CAR by Mary Walton


A Drama of the American Workplace
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 The newest entry in the burgeoning genre of behind-the-scenes auto books. Journalist Walton (Deming Management at Work, 1990) here turns to Ford to observe how the company updates its top seller, the Taurus. As in other recent books on automakers designing new models or updating old ones, Waltons approach is fast, jumping from smoky boardrooms to the clay-filled basements where the real design work is done. And her characters, too, take cues from central casting: the aging leader, uncomfortable with women, who takes on one last car; the rising young female exec he clashes with and comes to admire; the rogue designers who want style, no matter what. Walton certainly has fun with her subject and revels in revealing the Dilbert-esque machinations of a large corporation. When one engineer new to the Taurus project tries to get his phone fixed, he discovers that the intricate Ford hierarchy is such that only his supervisor is allowed to make a service call. Another supervisor announces that the black rubber gap hiders universally known as ``gimps'' would now be called ``aeroshields''--though that word has already been chosen to designate another part on the car; much confusion results. The gorier details of the car industry also appeal to Walton, who explains how federal crash regulations were developed using human cadavers. (The testers had just 24 hours to work with the bodies.) The larger story here is well done, and the race between Honda, Ford, and Toyota for market share is fairly interesting. But much of the script is familiar, and the insights amount to little more than that the American spirit of competition, as well as corporate bureaucracy and workplace pettiness, are alive and well. A late entry in a crowded field, but solidly written and reported. (First serial to Fortune)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-393-04080-1
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1997


by Nick Arvin