A Cliometric Approach to Market Structure and Market Conduct in the Car Carrier Industry

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Today, products from the automotive industry represent an important share of international trade. Each year, millions of brand new and second-hand motor vehicles are being shipped in completely built-up condition by a variety of specialized deep-sea vessels called car carriers, with roro ramp access providing cargo space for more than 2000 car equivalent units (CEU).
Following a cliometric approach, the paper examines this market of seaborne motor vehicle transportation over the last three decades from 1985 to 2016 backed by extensive historical data about seaborne motor vehicle trades and shipping operators active in this rather small, but very demanding segment of the maritime transport domain. More specifically, market structure and theoretical market conduct of these shipping operators active in a rather oligopolistic transport market environment firstly explored by common market structure metrics and further analysed by structural, parametric statistical methods in sense of the New-Empirical-Industrial-Organization (NEIO) Theory. Accordingly, the theoretical market conduct is estimated by a simultaneous equation model, which includes a demand function for seaborne vehicle trades, and a market conduct function of the shipping operators including an implicit cost or productivity function of the car carrier fleet employed.
For the given time frame, some interesting findings are as follows: (1) volatile demand for shipping of motor vehicles overseas can be explained well through shifts in trade flows to a high extent; (2) overall transport capacity, average size, operating speed and age of vessels in service are the main measures of the shipping operators available to adjust to this volatile demand on a short to medium run; (3) despite significant merger and acquisition activity, market exits and entries, this transport market got slightly less concentrated as today more shipping operators are active there than in the past; (4) estimated market conduct of the shipping operators seems to show a price setting slightly over their marginal costs with a strong trend towards a fully competitive market after 1996. Finally, the approach developed in this paper can be useful to get more insights about market structure and theoretical market conduct in similar rather concentrated transport markets.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCase Studies on Transport Policy
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)394-402
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Seaborne vehicle trade
  • Car carrier industry
  • Market structure
  • Market conduct

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