The global automotive industry has been exposed to an overproduction crisis for several decades. Under the pressure of restructuring, automotive companies renew both the geographical scope and the technological standardization of their production processes. We analyze the effects this restructuring had on the development of European economies in order to understand whether vertical specializations in the automotive value chain can lead to Central and Eastern European countries’ catching up to advanced economies, or whether such specializations reproduce new forms of core-periphery relations. In order to answer this question, we introduce a new methodological approach to understand vertical specialization in the global value chain from a semi-peripheral perspective. We combine the theory of global value chains with Vernon's product life-cycle theory. In the research we focus on the standardization of the production of electric engines behind the geographical relocation of production between core and periphery.