Daily Podcast: The Big Bang
Henry Ford firmly established the economic benefits of leveraging large economies of scale– for both the automaker's profits and the customer's wallet. But time and technology have moved on. If you look closely enough, you can see we're heading for the end of corporate consolidation in the automotive industry, slowly heading towards the long-predicted era of mass customization. So-called "flexible manufacturing" allows carmakers to build various vehicles on the same line (e.g. Honda's Civic sedan, Ridgeline pickup and Acura MDX CUV). MINI has reinvigorated the idea of "have it your way." Uber-tuners and ride pimpers have graduated from bolt-on to bespoke. Tender shoots to be sure, but there's no reason to think mass customization shouldn't continue. Just have a look at the staggering number of vehicles for sale, and the consolidation of franchised dealers into multi-branded mega-dealerships. I'll go out on a limb here and say that we'll start to see MORE car brands, rather than less, as manufacturing hives-off from tied retail (a.k.a. franchised dealers). In short, motoring's golden age lies ahead, in a radically different form than we know it now. Put that in your UAW contract and smoke it.