The Second Century

The Second Century

Reconnecting Customer and Value Chain through Build-to-Order Moving beyond Mass and Lean Production in the Auto Industry

By Matthias Holweg and Frits K. Pil





As the auto industry moves into its second century, it suffers from low margins and a sclerotic value chain that cannot evolve with customer desires. Inventories of many weeks pile up on dealer lots and at distribution centers around the world while executives applaud marginal improvements in factory efficiency.

Value streams based on Henry Ford's mass-production model from the early 1900s do not deliver the strategic flexibility that is needed in today's increasingly competitive and demanding market. With billions of potential product variations, customers still compromise by selecting from a limited number of products sitting at dealerships or at distribution centers. Those customers who dare insist on a specific variation not only wait weeks but also pay extra for the privilege of telling vehicle manufacturers what they actually want.

In The Second Century, Matthias Holweg and Frits Pil provide a comprehensive look at today's dysfunctional value-chain strategies, then systematically discuss the changes in products and in processes that are needed to bring about responsiveness to customer needs through build-to-order. They look beyond the dealer, the factory and the design studio to examine the web of relationships and dynamics that have brought the auto industry to its current low point.

Holweg and Pil argue that in this century the winners will not be those firms that search for larger and larger scale or those who run efficient factories, or those that squeeze the last drop of profitability from their suppliers. The winners, they say, will be those who build products as if customers mattered.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262083324 252 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 60 illus.


$20.00 X ISBN: 9780262582629 252 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 60 illus.


  • The Second Century provides a comprehensive look at the dysfunctional nature of current value-chain strategies.


  • This book is more important to the industry than The Machine That Changed the World.


  • Becoming more responsive to customer wishes is a major challenge for an industry as complex as the auto industry. This is the most comprehensive analysis of the case for build-to-order to date.

    Daniel T. Jones

    Founder and Chairman, Lean Enterprise Academy UK, coauthor of The Machine that Changed the World and Lean Thinking

  • A comprehensive analysis of the drivers—and inhibitors—of the performance of entire value chains. Holweg and Pil draw on over a decade of research and a unique data set. They demonstrate that well-intentioned programs of manufacturing reform, implemented in isolation, can create 'islands of excellence'—but may do so at the expense of the responsiveness and profitability of the whole value chain. A vital follow-up to The Machine that Changed the World.

    Nick Oliver

    Professor, Judge Institute of Management, University of Cambridge