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Crash Course: The American Automobile Industry's Road from Glory to Disaster Hardcover – January 5, 2010
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"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
From the Back Cover
In the tradition of James Stewart's Disney War and Michael Lewis's Liar's Poker comes journalist Paul Ingrassia with the inside track on the meltdown of the American automobile industry. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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On the downside, I was disappointed that a journalist of such longstanding experience did not appear to have done many interviews or to have gained much unique access specifically for this book. The whole story was related at a somewhat high level as if Ingrassia just went on vacation with his extensive memories of the car business and sort of put it all together. You rarely get the "you are there" details of a book like Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco or the very interesting car marketing book Where the Suckers Moon: The Life and Death of an Advertising Campaign. You don't get interviews with the major players where they look back on events from the 70s and reflect in retrospect whether they did the right thing. The book lacks, in sum, the kind of unique revelations that you might hope to find in a book rather than a long article.
Ingrassia is fairly reserved with editorializing. It's hard to avoid the conclusion, though, that the UAW put a bullet in the industry's head. However, it should be noted that management was timid. Management was timid in the face of the UAW's unrealistic demands and the union didn't have the self-restraint not to devour the company in a sick orgy of indulgence and exploitation of investors and the public. The reason management became timid, apparently, was that management was busy stealing (in a sense) from stockholders too, granting themselves compensation and benefits out of proportion to their true value as executives on the open market. So it's a sad story of conspiracy against consumers and investors. The ultimate consequence today is that our auto industry is weak and no one wants to start a new factory in the United States for fear of another UAW. Too bad.
Interesting to realize as I was reading this book that generations of Americans lived and died never knowing that the arrogance, greed, incompetence and dishonesty of most of the men who ran the US auto industry killed it off.
The unholy alliance between GM and the union is mind-boggling--even though I thought I knew about that, what I read in this book shocked me. Generations of auto workers enjoyed a "workers' paradise" of inflated pay, superb benefits and insane job protections such as the jobs bank. And management right up through the very top loved all of that too because though it was bad for the company, it did not hurt them personally and that's all that mattered.
Though "Crash Course" is specifically about the auto industry, it's also a cautionary tale about investing in the stock of any American corporation. Corporate executives are immune from failure, they walk away with millions regardless of what happens to a company, so beware investors.
Crash Course is different. The book provides a basic background for each of the automotive companies and hits the high points, but never bogs down. It details just how the American and foreign car companies came to be, how they failed, and which ones may ultimately survive. Paul Ingrassia writes with ease and competence, so the reading is quick and interesting.