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Is China now ready to set the bar in automotive manufacturing?

Is China now ready to set the bar in automotive manufacturing?

Mikko David

Interesting videos on the social media platform TikTok show how global empires rise and fall in 80-year cycles. Granted, not everything you see on the Internet is true, but the videos still make you wonder if they apply in today’s world.

Let’s take the global automotive industry as an example.

When Ford Motor Company implemented the moving assembly line process in 1913, it created a new and more productive way to produce the first mass-market automobiles. The Ford Model T was sold cheaper in 1925 than when it was first introduced 1908. This manufacturing process allowed American car companies to flourish and dominate early markets.

After the war, Japan needed to rebuild its industries ravaged by war. Automobiles became one of its essential products as Japanese companies addressed domestic market needs, eventually going after global markets.

With innovation as one of the critical traits of Japanese culture, it improved upon the American moving assembly line process by introducing various quality control measures and making manufacturing processes more efficient.

Just-in-time manufacturing lessened unused inventory in Japanese manufacturing plants and ensured that only cars they would make, would have the parts needed to complete them. Automation and robotics have also helped the Japanese car industry rise to its global status in the last 50 years, overtaking the Americans in terms of quality and reliability.

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But as with any industrial empire, there’s bound to be a shakeup soon. As of the middle of this year, China already surpassed Japan as the world’s top car exporter. China is also leading the way in terms of electric vehicle development as its New Energy Models have reached a level of quality that makes them exportable. Like Japan and, to a certain extent, South Korea in the 1990s and early 2000s, China is banking on innovation to produce its electric vehicles (EVs) and disrupt global markets with its lower-priced, feature-rich car exports.

It also helps that many Chinese car brands manufacture their parts and components and have their digital software teams integrated into the manufacturing process. With more cars relying on software nowadays, China has been leading the way in software rollout and the corresponding hardware that goes with them. Digitalizing vehicles and car manufacturing has helped China leapfrog the established Western players in rolling out cars with new features and technology that more people can afford.

So, are we seeing a new world order in car manufacturing right before our eyes? Well, only time will tell. But suffice it to say, the cards are stacked in China’s favor at the moment.