The automotive industry is characterized by increasing global competition. The ability to compete successfully depends greatly on a company's manufacturing capability. Companies which can combine high productivity, quality, and product flexibility have a decided competitive advantage. Against this backdrop one finds great variation in the manufacturing practices employed by the major players in the industry. In this paper, the authors identify superior modes of manufacturing practice through a comprehensive analysis of performance indicators using a sample based on visits to 54 assembly plants in 15 countries, representing 16 major automotive assemblers. The authors find a wide range of manufacturing performance around the world. Production management policy is shown to be the most significant predictor of global performance variation in manufacturing.