February 06, 2012

'Taken for a Ride' about Detroit's meltdown

Once upon a CarOnce upon a Car by Bill Vlasic

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good overview of how Detroit got to the location where GM and Chrysler both had to go through bankruptcies, with both rising gas prices gutting the market for trucks and SUVs and the Great Recession drying up credit.

A good one but not a great one. Way back in the 1980s, the UAW, as well as the Big Three, resisted building greener cars. The UAW's Douglas Fraser invited Japan, in the persona of Honda, to come over; so why didn't the UAW unionize plants outside of that one, the plants outside the Midwest/West Coast? Years before the two bankruptcies, the Big Three all knew that healthcare costs were an albatross around their necks vis-a-vis the Japanese plants back in Japan, so why didn't they push for national health care? Why didn't the UAW earlier, for that matter?

There's tentative to complete answers to much of those rhetorical questions, but Vlasic's book doesn't have a long enough time line to look at some of them. Others, though, fit in the time frame he has, and he opts not to dig deeper.

So, while it's a good book, it's not a great book. It's also not great for ending so soon after the bankruptcy filings, with no prediction/analysis for the future. And, I suspect Vlasic may be too much of an insider to have given us a harder-hitting book.

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