Japanese Auto FDI in Europe

Louis Turner

12.Nov.2008 14.00 - 16.00
Room G.03, 20 Cromer Terrace - Leeds

A report on this event has been written

The Japanese auto industry, led by Toyota, is in the process of replacing Detroit as the dominant force in Automobiles. Japanese companies have achieved this position by following a relatively distinctive approach. The Toyota Production System has evolved, and relations with key suppliers are significantly closer and more productive than the Detroit giants' relations with their own suppliers. With the exception of Nissan, which has an alliance with Renault, this expansion has been achieved almost entirely through organic growth.

Toyota, Honda and Nissan first started investing in Europe in the early 1980s. They have brought their key suppliers over, and they are a significant force within the European industry. Their initial investments in the UK have deepened, but they are now well represented across Europe, with a growing attention to setting up plants in Eastern Europe and Russia.

Most writing about Japanese auto investments in Europe has focused on the initial greenfield investments. Louis Turner takes the story forward, looking at the evolution of these investments, and identifying questions for deeper research. How have the Japanese auto companies settled down in the UK, which had such a wretched reputation for manufacturing incompetence in the 1960s and 1970s? What considerations did the Japanese companies take into account, when they set down the second generation of their auto plants elsewhere in Europe? What are the implications of the Renault/Nissan alliance? At what point did the attractions of Eastern Europe come to the fore? Should we expect closures of plants in Western Europe as production is shifted Eastwards? What role has been played by Japanese component suppliers in this evolving story? What light can we throw on the Japanese management of their international operations?

Louis Turner

Louis Turner is Chief Executive of the Asia-Pacific Technology Network, and is a Visiting Fellow with CIBUL, an associate fellow at Chatham House, and a regular outside lecturer at the London School of Economics' Department of Management.

He started working on the politics of multinational companies in the late 1960s, producing the first popular British book on Multinationals (INVISIBLE EMPIRES - 1970) which he has followed with ten other books/monographs. During the 1970s, he worked at what was then the Royal Institute of International Affairs, on the politics of the oil industry, Middle Eastern industrialisation and the rise of the Newly-Industrialising Economies. During the 1980s, he worked with John Stopford at London Business School on a book on Britain and Multinationals. He then started focussing on the rise of Japan and from 1986-2005 ran 20 annual high-level UK-Japan High Technology Forums. This led to a switch in career, in that he created the Conference Unit at the RIIA (Chatham House), running conferences in places like Moscow, Singapore, Prague and various cities round Japan.

In 1993, he left Chatham House (though became a Council Member of it) and created the Asia-Pacific Technology Network. As well as running conferences with Japan, he has run three ministerial-level High-Tech Forums with China and five with Korea. The APTN currently focuses on running an active seminar programme within the UK at the rate of 25-35 seminars a year, covering countries from Japan through to India, and sectors from nanotechnology to stem cell research. See www.aptn.org.uk for the current programme.

He is currently researching a book on the recent history of Japanese investment in the UK. This lecture to CIBUL aims to put some of this British-oriented work into a wider European focus.