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Billy, Alfred, and General Motors: The Story of Two Unique Men, a Legendary Company, and a Remarkable Time in American History Hardcover – March 27, 2006


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Malice Toward None
Featured New Release in Historical Biographies

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: AMACOM (March 27, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814408699
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814408698
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.3 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #641,597 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Pelfrey's biography of the two founders of General Motors, Billy Durant and Alfred Sloan, evokes times when what was good for General Motors was good for America. Pelfrey, a journalist and author, makes the auto business in its early days sound like Silicon Valley: venture capital was plentiful and overnight fortunes flourished. Durant, a dynamic and colorful entrepreneur who made millions in buggy manufacturing before advancing to the newfangled automobile, has been largely forgotten. After dabbling in Wall Street and losing his fortune in speculation, Durant died in penury, supported by old GM partners while attempting to launch a bowling and fast food empire. Conversely, Sloan, the staid and reserved engineer who organized GM in the wake of Durant's enthusiasms, has won the ear of history. Though the attentive reader may suspect Pelfrey has sugarcoated history, his account of the nascent auto business is fascinating: Henry Ford, admired for streamlining and automating auto production, originally balked at manufacturing cars at all, and Cadillac, Buick and Oldsmobile all have surprising origins. Pelfrey's is an engrossing account of the fledgling days of the American auto industry; a bumpy, surprising and entertaining ride.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"Business Times (New Haven, CT): ""Through the lens of history at its most gripping, this book reveals why American business needs both intuitive, risk-taking Billys and logical, bottom-line conscious Alfreds.""

ForeWord: ""The author tells an amazing story, previously largely untold...this is an illuminating, yet little known saga of the clash between eternal dreamers, inventors, tinkerers, and salesmen at the dawn of the twentieth century."""



“This fresh look at early GM is timely and interesting.”

-Corp! (Detroit)



“Pelfrey's work is both entertaining and instructive...[the] book does not predict GM's future. But it masterfully tells about GM's past and, in doing so, helps explain what recently went wrong at the company.”

-Washington Post



“entertaining and instructive… masterfully tells about GM's past and... helps explain what recently went wrong at the company.”

-Washington Post



“…easy to read and extremely well researched.”

-World Business Review


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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 21 customer reviews
Very impressive journalistic skills on the part of the author, well researched.
J. head
Billy Durant, Alfred Sloan, Chrysler and the people behind the history of this great company were unknown to me.
Fernando Castillo
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in pioneers of large business and especially car buffs.
C. Ledford

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Rolf Dobelli HALL OF FAME on November 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In this book you'll find eccentrics, misfits and geniuses who made and lost fortunes, founded and lost companies, gained brief fame and were eventually forgotten by just about everyone except automotive industry historians. Although the book purports to focus on Billy Durant, Alfred Sloan and General Motors, its scope is actually much wider, since the evolution of the automobile industry exemplifies the evolution of U.S. industries in general. We recommend this lively, readable saga to history buffs and managers. It is a highly instructive take on the parallels between boom and bust in the car industry of the 1910s and in the high-tech industry of the 1990s.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Lance Haynes on March 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a very fine book and very accurate accounting that went on back then. I have read all the other books on Mr. Durant and Sloans own book and find this a must read. This book also has 12 pages of great glossy pictures in it. Durant has been dead now for 59 years and they are still writing about him. One of the greatest automobile men to have lived and the most historic with him starting GM and Chevrolet. List price is 27.95 and now only $8.40 on Amozon.com. Brand new book just out here in 2006. Lance Haynes President Durant Motors Automobile Club San Diego, Ca.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. head on February 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very impressive journalistic skills on the part of the author, well researched. The result of scouring memoires, minutes of meetings, company archives, and where records did not exist actually contacting board members still alive from that era.
The author compares the dawning of the automobile era to the late dotcom era, and the similarities are striking. A time when new commercial ventures bring out maverick geniuses, creating and managing by intuition. Some were destined to win big, and the book shows how over time an enterprise matures and settles for leadership from financial and managerial professionals. This book provides a Who's Who of movers and shakers in the beginning of the 20th century, the Morgan's and the DuPont's seeking financial security and investment returns versus a host of entrepreneurs. This book tells the beginnings of what would later be common names across the U.S. Names such as Cadillac, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Delco, and includes short biographies of Walter Chrysler, the Dodge Brothers and of course the famous ringleader, Billy Durant. Billy Durant was the man who conceived General Motors, later ousted by GM's Board of Directors during an economic downturn. Undaunted Billy Durant started Chevrolet and leveraged that corporation to win back control of GM only to lose it again to professional management teams. The book covers the time period when the different divisions of GM had different corporate cultures, and the philosophy of forming a vertical corporation was paramount.
Many readers that work for large corporations will see practices and management initially formed by GM management has affected and been adopted by most every large corporation in the world. This book should be read by every Business major for the lessons it provides.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By John Matlock on July 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In a week when the Nissan-Renault partnership has made a suggestion of parterning with or buying out or merging with General Motors, this book makes a timely read.

Here is the story of the men who founded the company, Sloan and Durant. They were big dreamers, held a vision of the future, and seemed to have a basic understanding of where their company and the automobile industry was going.

I don't know who's in charge at GM now, but it appears that they aren't managing the company to the standard that such an icon of business should be held. Quite likely they are financial people, very knowledgable in making the company profitable this quarter (that's 'this quarter' a few years ago), but ignoring things like fuel efficiency to keep building SUVs (great profits for 'this quarter').

In their day Durant and Sloan managed through a whole series of problems. It's interesting to think about how they might have handled today's problems. The book presents a view of a time when perhaps management could make changes, when the company, the union, and the economy was different.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jace on May 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Not a great book, but many people don't know (or appreciate) the genius of Billy Durant. What is forgotten is that Mr. Durant put the pieces in place that Mr. Sloan built into the General Motors juggernaut -- so powerful that in the 1950s and 1960s, one of its biggest concerns was that the Justice Department would break it up, much like the Microsoft case, to bring the issues into current times. Durant was a fascinating visionary and character . . . Steven Jobs is the best comparison.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Scott McCorkle on May 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am the owner of a Buick and GMC dealership in Charlotte, North Carolina. I am always looking to expand my knowledge on the history of the company that I have grown my business around. Every car guy thinks he knows it all when it comes to automotive history, but then books like this find their way into your hands. I found the author, William Pelfrey, to be very informative and on point with his portrayal of Billy and Alfred. I really enjoyed how everything was encapsulated to the time period. It made me feel as if I was actually living the life of the two men. I would strongly suggest this book for anyone remotely interested in automotive history.
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