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Complementarities in automobile production

  • Johannes Van Biesebroeck

    (University of Toronto and NBER)

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 'platforms' 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). Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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Article provided by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. in its journal Journal of Applied Econometrics.

Volume (Year): 22 (2007)
Issue (Month): 7 ()
Pages: 1315-1345

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Handle: RePEc:jae:japmet:v:22:y:2007:i:7:p:1315-1345
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  1. 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.
  2. Dmitriy Stolyarov & Boyan Jovanovic, 2000. "Optimal Adoption of Complementary Technologies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 15-29, March.
  3. Arora, Ashish, 1996. "Testing for complementarities in reduced-form regressions: A note," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 51-55, January.
  4. Miravete, Eugenio J & Pernías, Jose C, 2004. "Innovation Complimentarity and Scale of Production," CEPR Discussion Papers 4483, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  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. Berry, Steven & Levinsohn, James & Pakes, Ariel, 1995. "Automobile Prices in Market Equilibrium," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(4), pages 841-90, July.
  7. Boyan Jovanovic & Dmitriy Stolyarov, 1997. "Learning, Complementarities, and Asynchronous Use of Technology," NBER Working Papers 5870, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Susan Helper, 1997. "Complementarity and Cost Reduction: Evidence from the Auto Supply Industry," NBER Working Papers 6033, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
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