Machinery dealer Jim Graff just got back from a Delphi auction in Kettering Ohio. He reported that most machines there were selling very cheaply and that many were leaving the country. The two biggest buyers at the auction were from India and Peru, who primarily bought small production machines such as milling machines, Bridgeports, and Dennison Presses. Most of the Acme multi spindles and Acme repair parts were baught by dealers. Jim also observed that there was a strong presence of online bidders.
This day on March 18, 1662, the first bus service began in France. Blaise Pascal, most famous for his mathematics, physics and philosophical genius, conceived the idea. The system started with seven horse-drawn vehicles running along regular routes. Each coach could carry six or eight passengers. King Louis XIV granted a royal monopoly: Try to compete, and your horses and vehicles would be taken away.
The fundamental problem of the bus service’s business model was that in the feudal society of seventeenth century France only the nobility and gentry were allowed to ride, which they did purely for amusement. The common folks that the service could really benefit, the soldiers and peasants, weren’t allowed to ride, so when the novelty of the new invention wore off, bus service ended in 1695.
The bus concept did not reappear in France, along with New York City and London until early Nineteenth Century – post feudalism.
Most great inventions follow a similar pattern as the bus’s. They start out as a novelty only accessible to the elite. Not until they finally become accessible to the masses do they have the power to change the world. When the first computers were invented only a select group of scientists could use them. People dismissed the idea that they could be useful to the common man. Not until personal computers became affordable to the world’s middle class and easy enough for an average person to operate, did they revolutionize how people communicate and find information. Yesterday, March 17, Tesla Motors began production on its Tesla Roadster, which will sell for a base price of 98,000 dollars. It will look cool, it will be better for the environment than cars with internal combustion engines, it will eliminate the need for its owner to buy gasoline, but until the masses can afford one and reap its benefits the electric car will not change the world.
Sources, Wired Magazine, www.teslamotors.com
A recent story by Frank Langfitton on NPR’s “All Things Considered” reported that rising costs and shifts in Chinese government policy are actually forcing hundreds of smaller Chinese factories to close. According to the story, profit margins are disappearing as a result of the rising Chinese currency value, which has forced manufacturers to move their operations to lower cost countries such as Vietnam.
The story reports that China’s government wants to encourage higher-tech manufacturing, so it is taking away the incentives it used to give to cheap goods manufacturers such as no taxes and cheap rent. China wants to follow the same path as its fellow Asian countries such as Japan and Taiwan, whose products eventually progressed from low-tech to high-tech. This movement to more sophisticated types of production has created the same obstacle for Chinese companies that challenges U.S. companies – finding skilled labor.
Familiar patterns aren’t they.
American Axle has finally sat down at the bargaining table with the UAW since its members went on strike Feb. 26. Since the strike, 10 plants have been shut down and about 20 percent of GM’s workforce has been affected. What makes this strike different from other recent UAW strikes is that GM has so much inventory in its truck divisions that it is not under such urgency to get a deal hammered out quickly. Also, unlike other recent UAW strikes, the company trying to cut wages is not in bankruptcy. American Axle made 37 million dollars last year. It’s hard to convince a union to allow wage cuts for a company which has been so profitable.
In this video Eric Merkle, Vice President of forecasting for consulting firm IRN Inc., discusses the effects of the American Axle strike.