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American Drive

How Manufacturing Will Save Our Country
Narrated by: Pete Larkin
Length: 12 hrs and 59 mins
4 out of 5 stars (18 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Politicians, voters, executives, and employees all want the answer to one question: How can America compete with cheap foreign labor, and restore skilled, well-paying jobs to our economy? American Drive answers that question.

An executive with nearly 30 years in the trenches of the hard-nosed Detroit automobile industry, Richard E. 'Dick' Dauch had long dreamed of running his own manufacturing company. From his first job on the plant floor at General Motors to his crucial role in helping to rescue Chrysler from the brink of bankruptcy, Dauch focused passionately, and relentlessly, on quality, productivity, and flexibility in manufacturing. In 1993 he took on the challenge of his life, buying a lagging axle supply and parts business from GM, along with five rusting, unprofitable, union-controlled, near-decrepit plants in the heart of a crime-ridden Detroit and a deteriorating environment in Buffalo, New York.

The newly created "stand-alone" company was named American Axle and Manufacturing. Dauch set out to create a world-class industrial automotive manufacturer. He bought and bulldozed the crack, liquor, and prostitution businesses that surrounded the company and rebuilt the plants. He upward educated, trained, and expanded the skill sets of the workforce, struck tough bargains with unions, and solved massive quality problems that were costing tens of millions every year and undermining customer satisfaction. Within one year of opening the doors, AAM had turned an astounding 66 million dollars in profit.

In American Drive, Dauch narrates the story of AAM against the backdrop of his nearly 50 years in the auto industry, from its glory days to its decline in the face of foreign competition, government bailouts, battles with unions, and the recent Great Recession. Tough, smart, inspiring, high-energy, and opinionated, Dauch offers memorable lessons on leadership, advanced product technology, communication, negotiation, and making profits in the most difficult times. Dauch's story transcends the auto industry and draws a blueprint for job creation, manufacturing competitiveness, economic growth, and excellence in America.

©2012 Richard E. Dauch (P)2012 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"A refreshingly different view of manufacturing that clearly identifies what is necessary to compete globally." ( Kirkus Reviews)

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Detailed, but a bit long/repetitive

I bought this book to learn more about the domestic auto industry and how it's been faring with increasing globalization over the past few decades. Dauch does a pretty good job of providing a lot of details of the inner workings of the company. This book was written only a few years before he died.

Things I liked:
- Details about the manufacturing process and reasoning for offshoring

Things I didn't like:
- As another reviewer commented, the author comes off a bit egotistical at times, going on at length about himself and his "virtues"
- It gets repetitive. A couple times, I thought I had gone backwards in the audio and had to check to make sure I was going forward. Some passages and themes are repeated verbatim several times.

The main premise of the issues the author says he had are with the UAW, the united auto workers union. This takes up a very large portion of the book, and there is constant talking down about unions. While I can understand this in many respects, and I didn't feel he's lying about a lot of the things he said, unions are also the reason we have 40 hour workweeks as well as many other things. He cites Germany several times as a country to lookup to in industrial policy, but fails to mention the massive involvement of unions there (Mitbestimmung), with around half the board of directors being represented by unions. His company also increasingly invested in Mexico and Asia to export components instead of the right-to-work states that he heralds repeatedly.

The story cuts out in the last few chapters right in the midst of the auto industry downturn in the recession. I later found through googling that they closed several of the plants he talked about building up throughout the book. In fact, I think only one of those 3 or so is still left today. The author died right around this time.

The last chapter was especially interesting because it covers what US regulators could do to incentivize more domestic production in manufacturing.

Overall, I still think it's a good read, although I felt like the book could have been shortened quite a bit. Throughout the story of the company, he also details many things he did to save money and increase efficiency.

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  • RDL
  • Apex, NC United States
  • 12-18-12

A great company with a poorly constructed story

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

Great story mistold with large amounts of repetition, overly general statements, bland business lectures and story lines that start and stop. There were times when I had to look at the chapter I was listening to see if I had accidently replayed an older chapter. Dick has a line in the book where he says he waged war on sloppy work. This book was sloppy work, so this makes it even more disappointing. While Dick does give some details of his work, I wish he did more details and less general statements or repeating details over and over again rather than offer new ones. Still there are moments in the book that are important to know so I’m glad I listened to it –it just took some effort.

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

Most: How American Drive fought the UAW and the survival story from 2008-2009. Least: "Going from a five-cut, wet cut to two-cut, dry cut..." This may be the most repeated line in the book. Don't mind the details, but this seems to represent 90% of his technology advancement in the company based on the repetition.

What aspect of Pete Larkin’s performance would you have changed?

Pete did the best he could with the story he had.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

I would see a movie about American Axle, but not one based on this book.

Any additional comments?

I wish I could have given this book five-stars. This great company deserved a better story.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful