Japanese Supplier Relations: A Comparative Perspective


This paper describes major characteristics of Japanese supplier relations in a comparative perspective. The supplier relations in Japan, particularly automobile industry, are examined in comparison with those in the United States. The primary purpose of the study is to characterize significant features of Japanese supplier relations and to provide economic rationale for those relationships. In addition, comparing supplier relations in Japan and the U.S., convergence in the nature of those are discussed. Significant features of Japanese supplier relations are characterized: long-term relationships and commitments; forced competition among few suppliers; transaction-specific investments in plant, equipment, and human capital; significant involvement of suppliers in product development with sharing of information. Supplier relations in the U.S. are changing and moving close to the Japanese counterpart. There has been a limited, yet noticeable, convergence in the nature of U.S. and Japanese supplier relations.

Keywords: Long-term relationships; Procurement; Supplier relations; Transaction-specific investments;

JEL Classification: L14; L62

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