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Firm-Level Productivity and Management Influence: A Comparison of U.S. and Japanese Automobile Producers


  • Marvin B. Lieberman

    (Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305)

  • Lawrence J. Lau

    (Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305)

  • Mark D. Williams

    (Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305)


This study compares the productivity of six major US and Japanese motor vehicle manufacturers---General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan and Mazda---from the early 1950's through 1987. Techniques of productivity measurement, conventionally applied at the level of industries or national economies, are adapted for the analysis of individual firms. Several potential determinants of growth in productivity are evaluated, including economies of scale, adoption of "just-in-time" manufacturing, and changes in top management. The results show that productivity improvement by the six motor vehicle producers was attained primarily through more efficient utilization of labor; long-term growth in capital productivity was negligible for most firms. The three Japanese producers had achieved higher labor productivity than their US counterparts by the late 1970's. More recently, though, differences among firms within each country have become large relative to the gap between the US and Japan. Early productivity growth for Japanese producers was derived in part from the achievement of scale economies, but this source of improvement was largely exhausted by the mid-1960's. In both countries, significant shifts in the growth rate and level of firm productivity have followed changes in top management.

Suggested Citation

  • Marvin B. Lieberman & Lawrence J. Lau & Mark D. Williams, 1990. "Firm-Level Productivity and Management Influence: A Comparison of U.S. and Japanese Automobile Producers," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 36(10), pages 1193-1215, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:36:y:1990:i:10:p:1193-1215

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    Cited by:

    1. Nick Zubanov & W.S. Siebert, 2009. "Management economics in a large UK retailer," CPB Discussion Paper 125, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
    2. Yuk Ying Chang & Sudipto Dasgupta & Gilles Hilary, 2010. "CEO Ability, Pay, and Firm Performance," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 56(10), pages 1633-1652, October.
    3. Abang Ekhsan Abang Othman, 2009. "Strategic Human Resource Management Practices: Barriers and Implications," Annals - Economic and Administrative Series -, Faculty of Business and Administration, University of Bucharest, vol. 3(1), pages 51-71, December.
    4. Anne Marie Knott, 2001. "The Dynamic Value of Hierarchy," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 47(3), pages 430-448, March.
    5. Chien-Ming Chen & Magali A. Delmas & Marvin B. Lieberman, 2015. "Production frontier methodologies and efficiency as a performance measure in strategic management research," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(1), pages 19-36, January.
    6. Kao, Chiang & Chen, Liang-Hsuan & Wang, Tai-Yue & Kuo, Shyanjaw & Horng, Shi-Dai, 1995. "Productivity improvement: Efficiency approach vs effectiveness approach," Omega, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 197-204, April.
    7. W. Stanley Siebert & Nikolay Zubanov, 2010. "Management Economics in a Large Retail Company," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 56(8), pages 1398-1414, August.
    8. Chen, L. -H. & Kao, C. & Kuo, S. & Wang, T. -Y. & Jang, Y. -C., 1996. "Productivity diagnosis via fuzzy clustering and classification: An application to machinery industry," Omega, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 309-319, June.
    9. Börsch-Supan, Axel, 1997. "Capital productivity and the nature of competition," Papers 97-21, Sonderforschungsbreich 504.
    10. Sáenz-Royo, Carlos & Salas-Fumás, Vicente, 2013. "Learning to learn and productivity growth: Evidence from a new car-assembly plant," Omega, Elsevier, vol. 41(2), pages 336-344.
    11. Sáenz-Royo, Carlos & Salas-Fumás, Vicente, 2014. "Long- and short-term efficiency in an automobile factory: An econometric case study," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 156(C), pages 98-107.
    12. Cusumano, Michael A., 1954-, 1992. "Japanese technology management--innovations, transferability, and the limitations of "lean" production," Working papers 3477-92., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
    13. Martin G. Kocher & Ganna Pogrebna & Matthias Sutter, "undated". "The Determinants of Managerial Decisions Under Risk," Working Papers 2008-04, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.
    14. Krishnan, Murugappa (Murgie) & Srinivasan, Ashok, 2007. "How do shop-floor supervisors allocate their time?," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 105(1), pages 97-115, January.
    15. Vivek Ghosal & Jiayao Ni, 2015. "Competition and Innovation in Automobile Markets," CESifo Working Paper Series 5504, CESifo Group Munich.
    16. Lieberman, Marvin B. & R. Johnson, Douglas, 1999. "Comparative productivity of Japanese and U.S. steel producers, 1958-1993," Japan and the World Economy, Elsevier, vol. 11(1), pages 1-27, January.

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    productivity; automobile industry;


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