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Crash Course: The American Automobile Industry's Road from Glory to Disaster Hardcover – January 5, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (January 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400068630
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400068630
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #548,546 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Paul Ingrassia, with longtime and impressive credentials thinking and writing about the vicissitudes of the American auto industry, has delivered in Crash Course a devastating and compelling narrative of the ongoing hubris and miscalculation that felled one of our country's corporate treasures. Ingrassia explains clearly that the Big Three's days were numbered long before the recent bankruptcy filings of GM and Chrysler. Crash Course thus becomes a cautionary tale for an industry's failure to make the changes necessary to survive in a global marketplace until it was almost too late."—William Cohan, author of House of Cards and The Last Tycoons
 
"How did America's biggest business sink? It's complicated – three Titanics, dozens of icebergs, and 60 million deck chairs per year being rearranged. Only Paul Ingrassia can explain."—PJ O'Rourke, author of Driving Like Crazy 

"Crash Course is one wild ride. Paul Ingrassia knows the auto industry from union hall to executive suite, from greasy plants to sleazy accounting practices. Passionate, biting and insightful, this book is a devastating critique of how capital and labor unwittingly colluded to break apart a great American industry. Rich with insider anecdote, peopled with unforgettable—and unforgivable—characters, Crash Course explains not just what happened to America's cars, but to its very soul."—Geraldine Brooks, author of March


"Paul Ingrassia is the best informed, most insightful reporter on the auto industry. A gripping decline-and-fall saga of Detroit's Big Three, Crash Course is a fascinating inside look at how ego and hubris destroyed an industry, with riveting behind-the-scenes details and great reporting. This book is a must-read account of how the Obama administration took control and upended the Detroit power structure."—Jim Stewart, author of Den of Thieves and DisneyWar

"Paul Ingrassia’s deeply insightful and highly knowledgeable chronicle of the American automobile industry should be read by anyone who is interested in finding a successful way forward, not only for American automakers but also for American manufacturing and our workers.  One might not agree with all of his views, but they should stimulate the serious debates that we need on issues critical to our future."—Robert Rubin, Co-Chairman, Council on Foreign Relations and Former Secretary of Treasury

About the Author

Paul Ingrassia is the former Detroit bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1993 (with Joseph B. White) for reporting on management crises at General Motors, Ingrassia has chronicled the auto industry for more than twenty-five years. He is co-author, with White, of Comeback: The Fall and Rise of the American Automobile Industry, and has made numerous media appearances on ABC TV's World News Tonight and Good Morning America, NPR's Morning Edition, and other programs.

More About the Author

Paul Ingrassia is the former Detroit bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1993 (with Joseph B. White) for reporting on management crises at General Motors, Ingrassia has chronicled the auto industry for more than twenty-five years. His latest book, "Crash Course: the American Automobile Industry's Road from Glory to Disaster," is the first book published about the 2009 bailouts and bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Meet the Press, the PBS Newshour, CNBC, National Public Radio and more. He's a frequent op-ed contributor to The Wall Street Journal, Edmunds.com and other publications.

Customer Reviews

If you are looking for a book that covers a long timeline then this one isn't too bad.
A Scientist
If anyone is well placed to chronicle the collapse of the American automobile industry it is industry veteran Paul Ingrassia.
Todd Bartholomew
This book 'crash course' was an excellent read for anyone with an interest in the american auto industry. great value too.
billperry

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Todd Bartholomew TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover
If anyone is well placed to chronicle the collapse of the American automobile industry it is industry veteran Paul Ingrassia. "Crash Course" is a damning indictment of how badly Detroit's Big Three have squandered any chance at survival they once had. In the process "Crash Course" is a crash course on how to fail at negotiating globalism, managing the marketplace, and surviving in a competitive marketplace without government intervention. Ingrassia moves seamlessly from the corporate headquarters to union halls to get the genuine skinny on what's REALLY happening in Detroit and elsewhere. Daresay, there is no other industry insider who is un-bought and un-bowed that could deliver such a story other than Ingrassia, who eschews playing favorites and calls it like he sees it. Ingrassia captures the accounting gimmicks, industry infighting, and general malaise within the industry that has led to its collapse. The result is at times depressing and often hilarious, sometimes all at once. If there is a way forward it's not the way imagined by the Washington bureaucrats who have propped up Detroit, allowing it a change to fail in ways unimagined.

The result of Ingrassia's work is hardly cheerful; there is a way forward, but it will take more leadership and vision than currently exists in Washington or Detroit, but lets hope someone will latch onto it! At times "Crash Course" feels too much like an overtly nostalgic trip backwards with its pictures of decades old muscle cars. That leads to the contradictory mix of the here and now: is Ingrassia arguing for a way forwards or a call to the past? Obviously older boomers will bemoan how Ingrassia is rejecting the past, but there HAS to be a ways forward. " Crash Course" gives some glimpse to that way.
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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Loyd E. Eskildson HALL OF FAME on January 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Last year the federal government spent $106 billion to bail out G.M. and Chrysler. In return, the two companies went through bankruptcy and substantially reduced their debt loads, will shut down 16 more factories by 2011 (after closing 22 between 2004-08), 3,000 dealerships will disappear, along with Pontiac, Saturn, and probably Saab, and the UAW gave up its 'Jobs Bank' (allowed senior workers to volunteer for layoffs at 95% pay) and many other prized bargaining wins. Only 60-some years previously these same auto companies, along with Ford and other firms, had been key to America's industrial might that helped win WWII. "Crash Course" provides an excellent accounting of how Detroit's auto oligopoly and labor union monopoly both failed after 70 years of constant battling.

In 1955, G.M. became the world's first company to earn over $1 billion in a year, its market share exceeded 50% (was being closely watched by the Justice Dept.), and Detroit's CEOs were king of the world. In 1960, imports comprised less than 5% of the U.S. auto market, though rising to 15% (mostly German) by 1971. More ominously, the year 1970 brought a 67-day strike against G.M., and worker sabotage at its Lordstown (Vega) plant. G.M. then worsened its quality problems by creating a new overall division (GMAD) in charge of production, separate from design and marketing and creating a lack of accountability. Then, in 1973 Detroit's import problems intensified with the first Arab oil embargo - buyers not only tried and liked Japanese cars' better fuel mileage, but their improved reliability (vs. the Chevrolet Corvair and Vega, Ford Pinto, and the later Dodge Omni) as well.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Keith Otis Edwards on April 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The very worst type of book is one which presents information that everyone knows, but it's the author's conceit that he is such a virtuoso with words that you'll be delighted to read it anyway.

"Crash Course" begins that way. Everyone is already familiar with Henry Ford's famous dictum that a buyer of a Model-T could "have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black," but Paul Ingrassia has to gussy this up and get the wording wrong by writing, "To simplify the production process further, he decreed that instead of making the Model-T available in red, green, and blue, customers henceforth could have 'any color they wanted, as long as it's black.' " Why mention only one color if you can name three and include "henceforth" to boot? Ingrassia erroneously credits Henry Ford with inventing the concept of the assembly line, when he actually had nothing to do with its development.

The book hits its nadir with the author's reminiscences of the fabulous '50s and '60s, and we are treated to not one, but three lists of his favorite rock-'n'-roll car songs -- each list including the Beach Boys' "Fun, Fun, Fun" -- followed by a Freudian comparison of gaudy tail fins, grilles and bumpers to the reproductive anatomy. This book, ostensibly about the collapse of the auto industry in recent years, wastes many pages on such threadbare topics as Ralph Nader vs. the Corvair, the flop of the Edsel, and a third of the book has passed before we even reach the 1990s.
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