Economics

 

History and Analysis of the Flxible Company

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  Written by Baldwin Wallace University Professor
Dr. Robert Ebert

"Ohio's Bus Builder" is a title worthy of the Flxible Company. Founded in Loudonville, Ohio in 1913 by Hugo H. Young and initially bankrolled by Charles F. Kettering, Loudonville native, inventor of the automotive self-starter, and vice president of research for General Motors.

The Flxible story, as a builder of motorcycle side cars, funeral cars and ambulances, intercity and tour buses, and finally transit buses, is told in Flxible: A History of the Bus and the Company by Robert R. Ebert, Professor of Economics at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio.

Flxible was the largest builder of transit buses in the U.S. when it went bankrupt in 1996. When the company failed, Flxible was a major employer in Loudonville and Delaware, Ohio. Ebert's thesis is that Flxible failed as a result of a combination of management miscalculation and Federal transportation policy that encouraged the entry of new firms into the bus building industry in the 1970s and 1980s to build buses for a market that never materialized.

Among the most famous buses ever built in the U.S. was the Flxible Clipper, the so-called "bullet bus" because of its rounded, aerodynamic shape. The Flxible Clipper and other Flxible models were designed primarily for intercity bus service until 1953 when the company entered the transit bus business. Flxible transit buses are still in active service in dozens of cities around the U.S. including Cleveland and Columbus.

Publisher of Flxible: A History of the Bus and the Company is Antique Power, Inc. of Yellow Springs, Ohio, a publisher of books and magazines on trucks, buses, and farm equipment. Phone 800-767-5828; Fax 937-767-2726.

Ebert may be reached at Baldwin Wallace University, phone number 440-826-2033 or email rebert@bw.edu

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