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 A wide-ranging and ultimately diffuse reconstruction of how General Motors managed to launch a breakthrough line of popularly priced small passenger cars under the Saturn aegis at a time when the parent organization was experiencing convulsive financial, governance, and sales difficulties. Drawing on personal research that began within a year of GM's 1985 announcement that the Saturn plant would be located in rural Tennessee's Maury Country, Sherman (Fast Lane on a Dirt Road, 1991, etc.--not reviewed) offers a low-key, anecdotal account of the Motown giant's problems in creating a vehicle designed to vie with Japanese imports, and in producing it in a way that went against the grain of a hidebound corporate culture. He also addresses the ripple effects of the project on an agricultural backwater rich in Civil War history and antebellum architectural treasures. With the exception of those who sold their property early on, Sherman recounts, few residents of the communities surrounding the Saturn complex gained any substantive economic benefits, mainly because all Saturn jobs were reserved for UAW members moved in from other installations GM had closed down. Covered as well here are the snags encountered in convincing cynical trade unionists and their status-conscious superiors that the company meant what it said about teamwork on the assembly line. By late 1990, the Saturn had overcome all obstacles and made its way from the drawing board to showroom. Today, with demand still outstripping supply, the car is a marketplace success, albeit one that has yet to turn a profit for its sponsor--whose position as a competitive world-class enterprise remains in some doubt. While tellingly detailed in many respects, Sherman's narrative wanders all over the lot, fragmenting its focus--and impact. (Six photographs, line drawings--not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-19-507244-8
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1993