How U.S. Forklift Makers Dropped The Goods

Talk about a sad fate for two stalwarts of American manufacturing. On May 28, Clark Equipment Co., the No. 2 U.S. lift-truck maker, announced plans to sell its forklift business to Terex Corp., a debt-laden acquirer of industrial assets, for a paltry $95 million. No. 3, Caterpillar Inc., is headed for the exit, too: On July 1, it will turn its forklift operations over to an 80%-20% joint venture controlled by Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. That leaves the Hyster-Yale unit of NACCO Industries Inc. as the only strong, broad-line U.S. producer in a field where, just 15 years ago, the U.S. was the one to beat. This is the tale of a downfall hastened by ill-conceived fixes for serious problems, plus a failure to adapt to market shifts. And it's a cautionary lesson in how not to manage in a brutally competitive global market.

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