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When GM met Austin: British and American variants of inter-war automobile mass production

Scott, P. ORCID: (2023) When GM met Austin: British and American variants of inter-war automobile mass production. Business History, 65 (8). pp. 1417-1437. ISSN 1743-7938

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2021.1979519


Fordist automobile production methods are regarded as having been viable only in the USA prior to the 1950s. This paper examines their potential in the largest non-North American automobile market – the UK, using recently-released documentation regarding General Motors’ (GM’s) abortive 1925 takeover bid for Britain’s second largest car manufacturer, the Austin Motor Company. GM’s plans for developing Austin as the leading UK car manufacturer show that existing British mass production methods could have yielded substantially higher productivity, when combined with American systems for achieving “economies of throughput”. This, in turn, required tacit knowledge regarding “flow production” methods, which GM executives identified as the missing element of Austin’s “elementary mass production” system. The paper also discusses GM’s detailed plans for Austin – utilising economies of scale, scope, and throughput to reduce prices to levels competitors would find hard to match – and their implications for the British automobile industry.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Henley Business School > International Business and Strategy
ID Code:100059
Publisher:Taylor & Francis


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