Voluntary export restraints between Britain and Japan: the case of the UK car market (1971–2002)
Walker, J. (2017) Voluntary export restraints between Britain and Japan: the case of the UK car market (1971–2002). Business History, 59 (1). pp. 35-55. ISSN 1743-7938
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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2015.1038519
The rise in international markets of new, productive Japanese car manufacturers provoked intense world competition, which created serious doubts about the economic sustainability of an industry mostly dominated until the 1970s by European and North-American multinational companies. Ultimately, this crisis provoked a deep transformation of the industry, with consequences that had a permanent impact on European companies in the sector. American and later European manufacturers were successful in lobbying governments to provide protection. Using a rich source of data from the UK, I show that the ‘new trade policy’, voluntary export restraint (VER), placed on Japanese exports of new cars from 1977 to December 1999, was binding. This case study illustrates the strategies used by Japanese manufacturers to gain access to the European market through the UK market via strategic alliances and later through transplant production, against which continental European nation states were unable to fully insulate themselves. It is also shown that the policy had a profound effect on the nature of Japanese products, as Japanese firms responded to the quantity restraints by radically altering the product characteristics of their automobiles and shifting towards larger autos and new goods, to maximise their profits subject to the binding constraint.