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  1. #1
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    Default Sherman §1 and the Automobile Industry - Plus Factors Galore

    When the automobile industry churns approximately 75% of the components in their products in 5 years, how can that not be a Sherman §1 violation?

    The automobile industry is in violation of §1 of the Sherman Act as argued in detail below. The automobile industry is also in violation of §5 of the FTCA. The violation of §5 of the FTCA is described in a previous article presented on this board. The violation described herein is in the nature of conscious parallelism with plus factors.


    Conscious parallelism is not a per se violation of the Sherman Act. Conscious parallelism can be a defense to alleged price fixing or market allocation in that it can explain what appears to be circumstantial evidence of anti-competitive behavior. However, a Sherman Act violation can be established by presenting evidence of conscious parallelism along with the existence of one or more plus factors.

    Plus factors are evidence that a prohibited agreement has been reached. Plus factors are economic actions and outcomes by oligopolistic firms above and beyond parallel conduct that are largely inconsistent with unilateral conduct but largely consistent with coordinated action. Plus factors are used to specify imitative activity in terms other than price – anything that tends to exclude independent action. Some plus factors are given below with examples of how they manifest themselves in the automobile industry.

    Plus factors
    can include:
    1. Actions contrary to each defendant's economic self-interest unless pursued as part of a collective plan.
    2. The absence of a plausible, legitimate business rationale for conduct or the presentation of contrived rationales for certain conduct.
    3. Phenomena that can be explained rationally only as the result of concerted action.
    4. Industry characteristics (product homogeneity, frequent transactions, readily observed price adjustments, high entry barriers, and high concentration) that are conducive to successful coordination.


    Through a time intensive investigation with the aid of industry databases, extensive research has been conducted into the manufacture of automobiles at the component level – at the module level if manufacturers chose to manufacture in this way. Most of the research was conducted on Ford vehicles, but some research delved into General Motors vehicles to confirm expectations that the studied manufacturing procedure is industry wide.

    At the level of individual parts there is a surprisingly frequent replacement of existing proprietary, non-interchangeable designs of automobile components with new, proprietary, non-interchangeable designs which produce no discernible benefit to consumers but which do produce, instead, much more expensive vehicles carrying an unnecessarily high cost and potential for severe injury and possible death to drivers and passengers from a manufacturing or design error stemming from the high rate of Parts Churn. “Parts Churn” can be defined as a process wherein a part is designed, tested, manufacturing tooling produced, manufactured, and used for 1 to 8 years before being replaced by a functionally identical but non-interchangeable part which is designed, tested, manufacturing tooling produced, manufactured, and replaces the previous part offering no advantage to the consumer over the previous part but does present an enhanced risk of possible injury and expense to the consumer due to an increased risk of random design or manufacturing error.

    The primary vehicle for illustrating violation of §1 of the Sherman Act will be the horn although any component could serve. Below are two tables showing data from all the components studied. The churn rate is remarkably high with the shortest being 2.2 years for Ford Seat Back Covers and the longest being 4.9 years for Ford Door Latches and Ford Wiper Motors. Almost all component had at least one version which was used only one year. Ford has recalled over 2 million vehicles for faulty door latches. Injuries have been reported as having been caused by defective door latches.


    Below is a summary of all data analyzed from Ford and General Motors:


    Ford Part
    Spanning Years
    2007 - 2016
    Number
    of Units
    Average
    Years in
    Use
    Fewest
    Years in
    Use
    Highes
    Price
    Lowest
    Price
    % Used
    4 Years
    or Less
    Vehicle Type
    Horn
    31
    4.8
    1
    $60.16
    $29.02
    47.1%
    Cars Only
    Alternator
    53
    3.1
    1
    $522.00
    $162.96
    62.3%
    Cars Only
    Door Latches
    136
    4.9
    1
    $353.57
    $38.77
    35.6%
    All Vehicles
    Cruise Switch
    68
    3.3
    1
    $139.24
    $14.39
    73.9%
    Cars Only
    Fuel Pump
    65
    3.1
    1
    $485.38
    $39.88
    64.6%
    Cars Only
    Fuel Tank
    42
    3.2
    1
    $1,967.22
    $243.67
    76.2%
    Cars Only
    Ignition Switch
    39
    4.3
    1
    $263.25
    $16.86
    75.0%
    All Veh. 1990 - 2016
    Seat Back Cover
    613
    2.2
    1
    $2,039.18
    $114.41
    81.2%
    Cars Only
    Seat Belt Assembly
    208
    2.6
    1
    $441.82
    $29.37
    82.2%
    Cars Only
    Steering Wheel
    260
    2.7
    1
    $730.56
    $52.71
    81.5%
    Cars Only
    Wiper Motor
    33
    4.9
    1
    $137.33
    $33.80
    27.3%
    Cars Only
    Airbag Inflator Mod.
    210
    3.2
    1
    68.6%
    Cars Only


    General Motors Part
    Spanning Years
    2007 - 2016
    Numberof Units
    Average
    Years in
    Use
    Fewest
    Years in
    Use
    Highest
    Price
    Lowest
    Price
    % Used
    4 Years
    or Less
    Vehicle Type
    Horn
    44
    4.1
    1
    $79.33
    $10.43
    55.6%
    Cars Only
    Alternator
    66
    4.1
    1
    $542.69
    $138.26
    62.7%
    Cars Only
    Cruise Switch
    106
    3.6
    1
    $93.85
    $14.16
    65.1%
    Cars Only


    The most surprising fact revealed by the data and the most significant in regard to §1 of the Sherman Act is the component churn rate indicate by the Average Years in Use for each component and the extreme amount of redundancy. It is difficult to conceive of any justification on any basis for the number of different units and for such high churn rates, and certainly no technical nor performance justification. On an engineering basis, Parts Churn greatly lowers reliability. Standardization is the basis of all modern, efficient manufacturing intended to serve the general market customer.

    Below are two tables showing examples. The first shows the horns used by Ford Motor Company during the years 2007 through 2016 in cars alone - excluding pickup trucks and SUVs. The second provides similar data for General Motors horns during the same time period, again for cars only. This veritable cornucopia of horns will demonstrate, amongst other things, the automobile industry's collective plan that would be fatal to a company if it were undertaken individually. Below the tables are links to the lists of Ford and GM horns.


    Ford Horns - cars only 2007 through 2016
    Number of Horns
    31
    Number used 1 year
    0
    Average Years in Use
    4.5
    Number used 2 years
    3
    Fewest years in use
    2
    Number used 3 years
    4
    Most years in use
    9
    Number used 4 years
    6
    Least Expensive
    $12.46
    % churned after 1 year
    0.0%
    Most Expensive
    $57.07
    % churned after 2 years
    13.6%
    Fiesta
    $17.67
    % churned after 3 years
    31.8%
    % churned after 4 years
    59.1%


    GM Horns - cars only 2007 through 2016
    Number of Horns
    60
    Number churned in year 1
    7
    Average Years in Use
    3.9
    Number churned ln year 2
    2
    Fewest years in use
    1
    Number churned in year 3
    14
    Most years in use
    8
    Number churned in year 4
    4
    Least Expensive
    $9.44
    % churned after 1 year
    11.7%
    Most Expensive
    $79.33
    % churned after 2 years
    15.0%
    % churned after 3 years
    38.3%
    % churned after 4 years
    45.0%


    Table of General Motors horns 2007 - 2016:http://bit.ly/2Y6z7Nl
    Table of Ford Motor Co. horns 2007 - 2016:http://bit.ly/2ZzaaM5


    During the 10 years studied Ford used 3 horns (13.6% of the Ford horns used during the 10-year period studied) for only 2 years or less before changing to a new version. During the 10 years studied GM used 9 horns for only 2 years or less ( 15.0% of the GM horns used during the 10-year period studied) before moving to a new version. There was no case out of all the components studied in which the use of a component was terminated and, then, was used again in later years. A contrary action would not be expected nor practical because tooling for production would have to be stored and kept idle and in good condition for future use. Considering the many hundred of parts that are churned each year, that would be prohibitively expensive. This is what made the churning of Takata airbag inflators so disastrous for the automobile companies and terminally so for Takata. Tooling and manufacturing procedures for thousands of different airbag inflators had to be reproduced and reinstalled for relatively small batches of parts, and then setup again for many succeeding, different small batches of airbag inflators.

    Below are the plus factors considered:

    1 Actions contrary to each defendant's economic self-interest unless pursued as part of a collective plan.

    A. The churning of numerous, proprietary, functionally identical but physically non-interchangeable parts can be of no legitimate benefit to a manufacturing company. There has never been a study nor theory advanced claiming any economic benefit from the enormous production of functionally identical but physically non-interchangeable components. Indeed, all teaching is to the contrary.

    Group technology (GT) also facilitates standardization and rationalization (S&R), which helps control part proliferation and eliminates redundant part designs. It is common for a company to have many similar versions of the same part, such as a gear. When the company implements GT, similarities among gears can be identified, and it is possible to create standardized gears that are interchanged in a variety of applications and products. S&R such as this pays big dividends in that it simultaneously creates economies of scale by increasing part volume and economies of scope because the same gear can be used in a variety of applications. Rufe, Philip. Fundamentals of Manufacturing (2nd Edition). Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), 2002. Chapter 19: Product Design Tools, Part 4: Product Design, p. 165.

    The manufacturing processes of the automobile industry decimates the long established concept of economy of scale and economy of scope. Parts Churn is an extremely harmful process to manufacturing efficiency and economy and, when practiced by the entire industry, violative of Sherman §1.

    B. There is no technological nor manufacturing justification for Parts Churn. In the horn example above, it is very difficult to argue for the need for more than one horn. If there were a case where a louder horn were needed, for example, two units operating together or three should be able to fill that need offering the additional benefit of redundancy in case of a horn failure. Even if an argument could be made that some consumers like change just for change alone, there is no justification for such change in every vehicle manufactured.

    One economy vehicle should be manufactured without Parts Churn. If a manufacturer were to use proper manufacturing principles, its costs would be dramatically reduced while concomitantly the quality would rise and vehicle recalls could be significantly reduced or eliminated. The consumer could choose. Now, there is no choice.

    When Parts Churn is carried on by an entire industry across all product lines, such customer abuse is against the manufacturers’ economic self-interest unless all manufacturers operate in a similar fashion. The practice could not continue unless all manufacturers behaved similarly.

    C. The costs incurred in Parts Churn manufacturing are high. As indicated in the quote above, good engineering practice is realized by reducing the part variations to a minimum and perfecting the design and manufacturing process rather than scrapping existing parts and designing new parts to replace the scrapped parts. From this method flows the following benefits:

    Reduced engineering expense
    Reduced tooling and reduced tooling expense
    Reduced costs for testing and evaluation
    Fewer defective parts as parts are perfected over time
    Less scrappage
    Less warranty expense as parts are improved
    Reduced inventory and reduced inventory expense
    Greater customer satisfaction from lower cost and more reliable products


    On the positive side of Parts Churn there is nothing. There is no legitimate benefits from Parts Churn. Nor is there any legitimate benefit, of course, from industry-wide Parts Churn.

    D. The harm of Parts Churn mostly falls on the consumer. For the automobile manufacturers, the cost is another cost of doing business. The cost is another piece of the price of the car along with the car’s cost of designing, testing, manufacturing, and etc. As long as all manufacturers use the same Parts Churn model, there is no harm to the manufacturer. Indeed, it benefits the manufacturer because the higher cost of repair parts 5 to 10 years later will convince the owner to abandon the car he has and buy a new car. As long as all manufacturers follow the same Parts Churn model, consumers have no choice.


  2. #2
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    Default Re: Sherman §1 and the Automobile Industry - Plus Factors Galore

    Do you have a question?

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Sherman §1 and the Automobile Industry - Plus Factors Galore

    Planned obsolescence and churning is not a restraint of trade that is covered by the Sherman act. The fact that multiple people in the industry do the same thing isn't the same as them getting together and agreeing to do so.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Sherman §1 and the Automobile Industry - Plus Factors Galore

    Proving "getting together and agreeing" is one way to prove a violation of Sherman Section 1, but it is very difficult. Another way is proving concerted action and "some" "plus factors."

    I hit a 3,000 character limit in developing all the plus factors that apply. I hope to post the rest of the plus factors soon. A good discussion of plus factors can be found at the url below.

    http://capcp.psu.edu/papers/2011/plusfactors.pdf

  5. #5
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    Default Sherman §1 and the Automobile Industry - Part Deux

    Extended from https://www.expertlaw.com/forums/showthread.php?t=241979

    II. Absence of a plausible, legitimate business rationale for certain conduct.


    Below are tables showing the cruise control switches used by Ford Motor Company and General Motors during the 10 years from 2007 through 2016.


    GM Cruise Switches - cars only 2007 through 2016
    Number of Cruise Control Switches
    112
    Number churned in year 1
    6
    Average Years in Use
    3.6
    Number used for 2 years
    14
    Fewest years in use
    1
    Number used for 3 years
    29
    Most years in use
    6
    Number used for 4 years
    20
    Least Expensive
    $14.16
    % churned in 1 year
    5.7%
    Most Expensive
    $93.85
    % churned in 2 years
    18.9%
    Number unavailable 10 years
    2
    % churned in 3 years
    46.2%
    % discontinued in 10 years
    1.9%
    % churned in 4 years
    65.1%


    Ford Cruise Switches - cars only 2007 through 2016
    Number Cruise Switches
    69
    Number churned year 1
    2
    Average Years in Use
    3.3
    Number churned year 2
    11
    Fewest years in use
    1
    Number churned year 3
    21
    Most years in use
    7
    Number churned year 4
    17
    Least Expensive
    $14.39
    Percent churned after 1 year
    4.3%
    Most Expensive
    $139.24
    Percent churned after 2 years
    18.8%
    Fiesta Least Expensive
    $14.39
    Percent churned after 3 years
    49.3%
    Parts Unavailable - 10 years
    3
    Percent churned after 4 years
    73.9%
    Link to spreadsheet of GM Cruise Control Switches http://bit.ly/2JkCxb9

    There is no plausible, legitimate business rationale for Parts Churn. There is no legitimate business rationale for every vehicle model to be subject to parts churn. Nonetheless, almost every part - including safety components - in every vehicle is subject to Parts Churn.

    In 2006 Ford produced a model named Fusion which used 4 different cruise control switches. There is no obvious reason why the Fusion model needed 4 different cruise control switches. In contrast the 2006 Ford Focus model had only one cruise control switch. Ford used those 4 different cruise control switches in the Fusion model in just the three years 2007, 2008, and 2009.

    In 2010, Ford stopped using all four cruise control switches and started using 5 new, different cruise control switches in the Fusion model. Ford used the five new cruise control switches for three years, specifically 2010, 2011, and 2012. At that time Ford stopped using all 5 of the new switches it had just started using 3 years earlier.

    Starting in 2013, Ford used 6 different, new cruise control switches to replace the 5 it had been using. Ford used all six of the new switches for 2 years. In 2014 after 2 years of use Ford stopped installing one of the six switches and dropped down to just 5 different cruise control switches but in that same year added another new switch to bring the speed control switch count back up to 6. In 2016 after 4 years of use Ford stopped installing 3 switches introduced in 2013 bringing the count down to 3 from the 6-switch high mark. The one cruise control switch used from 2014 through 2016 has been discontinued and is, presumably, unavailable other than through an automobile recycling center. Summing up, during the 10-year span from 2007 through 2016 Ford used at least 16 different cruise control switches. There is no legitimate business rationale and certainly no legitimate technical reason for this conduct. In 2009 Ford recalled approximately 7 million vehicles because of the likelihood of a manufacturing defect in the cruise control switches installed. (www.autosafety.org/ford-cruise-control-deactivation-switch-recalls-and-history/)


    B No one buys a car because of a new, redesigned alternator, horn, cruise control switch nor any other part. There is no legitimate business rationale for Ford Motor Company to use at least 69 different cruise control switches in 10 years in automobiles alone – not including pickup trucks and SUVs. There is no legitimate business rationale for General Motors to use at least 112 different cruise control switches in 10 years in automobiles alone.

    Consumer choice cannot provide an explanation for the plethora of non-interchangeable parts all doing the same thing because the consumer has no choice. Almost all parts are determined by the make, model, year, and sometimes trim level. The specifics of almost all parts are fixed. Hence, even if an automobile purchaser did have desires for specific components, his desires will not matter because the buyer has no choice.

    Improvement of components cannot be a reason for new parts. Almost all improvements could be made to existing parts designs, i.e. improvements can be made to existing part configuration so that the new part could be interchangeable with the old part. An example is the radical change which has come to light bulbs. All LED light bulbs can be made to be interchangeable with older incandescent light bulbs. Interchangeability of parts allow older vehicles to take advantage of better, newer components. Thus, owners of older vehicles could keep their cars on the road longer with no need to purchase a new car.

    Standard components have the further advantage of lessening driver confusion if the driver is driving a vehicle different from the one he normally drives. Because of economies of scale, standardized components would be cheaper and of better quality. Additionally, standard components would make driving safer because there would be less confusion in operation thereby lessening driver distraction.

    3. Phenomena that can only be explained rationally as the result of concerted action

    There is no rational basis for manufacturing products with a never ending series of non-interchangeable parts. There is no legitimate purpose behind such conduct. If an automobile component can be improved, almost always the component can be make to be interchangeable with the preceding version. When an improved version is made interchangeable with a prior version, economies of scale can reduce costs and increase quality serving both the manufacturer and buyer

    Every time a new part is designed, entailing that new design is a risk of an error in the design. Usually the error is found before manufacturing begins, but there is a probability that the error will not be found. Every time the tooling for a new part is designed, there is a probability that an error will be made in the design of the tooling. If there is an error in design is made, usually the error is found before manufacturing is begum, but there is some chance that it will not be found.

    On the other hand, if an existing, well functioning design is improved, it should be expected that the improvement will make the part better and/or less expensive. If there is a change made in the tooling, it will most likely make the tooling better and/or cheaper. The resulting part will be improved and less expensive resulting in an improved and less expensive component having the added advantage that all customers - future and past - can avail themselves of the better and less expensive component if they choose. It should be expected that this will result in more customers and more pleased customers.

    The harm of Parts Churn falls to the consumer. For the automobile manufacturers the cost is another cost of doing business. The cost is another piece of the price of the car along with the car’s cost of designing, testing, manufacturing, and etc. As long as all manufacturers use the same Parts Churn model, there is no harm to the manufacturer. Indeed, it benefits the manufacturer because the extremely high cost of repair parts 5 to 10 years later will convince the owner to abandon the car they have and buy a new car. As long as all manufacturers follow the same Parts Churn model, consumers have no choice.

    Ford Alternators
    2007
    2016
    Alternators Used 10 years
    53
    Number churned after year 1
    2
    Average Years in Use
    3.1
    Number churned after year 2
    10
    Fewest years in use
    1
    Number churned after year 3
    8
    Most years in use
    6
    Number churned after year 4
    13
    Least Expensive
    $162.96
    % churned after 1 year
    3.8%
    Most Expensive
    $522.00
    % churned after 2 years
    22.6%
    Fiesta
    $198.65
    % churned after 3 years
    37.7%
    % unavailable 10 years
    1.9%
    % churned after 4 years
    62.3%
    No. Unavail. 10 years
    1


    General Motors Alternators
    2007
    2016
    Alternators Used 10 years
    60
    Number churned after year 1
    3
    Average Years in Use
    4.1
    Number churned after year 2
    7
    Fewest years in use
    1
    Number churned after year 3
    11
    Most years in use
    9
    Number churned after year 4
    7
    Least Expensive
    $138.26
    % churned after 1 year
    5.6%
    Most Expensive
    $424.80
    % churned after 2 years
    18.5%
    % unavailable 10 years
    1.7%
    % churned after 3 years
    38.9%
    No. Unavail. 10 years
    1
    % churned after 4 years
    51.9%







  6. #6
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    Default Re: Sherman §1 and the Automobile Industry - Part Deux

    Crazy SPAM reported.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Sherman §1 and the Automobile Industry - Plus Factors Galore

    This isn't a discussion forum. There are plenty out there but this isn't one.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Sherman §1 and the Automobile Industry - Part Deux

    So basically, you expect a car manufacturer to pull a ford model T and make the cars nearly identical for the entire life of the model?


    A particular model will remain with only minor changes for about 3 years (referred to as a refresh). They will make a major model update about every 4-6 years. That would mean many many parts will only be used for that 4-6 years and redesigned to be used on the new model.

    now, there are some parts that are used across several model lines but it’s less than it has been in the past. Due to manufactures using models from around the world, fewer car models use the same or similar underpinnings for any given manufacturer.

    But to your argument:

    its called remaining competitive. If a manufacturer makes the same car year after year, people grow tired if it and will look to other manufactures. Models are updated to include new tech but as well, because the public doesn’t want the new car they bought to look just like the 10 year old model. They want their new car to look different than last years model so people will know they have a new car and not a 5 year old car. Blame the consumer for the manufacturers making changes so often. It is the consumers purchasing habits that drive the constant changes.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Sherman §1 and the Automobile Industry - Part Deux

    Some might call it “remaining Competitive.” Others might call it “abusing the customer.”
    Answering your points seriatim:
    It is true that some people grow tired of a vehicle. On the other hand, some do not. Some become more fond of a vehicle the longer they own it.
    Some want a new car and want other to know that they have a new car. Others don’t care. Many very wealthy people are happy with an older car. This is only hearsay, but about 80% of the cars sold each year are used cars. Not hearsay is the fact that at least 70% of the cars sold each year are used cars. Many people want a used car. Price is one reason, but there are others such as recalls of new cars. Another is to know what is selling well so that they can have better assurance that parts will be available at a reasonable price, and so they can know something about the new car’s reliability.
    https://www.coxautoinc.com/news/cox-automotive-2018-used-car-market-report-outlook-forecast-higher-used-vehicle-sales-for-2018-and-a-decline-in-new-car-sales/
    Blame the consumers for not wanting a car using “Parts Churn” manufacturing. The consumer has no choice. All cars are made using Churned Parts.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Sherman §1 and the Automobile Industry - Part Deux

    Quote Quoting MrWhipple
    View Post
    Blame the consumers for not wanting a car using “Parts Churn” manufacturing. The consumer has no choice. All cars are made using Churned Parts.
    I suspect that most consumers would not have much of an opinion if asked about it. You reach a lot of conclusions that are not well supported by logic. You claim that there is no plausible reason for car manufacturers to do this other than ripping off consumers. Yet you provide no support for that claim. Churning itself does not logically prove that must be the reason. The fact that manufacturers could do things differently also does not logically make that case. Interestingly I do not see where you asked the car manufacturers why they do it and what the response was. That you cannot think of a good business reason for it does not mean that they don't have one.

    Similarly, you state that there must be collusion among the car manufacturers because they all do this. Again, that is not a logical conclusion. Sure, that is one possibility, but not the only one. They may all simply have independently reached the conclusion that this is the best way to go.

    In any event, as I suggested to you in another thread where you raised this issue, report your findings to the FTC and the Justice Department Antitrust Division. If they agree with you that there is an antitrust violation, they may pursue enforcement against the auto companies. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that though, such actions are pretty rare.

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