Technology development in Turkish automotive industry: A case of middle technology trap

Thesis Type: Doctorate

Institution Of The Thesis: Middle East Technical University, Graduate School of Social Sciences, Science and Technology Policy Studies, Turkey

Approval Date: 2014

Thesis Language: English


Supervisor: İbrahim Semih Akçomak


This dissertation questions the dynamics of leapfrogging by focusing on technology developmentin the Turkish Automotive Industry. We abstract from the research questions whether automotive firms in Turkey are investing in more sophisticated R&D projects that have potential to generate higher value-added and whether this process has led to a catch-up or leapfrogging. In order to investigate thesequestionsthis dissertation uses a mixed approach involving both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. In the quantitative part, TTGV data involvingsubmitted projects supported by TTGV in the automotive sector between the years 1991 and 2011, has been utilized. Thus, we are able to observe a time period of 20 years to investigate whether technological knowledge developed by the automotive firms become more sophisticated through time. In the qualitative part, the findings from TTGV data has been combined with the views of high status experts in the domestic industry and selected firms from the TTGV sample in order to deepen and validate our findings. The findings suggest that Turkish firms are mostly performing similar projects mostly at the traditional level of R&D in the automotive industry and with the exception of some examples, contemporary fields such as electronics, embedded software, telematics, smart cars, fuel efficiency in engines are not at the focus of the national industry. Turkey looks more of a manufacturing centre rather than a hub specialized in R&D. JV-dominated structure was effective in the establishment of national industry, however, this thesis argues that it is also an important impeding factor to further foster the current state of the industry since the main strategic decision-making processes of Turkish R&D and automotive industry is being done abroad. Given this situation, we assert that Turkey is in a middle-technology trapsuggestingthat Turkey’s position as a latecomer has reached a level of maturity but this development will not continue unless the government actively plans further development strategies. In order to overcome the middle technology trap, some policy recommendations such as establishing more sophisticated supplier industry with intensive R&D base, participating in knowledge intensive international networks and implementing more activepolicies by the government that aims at creating markets rather than fixing markets are being offered.