Fisher-General Motors and the Nature of the Firm
After working well for more than 5 years, the Fisher Body-General Motors (GM) contract for the supply of automobile bodies broke down when GM's demand for Fisher's bodies unexpectedly increased dramatically. This pushed the imperfect contractual arrangement between the parties outside the self-enforcing range and led Fisher to take advantage of the fact that GM was contractually obligated to purchase bodies on a cost-plus basis. Fisher increased its short-term profit by failing to make the investments required by GM in a plant located near GM production facilities in Flint, Michigan. Vertical integration, with an associated side payment from GM to Fisher, was the way in which this contractual hold-up problem was solved. This examination of the Fisher-GM case illustrates the role of vertical integration in avoiding the rigidity costs of long-term contracts. Copyright 2000 by the University of Chicago.
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