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

4.5 out of 5 stars 55 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 (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,426,349 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a geat book on so many levels, I read it in one day!!
Besides the great attention to detail covering the Ford/Firestone debacle, it shines a spotlight onto corporate ethics. That might be the greatest most overriding point of this book. It should almost be required reading for people promoted to management.

What Adam didn't indicate in his book (I don't recall seeing it), is that while Ford engineers pointed out during numerous pre-production design stages the Explorer was shown to be unstable and what the costs would be to re-design accordingly to make it more stable. Remember, at that time, Ford was getting away from the Bronco II which had a roll-over fatality rate of 1 in 500 Broncos sold!! So Ford should have been more than extra cautious given all the Bronco lawsuits at the time. And get this: Ford was making piles of cash! In 2000 Ford had $24 billion of cash on hand as reported in the book, High And Mighty (also a good book). It would have been far cheaper to stop and make the necessary changes up front (which they ultimate did re-design) than fight the flurry of lawsuits, investigations, fines and reputation dragged through the mud.

Even though this book is getting on in years, it still has significant relevance in terms of corporate ethics and like I say, should be required reading for corporate managers.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
purchased a new 2000 Ford Explorer just before the Firestone tire failure debate became news. Ford declared my tires were not in the recalled group. Preparing for a four thousand mile road trip, replaced my tires at my expense. Upon returning, Ford informed me my tires were subject to recall, and reimbursed me for my replacements. Even thought Ford continued to blame Firestone for the tire failures and rollover incidents, this book detailed how Ford hid design failures and engineering recommendations, and their underhanded methods to force Firestone to manufacture lower priced, lesser weight, and resultantly lower quality tires, or lose 20 percent of their market sales.
definitey an eye opening book, and I doubt that I will ever purchase another new Ford product, nor Firestone tire..
paul bass
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