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The development of trust over time in an emerging market context: the case of the Tunisian automotive sector

Tibor Mandják (EM Normandie, Le Havre, France)
Samy Belaid (EM Normandie, Paris, France)
Peter Naudé (Business School, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK and Discipline of Marketing, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Article publication date: 3 June 2019

Issue publication date: 7 October 2019




The purpose of this paper is to empirically investigate how context influences the quality of business relationships. This theoretical question is studied from the point of view of trust, one of the important components of business relationship quality. The authors study how trust is related to the dynamics and management of the business relationship in the context of an emerging market.


This paper is based on qualitative interviews with 15 spare-parts resellers in the Tunisian automotive industry. The authors take a monadic view, interviewing resellers about their relationships with their wholesalers-importers. The decision to undertake the research in Tunisia is based on three factors. First, Tunisia is an emerging country and there is very little published research based in the Maghreb countries. Second, the Tunisian automotive parts market structure is relatively simple and, hence, easily understood, with most spare-parts being imported because of the low level of local production. Third, the actors in the study are all Tunisian companies, so research allows us to explore relationships between local companies in an emerging country.


The authors find that different kinds of trust play different roles over the dynamics of the relationship. Perceived trust is more important at the emergent stage of a relationship, and as the two parties learn from each other, experienced trust becomes more important in the established relationships. The initial perceived trust creates the possibility of building trust, and when mutual trust exists between the parties, it motivates them to maintain the relationship, but there is always the threat of the degradation of the quality of the relationship because of the violation or destruction of the trust.

Research limitations/implications

This paper shows that more care should be taken when using trust as the variable under scrutiny. Different aspects of trust manifest themselves at various stages of the relationship building cycle.

Practical implications

The results emphasize that when initiating a business relationship, managers first need to create perceived trust. Thereafter, once trust is built up, it is the trust that may “manage” or act to control the on-going relationship as long as the partners’ behavior or network changes do not violate the trust.


The results of this paper show that there is a mutual but not necessarily symmetrical or balanced influence of trust on the behavior of the partners involved. The influence of the different parties is dependent on the power architecture, the history of the relationship and the network position of the actors.



This paper forms part of a special section “Value innovation in practice: leveraging learning in distant contexts”, guest edited by Fredrik Nordin and Nishant Kumar.


Mandják, T., Belaid, S. and Naudé, P. (2019), "The development of trust over time in an emerging market context: the case of the Tunisian automotive sector", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 34 No. 6, pp. 1210-1222.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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