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Once Upon a Car: The Fall and Resurrection of America's Big Three Automakers--GM, Ford, and Chrysler Hardcover – October 4, 2011
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Amazon Exclusive Essay: Bill Vlasic on the Men who Battled for the American Auto Industry
Bill Ford: The great-grandson of Henry Ford realized he had to give up his job as chief executive in order to save the company. He confided to aides: “I’m not the best person to operate this place,” he said. “I want to get somebody who can do it right.”
Alan Mulally: The former Boeing executive’s fresh approach turned the company around and kept it from begging for a government bailout. “These three companies have been slowly going out of business for eighty years,” he said. “And their arrogance caught up with them.”
Rick Wagoner and Bob Lutz: They were convinced G.M. was on the right track, until the 2008 recession. Wagoner, G.M.’s chairman and CEO, lost his job after leading the Big Three to Washington for emergency assistance. “The moral of the story,” he said, “is never put yourself in a position where you have to go down there.” Lutz said, “Those people down there hate us.”
Kirk Kerkorian and Jerry York: The Las Vegas billionaire and his aggressive advisor tried to grab General Motors, but failed. “Wagoner has never accomplished anything,” said Kerkorian. York urged him to buy Ford shares – and ride Mulally’s turnaround plan. “It’s pretty damn clear to me that Ford has a huge sense of urgency compared to G.M.,” he said.
Steve Feinberg: The intense chairman of Cerberus Capital Management believed his private-equity company could turn Chrysler into a moneymaker, and so he bought the smallest of the Big Three carmakers from Daimler Benz. “What could be a better opportunity than an orphan in an industry that’s at the bottom?”
Sergio Marchionne: The crafty head of Fiat offered the Obama administration an alternative to letting Chrysler go broke which would liquidate tens of thousands of jobs. Marchionne knew Detroit was facing its reckoning in 2008. “I can smell the fear in this town,” he said. “I can feel it, the feeling of impending doom.”
“Essential account of the United States auto industry.” (New York Times Book Review, Editor's Choice)
“Compelling... a human approach to an industry that couldn’t be less human in scale... entertaining.” (Wall Street Journal)
“The book is extraordinary. Vlasic offers what will probably become the definitive retelling of the crisis that nearly felled America’s three carmaking icons.” (Financial Times)
“A deeply reported, full-on narrative in the style of Barbarians at the Gate or Game Change.” (Chicago Tribune)
“Once Upon a Car is the best book on the whole shebang that you are ever going to read... a critical history.” (Huffington Post)
“With almost anthropological precision, Once Upon a Car is a thorough and compelling account of the collapse of the domestic auto industry” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
“Even with all the ink spilled on Detroit lately, Vlasic’s tale is as fresh as a new car… Vlasic says he wanted to write a fast-paced narrative, and he’s penned a page-turner in Once Upon a Car” (Fortune.com)
“Vlasic delivers a devastating account of auto industry arrogance, ignorance, and tragedy.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Terrific... better than most novels... truly fascinating.” (Free Lance Star Virginia)
“Vlasic enriches his journalistic attention to detail with the drama and pacing of a thriller.” (800ceoRead)
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Top customer reviews
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I'd also recommend Taken for a Ride - another well written book that takes a behind the scenes look at Daimler Chrysler. That knowledge will make the Chrysler parts of this book even more interesting as you watch that merger unraveled.
Ford leadership, Ford family, and Ford relations with UAW comes out looking very good
GM and Chrysler and UAW not so good at every level.
Private Equity is skewered in the book…and trusted by no one. Those feelings carried over to the 2012 defeat of Romney, in my view.
Daimler/the Germans couldn't exit fast enough. They despised Chrysler's Blue Collar roots and crappy products.
Government was more interested in theater beating up Detroit execs, and propping up the UAW voting base for 2008 election—and it worked
Detroit, both company and union, were surprised at low level of respect…bordering on distain…at all levels of society. Sure sign of insular leadership. Arriving in the corporate jet with hat in hand for bailout monies was but one example of the deafness.
It is a great read, and Vlasic is a fine story teller. How he comes up with the anecdotes which I take to be truthful and accurate is beyond me.
What you might also like about this book is that not only does Vlasic interview the top players and CEOs within the companies but he also interviews blue collar line workers to get and show their perspective on what was going during this major shake up in the American auto industry. What you receive is a well-rounded picture of what happened during this time in history.
The thing I liked the most about this book is that it is a professionally written book and is written like a story or a fly on the wall during the fall and resurrection of the Auto Industry. So many books I have read on the subject are just one person pontificating on his opinion of what happened. What Vlasic does is he tries to give a complete and unbiased account of what happened.
Some have stated that Vlasic is too pro-Ford, or too pro-Mulally. While this might be the case, Vlasic accurately shows how Ford avoided bankruptcy by betting the farm including all their assets and even the Ford logo to secure additional financing that was able to stave off bankruptcy. Of course this made Ford look like the smartest team in the room, but not even they could have predicted such a sour turn of events would happen during the Great Recession of 2008. So, yes, I agree that the book is pro-Ford and pro-Mulally, but I think Vlasic is giving credit where credit is due and that the praise is well-deserved.
The author brings to life a drama in American business that might otherwise be dry. I confess I am a "car guy" from way back so there is probably some fertile ground for this account to be enjoyed.
I am also a lawyer. As such I have an appreciation for the roles the various players had legally, in particular the position of the creditors of these woebegon corporations. I was shocked at the difference between how the Bush adminstration handled the crisis from that of the Obama approach.
For Bush and his people, there was a distance any creditor might have, a sense that the government had a role in preserving these institutions that supported so much of the economy. Lend some money, then see how it goes. It ended there.
For Obama and his people being a creditor named The United States of America meant they could take over. I know of no other creditor who could usher the CEO of a corporation into the office one day and effectively fire him. I know of no other creditor that could go on television and give another corporation 30 days to make a deal with Fiat, ( thereby boosting the negotiating position of that Italian car maker immeasurably ) or DIE. I know of no other creditor who could bully the other creditors into taking less than what was owed. I admit they were going to get less anyway, but the idea of one creditor being able to force the issue seemed to run counter to the Rule of Law.
The story of the negotiations of UAW, Chrysler and GM resembled a struggle in the cockpit for the controls while the plane flew into the mountain.
Bill Ford and Allan Mulally look like the kind of corporate leadership this country needs repeated over and over in order to compete in the modern global economy. These guys are heros. My next car will be a Ford.
Most recent customer reviews
I was so intrigued by the content of this book that I could not put it down. I read all night long. Very fascinating. Well written. Not biased.Read more