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les Nouvelles - December 2008


Technology, Management And Licensing In The Automobile Industry Of Japan

Dr. Yoshiaki Yahagi

Toyota Central R&D Labs, General Manager, Intellectual Property Division Aichi-ken, Nagakute-cho, Japan

Masahiro Ezaki

TOYOTA Technical Development Corporation, Managing Director Hanamoto-cho, Toyota, Aichi, Japan

1. The Current Automobile Industry

According to a report issued by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) for 2004 concerning survival of the automobile industry (see Figure 1), automobiles will still be an important means of transportation on a global scale in the future. Aside from whether the future form of the automobile industry will be the same as the current one, there appears to be no disagreement that it will continue to exist. The industry appears to be growing even in terms of the number of units produced domestically (see Figs. 2), and it appears the market will continue to exist in the future as well.

It should be pointed out that the automobile industry is not limited to the manufacture of motor vehicles. To quote Professor Takahiro Fujimoto of the University of Tokyo, the structure of the industry as shown in Figs. 3 and 4 is a “vertically integrated structure that employs homegrown technologies.” The chemical industry is also of this type. It is the epitome of self-perfected independence within one’s own company or affiliated group. Another type of industry structure is the “horizontal multilayer type whereby optimal technologies are combined from outside like building a Lego structure.” Examples include the IT, electronics and electrical equipment industries. Components can be fit together by standardizing combinations of components like Legos. Consequently, it features easy substitution of components.

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