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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).

Suggested Citation

  • Johannes Van Biesebroeck, 2006. "Complementarities in Automobile Production," NBER Working Papers 12131, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12131
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. Arora, Ashish, 1996. "Testing for complementarities in reduced-form regressions: A note," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 51-55, January.
    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.
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    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, 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.
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    13. 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 361-379, June.
    14. Susan Helper, 1997. "Complementarity and Cost Reduction: Evidence from the Auto Supply Industry," NBER Working Papers 6033, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Timothy Bresnahan & Jonathan Levin, 2012. "Vertical Integration and Market Structure," Introductory Chapters,in: Robert Gibbons & John Roberts (ed.), The Handbook of Organizational Economics Princeton University Press.
    2. Bloom, Nicholas & Van Reenen, John, 2011. "Human Resource Management and Productivity," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier.
    3. Alla Lileeva & Johannes Van Biesebroeck, 2013. "Outsourcing When Investments Are Specific And Interrelated," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(4), pages 871-896, August.
    4. 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).
    5. Phillipe Aghion & Nicholas Bloom & John Van Reenen, 2014. "Incomplete Contracts and the Internal Organization of Firms," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 30(suppl_1), pages 37-63.
    6. Chou, Mabel C. & Chua, Geoffrey A. & Teo, Chung-Piaw, 2010. "On range and response: Dimensions of process flexibility," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 207(2), pages 711-724, December.
    7. Itoh, Hideshi & Kikutani, Tatsuya & Hayashida, Osamu, 2008. "Complementarities among authority, accountability, and monitoring: Evidence from Japanese business groups," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 207-228, June.
    8. McCalman, Phillip & Spearot, Alan, 2013. "Why trucks jump: Offshoring and product characteristics," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(1), pages 82-95.
    9. 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.
    10. Van Reenen, John, 2011. "Does competition raise productivity through improving management quality?," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 306-316, May.
    11. Timothy J. Sturgeon & Johannes Van Biesebroeck & Gary Gereffi, 2009. "The North American automotive value chain: Canada's role and prospects," International Journal of Technological Learning, Innovation and Development, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 2(1/2), pages 25-52.
    12. Casey Ichniowski & Kathryn L. Shaw, 2009. "Insider Econometrics: Empirical Studies of How Management Matters," NBER Working Papers 15618, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Shaw, Kathryn, 2009. "Insider econometrics: A roadmap with stops along the way," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(6), pages 607-617, December.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • L23 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Organization of Production
    • L11 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Production, Pricing, and Market Structure; Size Distribution of Firms
    • L62 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - Automobiles; Other Transportation Equipment; Related Parts and Equipment
    • M11 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - Production Management

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