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American Wheels, Chinese Roads: The Story of General Motors in China Hardcover – July 26, 2011

4.8 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Who knew that the infighting among fiefdoms within General Motors was topped only by the economic tug-of-war between China's central and regional governments? Well, Michael Dunne knew. China and GM created mutual automotive prosperity almost despite themselves and here is the story, rich with hilarious anecdotes and surprising insights. This book is essential reading, and fun reading, for anyone interested in modern China or international business.
-Paul Ingrassia, Pulitzer prize winning author and Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Reuters News

GM and its Chinese partner, Shanghai Auto, have made billions in profits building Buicks and Chevrolets. But the road to success has never been smooth. Michael Dunne puts readers into the scene to witness both GM's soaring triumphs and bitter setbacks. This book reveals Michael's remarkable sense for how China works and how business there really gets done.
-Jing Ulrich, Managing Director & Chairman of Global Markets, China, J.P. Morgan

Michael Dunne - raised in Detroit, educated in Chongqing, sometime resident of Shanghai, Bangkok, and Jakarta has one of the most unusual profiles in the automotive world. He also has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. As an analyst he witnessed the great Chinese car boom of the past decade, and here he tells the fascinating story of how General Motors, despite its troubles at home, gained a foothold in the People's Republic.
-Peter Hessler, Author of Country Driving and Staff Writer at the New Yorker magazine

If you have any intention of doing business in China, then this is a book that you must read. You don't have to be General Motors to understand the complexities of their society. You don't have to be General Motors to figure out how to do business and succeed in the toughest market in the world. Dunne lets you learn all that General Motors has learned without any of the pain and suffering and bleeding.
-Keith Crain, Editor-in-Chief, Automotive News

I've shared many experiences with Michael Dunne on the front lines of China, and Michael knows China and the automobile market unlike anyone else I've met. His personal adventures and experiences give him a brilliant insight into an American icon's journey into China. He chronicles it with intrigue, analysis, drama and humor. You cant put it down!
-James D. Power IV, Former Executive at J.D. Power and Associates and Co-author of Satisfaction: How Every Great Company Listens to the Voice of the Customer

Michael Dunne has done a superb job of chronicling and analyzing the very important and complex business story of GM in China. He has done this based on his boots on the ground experience of many years in Middle Kingdom and his great depth of understanding of the global auto industry. As we increase the speed of globalization, it is imperative to understand the many complex issues involved from the importance of personal relationships to understanding diverse cultures to even have a chance for success. The deep insight into the high stakes drama in the GM China story reaches well beyond the auto industry and, perhaps, well beyond China. Consequently this is a must-read for all who are involved in global commercial activities.
-David ColeChairman Emeritus, Center for Automotive Research

American Wheels, Chinese Roads is a fascinating portrait of GM's rocky road to success in China. Author Michael Dunne takes you on a wild ride, chronicling the failures, the successes, and the sheer random luck of an American company trying to seal the deal with the Chinese. Dunne's access is unprecedented, his sources second-to-none. This is a book not only about the transformation of an American icon, but about China, revealed in all its complicated beauty.
-Rob Schmitz, China Bureau Chief, Marketplace/American Public Media

From the Inside Flap

How could one company—General Motors—meet disaster on one continent and achieve explosive growth on another at the very same time?

While General Motors was hurtling towards bankruptcy in 2009, GM's subsidiary in China was setting new sales and profit records. This book reveals how extraordinary people, remarkable decisions and surprising breaks made triumph in China possible for General Motors. It also shows just how vulnerable that winning track record remains.

In no small part does GM's success in China spring from its management of shifting business and political relationships. In China, the government makes the rules for—and competes in—the auto industry. GM's business partner, the City of Shanghai, is both an ally and a competitor. How does such an unnatural relationship work on a day-to-day basis? Where will it go in the future?

General Motors also engages in constant battles with other global and Chinese car makers for the hearts of demanding Chinese consumers. Dunne gives us rare glimpses into the mindsets and behavior of this new moneyed set, the world's newest class of wealthy consumers.

China is already the number one car market in the world. During the next ten years, China will export millions of cars and trucks globally, including to the United States. American Wheels, Chinese Roads gives readers fascinating illustrations of what to expect when Chinese cars, companies, and business people arrive on our shores.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 227 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (July 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470828617
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470828618
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #979,281 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Loyd Eskildson HALL OF FAME on August 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
'American Wheels, Chinese Roads' is essentially a chronological accounting of G.M. in China. The story is interesting because it is well told, explains how G.M.'s China subsidiary set sales and profit records while the parent company raced towards 2009 bankruptcy, and offers insight on how China manages foreign businesses.

G.M.'s partner in China is a subsidiary of the City of Shanghai - SAIC (Shanghai Automotive Industrial Corporation). SAIC also competes with G.M. in China by partnering with VW to produce a 1984-design VW Santana, and producing its own brand - Roewe. All three product lines are built in Shanghai.

G.M. began pursuing production in China in 1989; in 1999 SAIC-G.M. began production. In between, the Chinese played G.M. and Ford against each other; ultimately SAIC was persuaded by Buick's prior luxury image and G.M.'s history of local management at its Brazil plant. G.M. now competes with 50 other car-makers for the 11 million or so cars sold (2010), up from 640,000 in 2000. SAIC-G.M. built over 1 million cars that year (more than G.M. in the U.S.), and reaped almost $1 billion in profits.

Author Dunne tells readers that everything in China starts with a license - to build cars, sell cars, import product, export product, change yuan into dollars, become listed in a stock exchange, etc. To get a license, foreign firms must first get a partner - usually a city or provincial government. Shanghai requires at least $140,000 in capital funds from foreign companies to be deposited in a bank, where it remains until the enterprise is formally closed and any audits completed. Shanghai takes half the profits from SAIC-G.M. manufacturing, as well as half of service profits as well, for products jointly developed.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you have read any news stories covering China's auto industry over the past decade, you have almost certainly read quotes from Mike Dunne. Until recently he was in charge of J.D. Power's China unit, and now he runs his own consulting company.

There are few people more qualified than Mike Dunne to write about China's auto industry. He grew up in Detroit, worked at GM, and earned his MBA from the University of Michigan. He has also spent over two decades of his life living and working in China.

American Wheels, Chinese Roads is a more-or-less chronological telling of the experience of General Motors in China, but at appropriate points, Dunne interjects relevant stories about other auto companies and their experiences in China. And it is a pretty quick read because the story is so entertainingly told.

The stories are all fascinating because many reveal lessons that GM learned along the way and often contain fly-on-the-wall details about negotiations between Chinese and foreign automakers. Dunne makes these stories even more interesting (and demonstrates his China credentials) by weaving in little Chinese language lessons and references to Chinese philosophers and historical figures. He doesn't just lay the lessons on us; he often delves deeper into why things are the way they are in China.

At a few points, GM is portrayed almost as a naive victim, caught off guard by the machinations of the government or GM's competitors. For example, when GM inked its deal with Shanghai Auto (SAIC), it was promised a monopoly in the luxury vehicle segment only to be surprised a few months later that Shanghai Auto's other partner, Volkswagen was being allowed to introduce a competing vehicle.
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Format: Hardcover
While the story of GM in China might not appeal to everyone, this book surely will. The book is a well written novel with an eccentric cast of characters. I found myself laughing out loud at least once every chapter and simply couldn't put it down.

The book is filled with stories and anecdotes about doing business in China that are both hilarious and educational.

"Chinese people are very careful with accounts. They watch the money. Someone has to pay for things, and the Chinese always prefer that someone to be someone else.

'Keep the Change,' an expression so familiar to Americans, would sound naive or idiotic (or both) to the average Chinese. To them, money is still a scarce resource. You don't just let someone keep the change."

It is very refreshing to hear the story not from an academic perspective, but from someone who speaks and reads Chinese and has built and operated a business in China and S.E. Asia for over 20 years. The book screams of the challenges, pain and daily grind of building a business in China. From the day you hail a taxi, to navigating the government regulation to the endless changing of the rules and goalposts, Mr. Dunne describes competing inside China as "a street fight with a veneer of civility". Anyone who has never done business in China will find themselves saying over and over and over again "That doesn't seem fair."

The U.S. Government should read Mr. Dunne's three policy recommendations with regard to the Chinese selling their cars in America.

Will GM prevail in the long run? (I sincerely doubt it - but I look forward to reading the follow-up).
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