No fireworks--but a reliable, eminently serviceable account of the world auto industry since WW II, and its relation to the American market, by an old hand at popular business history (Inside Wall Street, IBM, etc.). Sobel has no particular point of view--which is also to say that he grinds no axes: sure, US automakers made mistakes, but they were only following the trends of the time. (The Japanese made mistakes too, while VW repeated Henry Ford's Model T error of sticking too long with the Beetle.) He takes up, in turn: the era of ""Detroit Baroque"" (initiated by GM, imitated by Ford and Chrysler), and its critics; how the ""nimble, precise"" Beetle broke into the American market (superior performance, word-of-mouth, consolidated by superior service); George Mason, George Romney, and the compact Nash Rambler/AM American (a neglected episode, well reported here); the Big Three compacts, and how they soon grew larger, more powerful, and more expensive. Part II begins ""The Japanese Challenge"": the Japanese auto industry through WW II (the disparate origins of Toyota and Nissan), and the stimulus of Korean War procurement; the ""Japanese style in industrial organization and operation"" (relatively discriminating and unhackneyed); Japan's first, stumbling entry into the American market (with ""undistinguished and dowdy"" vehicles); the ""beachhead"" secured with a classier, low-cost, ""familiar and foreign"" car; US loss of confidence (Nader, Lordstown), US/Japanese joint ventures, Honda independence (and innovation). Part III, ""Reinventing the Automobile,"" covers the Iranian oil crisis, Japanese upsizing and Detroit downsizing, US production and managerial reforms. Sobel describes the models, the men involved, industry thinking, and public response: for the total picture, with a level, international outlook, there's no other book that presently comes close.