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Slip sliding away? The changing politics of European car distribution

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This paper examines the development of EU regulations in the car distribution sector. In the span of approximately fifteen years, the sector has shifted from being regarded by its critics as being one of the most protected havens of European industry to one faced with open competition. The paper claims that the inability of the car industry to resist liberalization in this sector is related to several factors. First, there was declining support from member states for their national producers, in part explained by global shifts in ownership and production which rendered concepts of "national producer" problematic. Second, technological changes combined with the impact of globalization on in the industry undermined the case for a link between sales and service of cars. Third, DG competition, led by Mario Monti, wished to push through the ability of consumers to make cross-border purchases of cars. Fourth, a more general logic embedded in the Single European Market programme (SEM) had led to several decisions to prosecute EU car producers for infringing SEM rules and thereby undermining the ability of EU member states to protect their "national producers." This has implications more broadly: will increasing globalization of industrial ownership further undermine the state-firm nexus in the EU, thus reducing the propensity of national industries to resist liberalization? In this context, will member states be prepared to give the EU Commission a freer hand in forcing through liberalization in the remaining sectors that remain problematic?
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: College of Business, Southern New Hampshire University

Publication date: August 1, 2003

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