GOING FOR BROKE: The Chrysler Story by Michael & Barrett Seaman Moritz

GOING FOR BROKE: The Chrysler Story

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Time Chrysler-watchers Moritz and Seaman have attempted to build into their history of the company--its rise, overexpansion, near-collapse, and precarious recovery--all the recent problems of the US auto industry and to draw from the story a lesson for all of ""American enterprise"": less is livable-with, ""men and their ideas"" still matter. As a construct, the book is less than successful--there is far, far more about Chrysler financial dealings, for one thing, than readers need to know to get the larger picture. (The authors have a problem compressing and digesting their material throughout.) On the other hand, those readers interested primarily in Chrysler--and eager to get from chairman John Riccardo's ""coming crisis"" in September 1977 (the first chapter) to his courtship of axed Ford whiz Lee Iacocca in August '78--may not want to take in, en route, the entire auto industry case against government safety, pollution, and fuel-economy regulations. And this is only one detour--as well as one instance of the way that, as Moritz and Seaman see it, the government throttled the industry in general and the smaller auto-makers in particular. Similarly, while they provide a balanced, indeed respectful appraisal of the Japanese challenge, they nonetheless decry the failure of the US (unlike other countries) to protect its domestic manufacturers. But with all the book's structural problems, for all that it appears to speak for the industry (and to be cheering, now, for Iacocca and the New Chrysler), it has a great deal to impart about the company's earlier self-destructive practices (such as the ""salesbank""--from which unsold cars were frantically unloaded at the end of each financial quarter), about the rigors of competing with Ford and GM (apropos, for instance, the introduction of small cars), even about some of the regulatory goofs (like the case of the catalytic converter) that environmentalists should at least be aware of. And while the 37-page account of the negotiations that went into the passage of the 1979 Chrysler Loan Guarantee Act may be another instance of over-coverage, the authors' conclusion that it was better thus--that the company was better saved, to slim itself down, than allowed to go bankrupt--has a lot of appeal in these laissez-faire/let-the-chips-fall. . . times. Whatever its failings, in sum, the book has a genuine point of view and real, wide-ranging insights.

Pub Date: Oct. 2nd, 1981
Publisher: Doubleday