Once Upon a Car: The Fall and Resurrection of America's Big Three Automakers--GM, Ford, and Chrysler

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9780061845628: Once Upon a Car: The Fall and Resurrection of America's Big Three Automakers--GM, Ford, and Chrysler

Once Upon a Car is the fascinating epic story of the rise, fall, and rebirth of the Big Three U.S. automakers, General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler. Written by Bill Vlasic, the Detroit bureau chief for the New York Times and acclaimed author of Taken for a Ride, this eye-opening, richly anecdotal work is more than a riveting and insightful business history. It offers a clear-eyed view of the present day automobile industry and of Detroit, the city that spawned it, going far beyond the corporate and federal maneuverings to explore the impact the car companies’ failures have had on the overall economy, and more importantly what they have done to people’s lives.  Relevant and thought-provoking, Once Upon a Car is an unforgettable journey deep inside this quintessentially American industry.

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Review:


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.”

From the Back Cover:

Once Upon a Car is the brilliantly reported inside-the-boardrooms-and-factories story of Detroit’s fight for survival, going beyond the headlines to chronicle how the country’s Big Three auto companies—General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler—teetered on the brink of collapse during the 2008 financial crisis. In a tale that reads like a corporate thriller, Bill Vlasic, who has covered the auto industry for more than fifteen years, first for the Detroit News and now for the New York Times, takes readers into the executive offices, assembly plants, and union halls to introduce a cast of memorable characters, many of whom are speaking out for the first time, including the executives who struggled to save their companies but in the end had to seek a controversial, last-gasp rescue from the U.S. government.

Vlasic goes behind the scenes to portray the men at the top during Detroit’s last stand. Rick Wagoner, the CEO of General Motors, tried to turn around a dying company, only to be forced to resign as a condition of the government bailout. Bill Ford, great-grandson of the legendary Henry Ford, had the will to keep Ford alive but needed the guts to hire an unknown outsider, Alan Mulally, to transform the company before it crashed. At Chrysler, leadership was constantly changing as new owners tried in vain to fix the smallest of the beleaguered Big Three. And through it all, the president of the United Auto Workers union, Ron Gettelfinger, fought to save the jobs of the men and women who build American-made cars and trucks.

This tale of an iconic industry in crisis is more than a big business drama and provides a rich, unvarnished portrait of how Detroit’s decline affected tens of thousands of workers and dozens of communities nationwide. The story moves from the gleaming corporate skyscrapers and massive auto plants to the halls of the U.S. Congress and into the Oval Office, where President Obama and his aides wrestled with how to keep General Motors and Chrysler from going out of business. Vlasic shows why the bailout worked, and how Detroit can succeed under new leadership and build automobiles equal to any in the world.

Once Upon a Car tells a uniquely American tale of success, failure, and redemption. It is an important and illuminating chapter in an astonishing story that is still unfolding. And no one is more qualified to write it than Bill Vlasic.

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