & Pernias, Jose C., 1998. "Innovation Complementarity and Scale of Production," Working Papers 98-42, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  2. Johannes van Biesebroeck, 2003. "Productivity Dynamics with Technology Choice: An Application to Automobile Assembly," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 70(1), pages 167-198.
  3. Dmitriy Stolyarov & Boyan Jovanovic, 2000. "Optimal Adoption of Complementary Technologies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 15-29, March.
  4. Susan Athey & Scott Stern, 1998. "An Empirical Framework for Testing Theories About Complimentarity in Organizational Design," NBER Working Papers 6600, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Ichniowski, Casey & Shaw, Kathryn & Prennushi, Giovanna, 1997. "The Effects of Human Resource Management Practices on Productivity: A Study of Steel Finishing Lines," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 291-313, June.
  6. Johannes Van Biesebroeck, 2000. "Measuring Productivity Dynamics with Endogenous Choice of Technology and Capacity Utilization: An Application to Automobile Assembly," Working Papers 00-16, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  7. Berry, Steven & Levinsohn, James & Pakes, Ariel, 1995. "Automobile Prices in Market Equilibrium," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(4), pages 841-90, July.
  8. Susan Helper, 1997. "Complementarity and Cost Reduction: Evidence from the Auto Supply Industry," NBER Working Papers 6033, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. George Norman, 2000. "The Relative Advantages of Flexible versus Designated Manufacturing Technologies," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0019, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  10. Arora, Ashish & Gambardella, Alfonso, 1990. "Complementarity and External Linkages: The Strategies of the Large Firms in Biotechnology," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(4), pages 361-79, June.
  11. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1990. "The Economics of Modern Manufacturing: Technology, Strategy, and Organization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(3), pages 511-28, June.
  12. Arora, Ashish, 1996. "Testing for complementarities in reduced-form regressions: A note," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 51-55, January.
  13. Gal-Or, Esther, 2002. "Flexible manufacturing systems and the internal structure of the firm," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 20(8), pages 1061-1096, October.
  14. Amil Petrin, 2002. "Quantifying the Benefits of New Products: The Case of the Minivan," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(4), pages 705-729, August.
  15. Boyan Jovanovic & Dmitriy Stolyarov, 1997. "Learning, Complementarities, and Asynchronous Use of Technology," NBER Working Papers 5870, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Hideshi Itoh & Tatsuya Kikutani & Osamu Hayashida, 2008. "Complementarities among authority, accountability, and monitoring: Evidence from Japanese business groups," NBER Chapters, in: Organizational Innovation and Firm Performance, pages 207-228 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Philippe Aghion & Nicholas Bloom & John Van Reenen, 2013. "Incomplete Contracts and the Internal Organization of Firms," NBER Working Papers 18842, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. TAKEDA Yosuke & UCHIDA Ichihiro, 2009. "Technological Externalities and Economic Distance: A case of the Japanese automobile suppliers," Discussion papers 09051, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
  4. Bloom, Nicholas & Van Reenen, John, 2010. "Human Resource Management and Productivity," CEPR Discussion Papers 7849, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. John Van Reenen, 2010. "Does Competition Raise Productivity Through Improving Management Quality?," CEP Discussion Papers dp1036, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  6. Sharon Novak & Scott Stern, 2007. "Complementarity Among Vertical Integration Decisions: Evidence from Automobile Product Development," NBER Working Papers 13232, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Shaw, Kathryn, 2009. "Insider econometrics: A roadmap with stops along the way," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(6), pages 607-617, December.
  8. Alla Lileeva & Johannes Van Biesebroeck, 2008. "Outsourcing when Investments are Specific and Complementary," NBER Working Papers 14477, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Casey Ichniowski & Kathryn L. Shaw, 2009. "Insider Econometrics: Empirical Studies of How Management Matters," NBER Working Papers 15618, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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