Weekly Production Scheduling at Assembly Plants in the United States Automobile Industry: 1972-1983 and 1990-2001 (ICPSR 23542)

Published: May 29, 2009

Principal Investigator(s):
Valerie A. Ramey, University of California-San Diego; Daniel J. Vine, Federal Reserve Board of Governors; Timothy F. Bresnahan, Stanford University


Version V1

This study analyzes weekly data at United States and Canadian automobile assembly plants in order to understand the short-run dynamics of manufacturing production, particularly with regard to business cycles. Although the automobile industry accounts for a small fraction of aggregate employment, it continues to account for a noticeable fraction of business cycle volatility. Hence, studies of this industry are very useful for understanding business cycles.

The data consist of information on weekly operations at United States and Canadian automobile assembly plants owned by the Detroit Three automakers (Chrysler, Ford Motor Company, and General Motors). The dataset was constructed from industry trade publications that report production schedules at these assembly plants on a weekly basis over the two time periods: 1972-1983, and 1990-2001. The period 1984 to 1989 was excluded only because the authors did not have access to key publications at the time the data were collected. Certain heavy-truck and specialty vehicle facilities were excluded, such as the AMC General military vehicle plant, and GMAD Truck and Coach in Pontiac, MI, which primarily produces buses.

The dataset was collected mainly by reading the weekly production articles in Automotive News, which list the names of assembly plants that are closed each week because of union holidays, inventory adjustments, supply disruptions, and model changeovers. The articles also report which plants are working overtime hours each week. Observations on the line speed posted on each assembly line and the number of shifts working at each plant were collected from Wards Automotive Yearbook and Automotive News.

Unfortunately, the data do not include information on actual production and sales. Production and sales data are reported by model. It is very difficult to match up production and sales data to more than a few plants because most plants produce several models and most models are produced at several plants. Moreover, sales are not reported weekly.

Ramey, Valerie A., Vine, Daniel J., and Bresnahan, Timothy F. Weekly Production Scheduling at Assembly Plants in the United States Automobile Industry: 1972-1983 and 1990-2001. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2009-05-29. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR23542.v1

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National Science Foundation (SES-9022947 and 0213089)

1972 -- 1983

1990 -- 2001

1986 -- 2003

United States automobile assembly plants belonging to General Motors, Chrysler, and Ford. Some specialty plants that produce trucks or buses are excluded.

Wards Automotive Yearbook, and Automotive News

administrative records data



2009-05-29 ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Created variable labels and/or value labels.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.


  • Data in this collection are available only to users at ICPSR member institutions.

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