Books by Paul J. Ingrassia

Released: Sept. 28, 1994

An informative if overlong account of how American car makers regained much of the ground they had lost during the 1980s to foreign rivals in their own backyard and Europe. Drawing mainly on their own reportage as Detroit-based correspondents for The Wall Street Journal, Ingrassia and White offer a lively series of set pieces illustrating how Motown's Big Three (Chrysler, Ford, General Motors) managed to avert envelopment by their Japanese counterparts (Honda, Nissan, Toyota, et al.) and to launch an impressively effective counterattack. In large measure, the authors conclude, the improvement in the US industry's fortunes is attributable to its capacity to adopt and adapt the cost-control, employee-empowerment, productivity, and quality- assurance techniques pioneered by Japanese manufacturers. As Ingrassia and White make clear, however, the makeover was convulsive on the assembly line as well as in the executive suite. The authors do a fine job of reconstructing the boardroom coups that resulted in the ouster of such old-guard stalwarts as Chrysler's Lee Iacocca, Ford's Don Peterson, and GM's Bob Stempel (the unfortunate engineer who inherited the god-awful mess Roger Smith had made of the planet's largest commercial enterprise). Covered as well are the lesser lights who designed the passenger vehicles (Chrysler's Neon and Ford's born-again Mustang among others), plus the plant managers who reconciled the requirements of lean production with the aspirations of a unionized work force accustomed to adversarial labor relations. On the minus side of the ledger, Ingrassia and White have not resisted the temptation to include whatever they've learned in more than a decade on the automotive beat, and their narrative occasionally veers into trivial byways. Nonetheless, an engrossing and cautionary take on a consequential industry whose welfare is everybody's business. (16 pages of photos, not seen) (First serial to the Wall Street Journal; author tour) Read full book review >