The Social dimension of the integration of Australian automotive manufacturing into global supply chains

Chris F. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Automotive production is one of the Australia's largest and most significant manufacturing industries, but is comparatively small by global standards. The industry was developed through protectionist policies, being heavily reliant upon tariffs for many decades to shield it from import competition. The nature of this support was not conducive to efficiency, instead contributing to deep-seated structural problems, which prevented the industry from being a viable competitor with overseas manufacturers when trade barriers were eventually dismantled. In recent decades, Australian policy makers sought to secure the future of automotive manufacturing by reorienting activities towards global supply chains, particularly those in the Asia-Pacific region. Some of the automotive manufacturers, such as Toyota, have been able to integrate into these supply chains through a 'high road' approach to upgrading, largely reliant upon the implementation of global production systems, and enabled these manufacturers to remain competitive. By contrast, Australian producers, including Mitsubishi, that have taken a 'low road' approach to upgrading have not been able to keep pace with their competitors in terms of production output, sales, and wages and employment conditions. These companies have seen their market share diminish in recent years, leading to widespread job losses, and the prospect of an uncertain future. While the global headquarters of Australian-based automotive manufacturers largely dictate their strategies, governments will continue to have an important role to play in the future directions taken by the industry.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-59
Number of pages13
JournalEmployment relations record
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


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