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July 18 , 2010

Once Upon a Car

The Fall and Resurrection of America's Big Three Automakers--GM, Ford, and Chrysler


Once Upon a Car is the brilliantly reported inside-the-boardrooms-and-factories story of Detroit’s fight for survival, going beyond the headlines to chronicle how the country’s Big Three auto companies—General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler—teetered on the brink of collapse during the 2008 financial crisis. In a tale that reads like a corporate thriller, Bill Vlasic, who has covered the auto industry for more than fifteen years, first for the Detroit News and now for the New York Times, takes readers into the executive offices, assembly plants, and union halls to introduce a cast of memorable characters, many of whom are speaking out for the first time, including the executives who struggled to save their companies but in the end had to seek a controversial, last-gasp rescue from the U.S. government.

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Vlasic goes behind the scenes to portray the men at the top during Detroit’s last stand. Rick Wagoner, the CEO of General Motors, tried to turn around a dying company, only to be forced to resign as a condition of the government bailout. Bill Ford, great-grandson of the legendary Henry Ford, had the will to keep Ford alive but needed the guts to hire an unknown outsider, Alan Mulally, to transform the company before it crashed. At Chrysler, leadership was constantly changing as new owners tried in vain to fix the smallest of the beleaguered Big Three. And through it all, the president of the United Auto Workers union, Ron Gettelfinger, fought to save the jobs of the men and women who build American-made cars and trucks.

This tale of an iconic industry in crisis is more than a big business drama and provides a rich, unvarnished portrait of how Detroit’s decline affected tens of thousands of workers and dozens of communities nationwide. The story moves from the gleaming corporate skyscrapers and massive auto plants to the halls of the U.S. Congress and into the Oval Office, where President Obama and his aides wrestled with how to keep General Motors and Chrysler from going out of business. Vlasic shows why the bailout worked, and how Detroit can succeed under new leadership and build automobiles equal to any in the world.

Once Upon a Car tells a uniquely American tale of success, failure, and redemption. It is an important and illuminating chapter in an astonishing story that is still unfolding. And no one is more qualified to write it than Bill Vlasic.

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