This is the epic saga of the American automobile industry's rise and demise, a compelling story of hubris, denial, missed opportunities, and self-inflicted wounds that culminates with the president of the United States ushering two of Detroit's Big Three car companies - once proud symbols of prosperity - through bankruptcy. The cost to American taxpayers topped $100 billion - enough to buy every car and truck sold in America in the first half of 2009.
With unprecedented access, Pulitzer Prize-winner Paul Ingrassia takes us from factory floors to small-town dealerships to Detroit's boardrooms to the inner sanctums of the White House. He reveals why President Barack Obama personally decided to save Chrysler when many of his advisors opposed the idea. Ingrassia provides the dramatic story behind Obama's dismissal of General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner and the angry reaction from GM's board - the same people who had watched idly while the company plunged into penury.
In Crash Course, Ingrassia answers the big questions: Was Detroit's self-destruction inevitable? What were the key turning points? Why did Japanese automakers manage American workers better than the American companies themselves? Ingrassia also describes dysfunctional corporate cultures (even as GM's market share plunged, the company continued business as usual) and Detroit's perverse system of "inverse layoffs" (which allowed union members to invoke seniority to avoid work). Along the way, we meet Detroit's frustrated reformers and witness the wrenching decisions that Ford executives had to make to avoid GM's fate.
Informed by Ingrassia's 25 years of experience covering the auto industry for the Wall Street Journal, and showing an appreciation for Detroit's profound influence on our country's society and culture, Crash Course is a uniquely American and deeply instructive story, one not to be missed.
©2010 Paul J. Ingrassia (P)2010 Tantor
"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." (P. J. O'Rourke, author of Driving Like Crazy)
Banks, real estate, and now the American auto industry have all been covered and Paul Ingrassia does us a favor for filling us in on the car parts (pun intended). He includes the good the bad and ugly.
First, Ingrassia begins at the beginning and covers a lot of ground that to some may be familiar. The start of US auto manufacture, the establishment of GM, Ford, Chrysler and others. The boom years, oil embargo, muscle cars, SUV rage and the Japanese invasion are all here. The latter part of the book, of course, details the ultimate demise of GM and Chrysler.
Ingrassia could be accused of union bashing, but I thought he was really explaining the codependency between management and the unions. He certainly comes down hard on the Honda bribery years and leaves rooms for all of us to hang our heads.
This is really a sad tale and I wonder if the story of the US auto industry might not be a metaphor for the decline of our competitive abilities in general.
Wonderfully written, Crash Course is read by the very able Patrick Lawlor. It is keeps the listener's interest. I would hope that every American concerned about our competitive situation and economic future will give the book a try.
The author really did his homework. I was especially interested in how the GM and Chrysler takeovers went down. There was actually some logic in the way the government handled it, and with the quick closure compared to the average bankruptcy, both companies had a much better chance at recovery than they otherwise might have.
It's a great story - I love business history, especially about failure and recovery.
The narrator has a serious affect whenever he pronounces words with the letter "U". It's almost like he's intentionally trying to have some sort of blue-blood angle to certain words that make them sound like nobody would ever prounounce even in normal narration or conversation.He pronounces every "U", as "eeew", appropriate or not. I can kind of deal with this in words like "tuesday", but the way he says "institeewwtion" and "deewwk" (the university) borders on ludicrous (or, as he would say, "leeewdicrous"). It's particulary humorous listening to him try to insert his affect into the word "June", which he desperately wants to pronounce as "Jeeewne", but he knows it would sound utterly stupid, so he quickly reverts back to normal.It's not a bad enough issue to ruin the book, but you kind of grit your teeth and sigh every time he runs across a "U" word. If you're a bit more of an adverturous type, I guess you could turn it into a drinking game.
mostly nonfiction listener
Some day I'd like to teach a course on industries that implode. I hope we are not talking about higher education in this course, although we should probably learn from the music industry, newspapers, and the American car industry. Ingrassia's book is the best description I've read on the rise and fall of the former Big 3. Could have things been different?
One lesson I took from "Crash Course" is that a fuel of failure is insularity. The car industry failed to take in new ideas because it failed to listen to any voices of outsiders. These voices included first the competition, and next their customers. What sets this book apart is how even-handed Ingrassia is in assigning blame. The unions do not get off any easier than management. Should our government have saved G.M. and propped up Chrysler (to hand over to Fiat)? Will the American auto industry recover to be able to compete effectively? Ingrassia is fairly positive on both these questions, and I find myself somewhat hopeful as well.
This book could have been so much more, but Ingrassia decided to take the easy way out. GM bad. UAW bad. That's basically all he came up with. The real story is much more nuanced then that, and Ingrassia certainly could have taken the time to flesh the story out more.
For someone to whom the depth of the crisis at the big three came as a surprise, this was a very enlightening book. A nice balance of history of the companies from their origins (particularly Ford) and the slow development of entrenched politics, protocol, and a decadent sense of entitlement all around that wouldn't allow the flexibility necessary to compete with diverse competition in the domestic market. Well structured, well performed and with interesting content. Highly recommended to anyone interested in cars, American car culture and American big business.
I am a avid car guy, and evermore of a ford guy. Before reading this book I was completely against the bailout of GM and Chrysler but after this book i have a whole new outlook of the deal. i still think there were things that could have been done differently but it was not of a rash decision as i once thought.
I did not realize how destructive the combination of oligopoly (Big 3 or Detroit 3) and monopoly (UAW) can be to an entire industry. I recommend that you read this well written history.
Do you read the book before you dislike my reviews?
This book is just awesome. Great book if you like the car business. A must read. I could not stopped reading. It's a great read.
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