Forecasting white van man

There continue to be twists and turns in the story of General Motors’ attempts to find a buyer for its Vauxhall and Opel subsidiaries.  My father worked for Vauxhall as an economist in the 1950s; he told me that they, and presumably other motor manufacturers, had underestimated the demands for vans such as the Bedford CA, because they didn’t predict the growth in the service economy after the second world war.  Now, one of the biggest uncertainties surrounding Vauxhall is the future of van production in Luton; of course plumbers, gardeners, glaziers and so on still need vans, but it doesn’t necessarily make sense to build them in Britain.  And, like other vehicles, they last longer and rust less than their equivalents from the 1950s.  So this is a classic example of the rise and fall of a product, with one set of circumstances encouraging its growth and a completely different set of circumstances prompting its demise.

Update December 2009: GM has now decided that it wants to hold on to Opel and Vauxhall.  Although http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/dec/21/spyker-gm-saab-offer-deadline is mostly about Saab it implies that intellectual property may play a part in GM’s reluctance to sell off parts of the business as going concerns

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