Category: Economics for Business: 8e Ch 07

Many industries are struggling in the current climate and, in particular, car sales have been at an all time low. General Motors was the biggest car company in the world, but recently we have seen them becoming the biggest industrial bankruptcy, which will have consequences for many car manufacturers around the world. UK car sales were 25% lower in May 2009 than at the same time last year and Chrysler will sell most of their assets to Fiat when they form a strategic alliance in a bid to help them exit bankruptcy protection.

The troubles of the carmakers have passed up the production chain to automotive suppliers, component manufacturers and engineering firms, and down the chain to the dealerships at a time when consumer confidence has taken a knock. The following articles look at some of the recent developments in the car industry and consider their likely economic impact.

UK new car sales 25% lower in May BBC News (4/6/09)
Creditors cry foul at Chrysler precedent The Wall Street Journal, Ashby Jones, Mike Spector (13/6/09)
The decline and fall of General Motors The Economist (4/6/09)
GM pensioner’s fears for future BBC News (1/6/09)
Opel staff face wait for job news BBC News (2/6/09)
From biggest car maker to biggest bankruptcy BBC News (1/6/09)
GM sales executive lays out company’s direction Chicago Tribune, Bill Vidonic (14/6/09)
Chrysler and Fiat complete deal BBC News (10/6/09)
Fiat gambles on Chrysler turnaround Telegraph, Roland Gribben (1/6/09)
Obama taskforce faces Congress over car industry rescue Times Online, Christine Seib (10/6/09)
Has pledge of assistance revved up the car industry? EDP24, Paul Hill (10/6/09)

Questions

  1. What is a strategic alliance and how should it help Chrysler?
  2. What are some of the methods that governments have used to help stimulate the car industry? Consider their advantages and disadvantages.
  3. Think about the consequences beyond the car industry of the decline of General Motors. Who is likely to suffer? Will there be any winners?
  4. General Motors was established in 1908. How were they able to expand so quickly and what do you think are the main reasons for their current decline?
  5. The article in The Economist suggests that, despite the current problems in the car industry and the global recession, selling cars will never really be a problem. What do you think are the reasons for this?

Whilst a recession has a devastating impact on many industries – not least construction and related sectors – there are some firms who will fare much better during a recession. Firms who have products whose demand is income inelastic, or which are even inferior, will feel the impact of the recession much less than those whose goods have a more income elastic demand. The two articles below consider jobs and businesses that are less likely to suffer in recessionary times.

Slump busters: jobs that beat the downturn BBC News Online (27/11/08)
Riding the recession: how some businesses are doing well in the downturn Times Online (23/11/08)

Questions

  1. Define the terms (i) “normal good” and (ii) “inferior good”.
  2. What will be the value of the income elasticity of demand for (i) a normal good and (ii) an inferior good?
  3. Discuss strategies that firms can adopt to minimise the impact of an economic downturn on (a) their total revenue and (b) their profitability.

Increasing numbers of firms are offering goods to consumers for free. Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired magazine, has developed a thesis called freeconomics which postulates that this trend will increase and that firms that don’t join in will go to the wall. “As much as we complain about how expensive things are getting, we’re surrounded by forces that are making them cheaper,” Anderson wrote in a recent article.

The big giveaway Guardian (6/5/08)

Questions

1. Explain what is meant by the term ‘freeconomics’.
2. How can firms afford to make goods and services available for free?
3. “Anderson’s idea is that the internet, by reducing marginal costs, encourages businesses to make their money by offering free goods or services to an extent we have not witnessed before”. Discuss the extent to which doing business over the internet reduces marginal costs.