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Complementarities in Automobile Production

  • Johannes Van Biesebroeck

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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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w12131.pdf
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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. 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.
  2. Norman, George, 2002. "The relative advantages of flexible versus designated manufacturing technologies," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 419-445, July.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Berry, Steven & Levinsohn, James & Pakes, Ariel, 1995. "Automobile Prices in Market Equilibrium," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(4), pages 841-90, July.
  7. Dmitriy Stolyarov & Boyan Jovanovic, 2000. "Optimal Adoption of Complementary Technologies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 15-29, March.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Arora, Ashish, 1996. "Testing for complementarities in reduced-form regressions: A note," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 51-55, January.
  11. 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.
  12. Susan Helper, 1997. "Complementarity and Cost Reduction: Evidence from the Auto Supply Industry," NBER Working Papers 6033, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Boyan Jovanovic & Dmitriy Stolyarov, 1997. "Learning, Complementarities, and Asynchronous Use of Technology," NBER Working Papers 5870, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  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. 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.
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