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A Solution for Transnational Labour Regulation?

Company Internationalization and European Works Councils in the Automotive Sector

Axel Hauser-Ditz, Markus Hertwig, Ludger Pries and Luitpold Rampeltshammer

This book examines the role that European employee representatives play in the restructuring of firms. In a globalized economy, company internationalization and transnational restructuring are of growing concern for employees and trade unions. In the European Union, the still rather new institution of European works councils provides basic rights for employees. Using examples of eight large automotive manufacturers like Volkswagen, GM or Toyota, the volume analyzes the internationalization strategies of the companies and the effects of European works councils, pointing to a high degree of variation in strategies and effectiveness of cross-border employee representation.

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Chapter 11: General Motors

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247 Chapter 11: General Motors 11.1 The General Motors group (GM) 11.1.1 History and characteristics From the outset General Motors (GM), established in 1908, adopted a different strategy to that pursued by Ford. For Ford, the main concern was to pursue a high level of product standardisation, expressed in the production of the Model T, also introduced in 1908, and encapsulated in the phrase: ‘Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black’ (Ford, 1922: 57). In contrast, General Motors’ strategy, subsequently referred to as Sloanism, took a radically different direction. Alfred P. Sloan, president of General Motor from 1923 to 1937, adopted an approach based on continuous product improvement and annual model changes, combined with creating a wide range of cars tailored to different customer groups: ‘A car for every purse and purpose’ (Sloan, 1963: 438). The fundamental corporate philosophy was expressed in the structure of the company. Firstly, this entailed the integration of a large number of different marques under the General Motors umbrella; secondly, it involved the early adoption of a targeted strategy of internationalising production operations, including outside North America; and thirdly, it required the development of a matrix structure, with lines of responsibility both by brand and by region. GM was extremely successful in this strategy throughout the twentieth century. From the 1930s up until 2007, GM was largest vehicle manufacturer in the world,258 with around a dozen differ- ent marques and corresponding companies, often...

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