• Billy, Alfred, and General Motors

  • The Story of Two Unique Men, A Legendary Company, and a Remarkable Time in American History
  • By: William Pelfrey
  • Narrated by: Dickson Lane
  • Length: 11 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 12-10-10
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Audible Studios
  • 4 out of 5 stars (109 ratings)

Regular price: $24.95

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Publisher's Summary

One industry has had more impact on life in America than any other before or since. Here is the story of two men and one company at the start of it all.

You couldn't find two more different men. Billy Durant was the consummate salesman, a brilliant wheeler-dealer with grand plans, unflappable energy, and a fondness for the high life. Alfred Sloan was the intellectual, an expert in business strategy and management, master of all things organizational. Together, this odd couple built perhaps the most successful enterprise in U.S. history, General Motors, and with it an industry that has come to define modern life throughout the world. Their story is full of timeless lessons, cautionary tales, and inspiration for business leaders and history buffs alike.

Billy, Alfred, and General Motors is the tale not just of the two extraordinary men of its title but also of the formative decades of 20th-century America, through two world wars and sea changes in business, industry, politics, and culture. The book includes vivid, warts-and-all portraits of the legends of the golden age of the automobile, from "Crazy" Henry Ford, Ransom Olds, and Charles Nash to the brilliant but uncredited David Dunbar Buick and Cadillac founder Henry Leland.The impact of Durant and Sloan on their contemporaries and their industry is matched only by the powerful legacy of their improbable and incredible partnership. Characters, events, and context--all are brought skillfully and passionately to life in this meticulously researched and supremely readable book.

©2006 William Pelfrey (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Anyone interested in the current story of General Motors should read this engrossing description of the beginnings and early growth of this largest of all America's businesses. Billy, Alfred, and the General is an important work on the history of the automobile industry." (John G. Smale, retired Chairman and CEO, Procter and Gamble Company; former Chairman, General Motors Corporation)
"This book is particularly timely, with the auto industry in a period of extreme turbulence that features a restructuring of General Motors, as well as other icons of times gone by. In a sense, we may be reliving in the 21st century the auto drama of the 20th century portrayed so well by Bill Pelfrey. The author's outstanding writing and research skills are evident throughout and make this one of the most important and fascinating books I've read in a very long time." (David E. Cole, Chairman of the Center for Automotive Research)
"Every person who is interested in the building of the American automobile industry must read this book. Bill Pelfrey has done a great job researching the early years of Billy Durant and Alfred Sloan and the very different roles they played in the history of General Motors." (Jack Smith, retired Chairman and CEO, General Motors Corporation)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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

Not Only an Automotive History

Outstanding book. One doesn't have to be an automotive buff to enjoy this read.

It's also a good look into the early 20th century in general, and our industrial history as well. This isn't the only book to do so of course, but it's very interesting to watch as the now household names of Buick, Cadillac, Oldsmobile et al come in to existence. First as independents, then as General Motors.

The only draw back, and I rarely critique the narrator, but this reader's technique for quoting someone was to read in a false voice as if he were trying to sound like someone's grandmother - and doing a poor job of it no less. It was the same weird grandmother-like voice no matter who he was quoting.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Philo
  • San Diego, CA, United States
  • 11-03-12

Terrific business history

The Flint-Detroit area must have been incredible back in the day when it was bustling with such inventive characters and energy. It was the Silicon Valley of its time. Buick, Chrysler, Ford and their contemporaries were as eccentric and diverse a bunch as one could imagine. One gets a sense of this age, when modern industries and amazing products were leaping onto the American stage, revolutionizing life. In the Alfred Sloane phase, we see too a different phase of American history unfold, as America's industrial giants assumed titanic proportions and management styles to fit. From a fan of good business history, this book is a well-blended mix of the lives (with all victories, quirks, foibles on display) , the finances, and the technologies, I found utterly listenable.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Tim
  • United States
  • 07-07-12

Bland Information

Unless you really want to learn about the automotive industry in America, I would recommend something else, like Crash Course by Paul Ingrassia or The Yugo by Jason Vuic. They are much more entertaining than this GM title.

That being said, there are many points to highlight about GM, such as they were the first company to setup pensions for their workers, prior to 401k and Social Security. They also established their own financing division, GMAC and their own automotive trade school and and was a major contributor to the war, but the information that is presented is just dry.

GM is probably the greatest industrial company in history, but the information is this book is just bland. You really have to like GM to get through this book. It's a very informative read, but I think it is written "as is" as history tells it without any drama or plot.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • R H II
  • Boulder, CO USA
  • 10-31-15

Great mostly

I thought the book was very interesting and was written in an enertaining way. At times it was a little too pro GM, but hey it was a book about GM. The reader was great when reading the text, but I struggled with how quotes were read. His voice became too soft and I often had to turn it up just to hear it. This may seem minor but when he returns the author's text things are then way to loud. I would still recommend the book and really 90% of the time the reader is great.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • K
  • 02-21-15

Remarkable and legendary business men

I've read this book twice so I was looking forward to listening to this on a extended road trip. For automotive history buffs and anyone trying to learn from past business adventures this a great story that shows two completely different characters who we're in the thick of it and help start it all.

The narrator did a good job overall of keeping the story interesting while trying to Bring to life the many characters the book provide.

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

Good Story Horrible reader

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

Good information, answered a lot of questions.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Dickson Lane?

Practically anyone else. When he read excerpts from letters he goes in to a feminine hi pitched Jimmy Cagney type of voice which is cringeworthy.

Could you see Billy, Alfred, and General Motors being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

Web cartoon

Any additional comments?

no

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Brian
  • BALMORAL,Brisbane Australia
  • 04-03-13

Great Story

I really liked this book about the history of not only one of the most significant companys in history but the lives of these two key players.

Not only did we get the history of GM but the history of the motor car in the American incarnation. It is a historical story, really well read, I really like the soft reading when quoting actual characters, and it kept moving.

An enriching experience.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Paul
  • United States
  • 12-19-12

Interesting history - quirky narrator

Would you try another book from William Pelfrey and/or Dickson Lane?

Yes, to the author; NO to the narrator.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Billy, Alfred, and General Motors?

Interesting story about the formation of the auto industry, and GM in particular. Good character studies of the principles; Durant, Sloan, and Henry Ford.

How could the performance have been better?

The main negative is with the narrator who had a very strange quirk that I have never heard any other narrator do as a long-time Audible listener. Whenever he read a direct quote, he lowered his voice an octave and delivered the quote in a shy, quiet way... as if he were delivering a secret that he didn't want anyone to overhear except the listener. There was absolutely no need to do this - the narrative made it very clear that it was a quote - and why the narrator felt he had to significantly alter his delivery is a complete mystery. The reason this was a big problem is I listen in my car, and I continually had to crank up the volume every time he read a quote. It was VERY ANNOYING... and for absolutely no reason.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Billy, Alfred, and General Motors?

I would have forced the narrator to deliver the story consistently, rather than lowering his voice every time he came to a quote.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Charles
  • ALBANY, NY, United States
  • 12-19-12

excellent early history of the auto industry

Any additional comments?

The is an excellent history of the automobile industry and the evolution of the modern corportation as told throught the lives of two very different men.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Kjell
  • United States
  • 07-31-12

Fascinating early history of the auto industry

Would you listen to Billy, Alfred, and General Motors again? Why?

I wouldn't listen to it again, but I enjoyed listening to it.

What did you like best about this story?

Fascinating to hear about the eccentric characters and the early history of companies that are household names.

Any additional comments?

Writing engaging business history can be very difficult, especially when it does not relate to recent crises. Pelfry does a wonderful job, and is helped by a colorful set of characters and a wily industry so different from the staid auto industry we have today.