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Tragic Indifference: One Man's Battle with the Auto Industry over the Dangers of SUVs Hardcover – November 11, 2003

52 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a stinging invective, journalist Penenberg outlines the ethical failures and calculated improprieties of two principal automotive-industry companies, along with the struggle of attorney Tab Turner to hold them accountable. Already an established consumer-rights lawyer, Turner began to focus on Ford Explorers equipped with Firestone Wilderness tires in the mid to late 1990s, when the number of cases in which the tread separated from a tire and resulted in an often fatal rollover accident began to become significant. Penenberg uses Turner's involvement in the case of Donna Bailey, who was paralyzed in such an accident in Texas in 2000, as the framework for his book. As Turner investigates further, Penenberg paints a picture of an automaker trying to dominate the lucrative SUV market despite known stability flaws with its signature model in the class, and of a tire manufacturer willing to sacrifice the integrity of its products in order to fulfill the wishes of its biggest client. The writing and structure of the book are somewhat formulaic, as the chief concern is the reportage. Penenberg is also so strident in his tone and puts the companies in such a harsh light that it almost makes one wonder if this is an accurate portrayal, but he offers extensive endnotes from an array of sources to back up his claims. It's a comprehensive and disturbing book, and perhaps its ultimate validation is that Ford and Firestone, which had done business for nearly 100 years, broke ties, and Ford agreed not only to settle Bailey's case for tens of millions of dollars but also to have executives videotaped at her hospital bedside as they offered condolences.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“A comprehensive look at a notorious corporate scandal and a courtroom drama and investigation that ends in triumph.” (Library Journal)

“A stinging invective.” (Publishers Weekly) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Collins Business; First Edition edition (November 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060090588
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060090586
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,123,299 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Adam L. Penenberg is a journalism professor at New York University who has written for Fast Company, Forbes, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Wired, Slate, Playboy, and the Economist. A former senior editor at Forbes and a reporter for, Penenberg garnered national attention in 1998 for unmasking serial fabricator Stephen Glass of the New Republic. Penenberg's story was a watershed for online investigative journalism and portrayed in the film Shattered Glass (Steve Zahn plays Penenberg).

Penenberg has published several books that have been optioned for film and serialized in the New York Times Magazine, Wired UK, and the Financial Times, and won a Deadline Club Award for feature reporting for his Fast Company story "Revenge of the Nerds," which looked at the future of movie-making. He has appeared on NBC's The Today Show as well as on CNN and all the major news networks, and has been quoted about media and technology in the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, Wired News, Ad Age, Marketwatch, Politico, and many others.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Lewis Z. Koch on November 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover
After reading the first 13 pages, your blood starts to boil. By the time one finishes this scathing 342 page book the reader wants to throw the book against the wall, or better, against the heads of company executives who deliberately make terrible, killing and maiming products.
"Tragic Indifference" documents, step by step, tragic, tear-inducing tale of indifference by Ford Motor Company and Firestone tires. Penenberg's book has been purchased for a film, not surprisingly because in a sense, it is a remake of the classic 1991 film "Class Action" which goes over the same grounds -- a car manufacturer indifferent to the death and disability of its riders.The more things changes...Only this is not fiction; every word is true.
Here the case is one car company, Ford and one tire company, Firestone, who make an ugly pair as they conspire (for purely economic reasons) to build an unsafe car and tires to match. They refuse to redress their errors because it is cheaper to pay the hidden-to-the-public legal settlements filed by those who have been killed or maimed, or permanently crippled. Out of sight, out of mind. Except it becomes open to the public when a reporter as tenacious as Penenberg, matches his writing talents with his investigative skills.
By the time you finish Penenberg's book, you will never purchase a Ford automobile or allow a Firestone tire on your car. You will reconsider the car you drive, and the tires you've purchased no matter the make or model.
There is more to this story -- the story of deliberate government indifference with a mindset bent on protecting corporate malfeasance. There are agencies created to protect the consumer, agencies who fail in every instance, to do just that.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Susan L on November 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is the kind of book that reels you in from page 1 and doesn't let you go until the very end. I finished it one weekend! It's so utterly gripping as it takes the reader on an amazing ride from the highway, to the hospital, the boardroom and the courtroom through the vantage point of one of America?s top lawyers, Tab Turner. When government regulators fail to step in and enforce safety regulations on the Ford Bronco II and the ever-popular Ford Explorer, Turner steps in fight the good fight. Tab is portrayed as a brilliant and wise cracking attorney from Arkansas who becomes a one man tour-de-force in taking the auto industry to task. Early on in the book, Penenberg introduces us to Donna Bailey, the single mother and mountain climber, who one day sets out on a hiking trip with her best friend and returns home, months later as a quadriplegic, when her Explorer rolls over, nearly crushing her to death.
As the story builds, you feel that for the first time you truly understand how the decisions that large corporations make, impact our everyday lives. The author, obviously an investigative journalist, knows how to weave together the elements of the story including insider memos from Ford and Firestone, whistleblower testimony and even settlement information that would seem to be confidential. You somehow feel that Penenberg is letting you into this secret world, where corporate greed and cover-ups are everyday business, the side of American business that we rarely get to see. Penenberg forces us to open our eyes and literally feel how these decisions, have killed hundreds of American every year, while companies make no attempt to change the way they do business. It was impossible to put this book down.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I truly believe this book should be added to the social history books that have helped make the average person more aware of some of the horrific injustices that occur, (especially when the government is in charge of "overseeing" a specific industry). This book immediately brought to mind Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle", Ralph Nadar's "Unsafe at Any Speed" and Eric Schlosser's "Fast Food Nation" - It makes you realize that if it wasn't for those authors and others - so much of what is happening in this country would go unnoticed.
Since I don't want to be redundent, I won't repeat what all the other positive reviews have been saying, you can read those for yourself (and yes- it is a page turner!), but I wanted to mention that one of the more striking things about this horrendous story of corporate greed is that you realize that as an individual you can make a difference. In addition to the really great lawyers who are out there working on the publics' behalf (if it wasn't for stories like this - you may not even realize that there are some great lawyers out there - thank you Tab Turner), you have to remember it takes a lot of courage to become a company whistleblower, putting yourself, family, friends let alone your future livelyhood on the line - in order to stand up for something you believe in. It's unfortunate that more of these people who stand up for what they believe in, are not supported and held in high esteem as heroes as I believe they should be (thank you Alan Hogan, Joan Claybrook, Sean Kane and others that were part of this story).
America's love affair with "bigger is better" and the constant need to "upsize" so many things in our life is put to shame by a story like this.
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