Foreign direct investment and host country productivity: the American automotive component industry in the 1980s
Although several studies have shown that inward foreign direct investment (FDI) often leads to greater host country productivity, researchers have yet to determine the relative importance of direct technology transfer and competitive pressure. To assess the relative importance of the two channels, we examine the US auto-component industry between 1979 and 1991. During this period, Japanese automobile assemblers began to produce vehicles in North America, and began to purchase inputs from US auto-component manufacturers. Those US manufacturers that sold components to Japanese transplants would be the direct recipients of any technologies transferred from the Japanese. Although we find that the direct investment by Japanese assemblers was associated with overall productivity improvement in the US auto-component industry, we find little evidence of direct technology transfer. The productivity growth of US suppliers affiliated with Japanese assemblers was no greater than that of other, non-affiliated US suppliers. Further, we find that the Japanese assemblers tended to purchase components from less productive US suppliers and, moreover, that low-productivity suppliers that sold goods to Japanese assemblers had a higher survival rate than low-productivity suppliers that did not sell to Japanese firms. The results suggest that increased competitive pressure in the auto-sector was the main cause of overall productivity improvement, at least during the initial stages of FDI of the 1980s. Journal of International Business Studies (2003) 34, 199–218. doi:10.1057/palgrave.jibs.8400017
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