Publication of the Month: May 2024

Competitive dynamics of lead firms and their systems suppliers in the automotive industry

Godfrey Yeung
Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space

Lead firms play a dominant role in the governance structure of conventional global production network (GPN) analyses but this framework is not fully applicable in sectors where (new) regulations, technologies and subsequent market changes have a disruptive effect on its governance structure. This paper proposes an analytical framework to examine how disruptive effects of industrial megatrends in forms of new regulations and technologies and the subsequent market changes could alter the competitive dynamics between lead firms and their tier-I suppliers. Although lead firms are becoming more specialized and highly efficient in specific product segments, they may not always have inter-firm control over their tier-I suppliers. GPN boundaries become more permeable when there is an external shock, such as new regulations or massive shifts in consumer demand, or the entrance of an entirely new lead firm, possibly due to a technological breakthrough or innovative use of existing technologies in a product. This external shock could have disruptive effects on the GPN, from the exit of current lead firms to the entrance of new tier-I suppliers or lead firms. Consequently, a reconstituted GPN with a newly established boundary is then produced. Applying the analytical framework to the automotive industry, it is argued that selected (and new) systems suppliers with expertise in micro-electronics are not only in a prime position to capture the value generated by the increasingly stringent regulatory environment on safety and environmental standards, but also more resilient than the incumbent automakers to three emerging megatrends: electrification, digitalization and autonomous driving.

‘Cars Passing By’ by Rui Kang, from SRN’s SG Photobank
Yeung, G. Competitive dynamics of lead firms and their systems suppliers in the automotive industry. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space. 2024.
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