Monday, January 16, 2012

Answering Some Questions about the Rise of the Japanese Auto Industry, its Future, and Impact on America

On 12/27/11, Jonah Belser <> wrote:> Dr. Heitmann,>> Thank you so much for your prompt reply! Here are our questions:>>

1) What do you see in the future of the American auto industry with respect> to Japanese competition?
My sense is that the Japanese challenge has peaked, and that we have reached an equillibrium stage in terms of competition and market share in the rivalry between American and Japanese automobile firms. Japanese innovation in terms of production and quality no longer has an edge in the global market place. Everybody uses insourcing and lean, and the Americans are just far more competitive since bottoming out in 2008-9.

2) To what extent are the stereotypes of inefficient American cars and> efficient Japanese cars true? I think the steroetype has broken down the past few years, although Americans still prefer large cars and horsepower. Americans are genrally too fat; consequently they are comfortable in larger cars and SUVs, and like it that way. Additionally, Japanese cars rarely are "cult; cars; rarely do we want to keep a Japanese car -- we dispose them like appliances.

3) How has the American automobile shaped American culture?>Wow -- read my book The Automobile and American Life -- in music, film, literature, and of course the shaping of society and social habits.

4) What do American cars symbolize to the American people? What do Japanese> cars symbolize to the Japanese people?It used to be status, freedom, mobility for Americans, particularly to about 1970 although to some degree that is changing among younger Americans.

5) How may the American identity be affected by the increased demand for> Japanese cars over American cars? A great question. For the longerst time, we wer influenced by ideas that touted American exceptionalism -- that we were somehow different from others, and that included our values and virtue. Since the coming of the Japanese cars we have been emphasizing pluralism far more in discussions concerning the future of our society. Are these two phenomenon connected or not? I am not sure, but perhaps the sue of mateiral goods reshape our thoughts about the people who make them.

6) How does the rise of Japanese auto manufacturers relate to the American> and global economies?Certainly their rise is part of the story of deindustrialization in America post-1973, and the decline in per capita income and the working middle classes in the U.S.

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