Firm-Level Productivity and Management Influence: A Comparison of U.S. and Japanese Automobile Producers

By Marvin B. LiebermanLawrence J. LauMark D. Williams
1989| Working Paper No. 1048

This study compares the productivity of six major U.S. and Japanese motor vehicle manufacturers-General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan and Mazda-from the early 1950’s through 1987. Techniques of productivity measurement, conventionally applied at the level of industries or national economies, are adapted for the analysis of individual firms. Several potential determinants of growth in productivity are evaluated, including economies of scale, adoption of “just-in-time” manufacturing, and changes in top management. The results show that productivity improvement by the six motor vehicle producers was attained primarily through more efficient utilization of labor; long-term growth in capital productivity was negligible for most firms.