Sixty to Zero: An Inside Look at the Collapse of General Motors--and the Detroit Auto Industry

Overview

The collapse of General Motors captured headlines in early 2009, but as Alex Taylor III writes in this in-depth dissection of the automaker’s undoing, GM’s was a meltdown forty years in the making. Drawing on more than thirty years of experience and insight as an automotive industry reporter, as well as personal relationships with many of the leading players, Taylor reveals the many missteps of GM and its competitors: a refusal to follow market cues and consumer trends; a lack of follow-through on major ...

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Sixty to Zero: An Inside Look at the Collapse of General Motors--and the Detroit Auto Industry

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Overview

The collapse of General Motors captured headlines in early 2009, but as Alex Taylor III writes in this in-depth dissection of the automaker’s undoing, GM’s was a meltdown forty years in the making. Drawing on more than thirty years of experience and insight as an automotive industry reporter, as well as personal relationships with many of the leading players, Taylor reveals the many missteps of GM and its competitors: a refusal to follow market cues and consumer trends; a lack of follow-through on major initiatives; and a history of hesitance, inaction, and failure to learn from mistakes. In the process, he provides lasting lessons for every executive who confronts the challenges of a changing marketplace and global competition. Yet Taylor resists condemning GM’s leadership from the privileged view of hindsight. Instead, his account enables the reader to see GM’s decline through the eyes of an insider, with the understanding that corporate decision-making at a company as large as General Motors isn’t as simple as it may seem. Taylor’s book serves as a marvelous case study of one of the United States’ premier companies, of which every American quite literally now holds a share.

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Editorial Reviews

NPR's Books We Like

“A cogent kick-the-tires account of a disaster that was 40 years in the making. A gifted writer, Taylor is also refreshingly candid about himself as well as GM. . . . His book is informative—and fun to read.”—Glenn C. Altschuler, NPR''s Books We Like

— Glenn C. Altschuler

Wall Street Journal

“Insights into the journalistic mindset, as well as keen observations about GM itself, are what make Sixty to Zero an enlightening and engaging read.”--Paul Ingrassia, Wall Street Journal

— Paul Ingrassia

Virginian-Pilot

"Having covered the auto industry for Fortune magazine for years, Taylor knows his subject well. . . . Taylor''s book is a concise, up-to-date telling of what happened [to GM] and why."—Larry Printz, Virginian-Pilot

— Larry Printz

Inland Empire Business Journal

"Sixty to Zero offers a thorough look, warts and all, at what has happened to the American auto industry during the past 20 years."—Henry Holtzman, Inland Empire Business Journal

— Henry Holtzman

NPR's Books We Like - Glenn C. Altschuler
“A cogent kick-the-tires account of a disaster that was 40 years in the making. A gifted writer, Taylor is also refreshingly candid about himself as well as GM. . . . His book is informative—and fun to read.”—Glenn C. Altschuler, NPR's Books We Like
John Krafcik
Sixty to Zero is a melodrama for the ages and one that continues to unfold today. A must-read for everyone in the auto industry and for anyone else interested in what happens at the intersection of corporate culture and human frailty.”—John Krafcik, president and CEO, Hyundai Motor America and major contributor to The Machine That Changed the World
Michael Useem
Sixty to Zero is a penetrating and compelling account of how the icon of 20th century American business went bust within a decade of the new century. We witness close-up how General Motors’ leaders stalled decisions, resisted ideas, flubbed execution, and otherwise repeated startling acts of 'driver error.' For learning from one of the greatest unforced corporate failures of modern times, this is a vivid and definitive account.”—Michael Useem, Professor of Management at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and author of The Leadership Moment and co-author of The India Way
Csaba Csere
“Taylor understands that the domestic car makers’ troubles didn't begin a few years ago. To identify the seeds of their destruction, you have to go back decades and that's exactly what he has done. This is a smart, lively, and personal account of Detroit’s crack-up.”—Csaba Csere, Former editor-in-chief of Car and Driver
David E. Cole
"A terrific job — well written and very informative. I don't know of another journalist besides Alex Taylor who could have done as well."—David E. Cole, Chairman, Center for Automotive Research
Wall Street Journal - Paul Ingrassia
“Insights into the journalistic mindset, as well as keen observations about GM itself, are what make Sixty to Zero an enlightening and engaging read.”—Paul Ingrassia, Wall Street Journal
Virginian-Pilot - Larry Printz
"Having covered the auto industry for Fortune magazine for years, Taylor knows his subject well. . . . Taylor's book is a concise, up-to-date telling of what happened [to GM] and why."—Larry Printz, Virginian-Pilot
Inland Empire Business Journal - Henry Holtzman
"Sixty to Zero offers a thorough look, warts and all, at what has happened to the American auto industry during the past 20 years."—Henry Holtzman, Inland Empire Business Journal
Library Journal
This is part breezy overview of the American auto industry and part autobiography. Taylor (senior editor, Fortune magazine), basing his work on his own decades of pieces on the industry, provides a series of character sketches of various GM top executives, essentially personifying each era of the company. At the same time, he describes his own relationship to GM, from childhood admirer to seasoned naysayer. All of this added personality and character sketching is necessary because the line of his actual thesis is so straight. What really did in GM was not rising oil prices or the recent credit crunch, but rather a fanatical devotion to the "GM Way," which prevented the company from adapting to a changing automobile market over nearly five decades. Indeed, what seems most remarkable is that GM plodded along for as long as it did. Detours into the "palace intrigues" of Ford and a thorough examination of Saturn help keep the narrative going. VERDICT Recommended for general readers who might wonder why the fate of GM was so important during the recent government bailouts. Auto aficionados will have been down this road before.—Robert Perret, Univ. of Idaho Lib., Moscow
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300158687
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 5/4/2010
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Alex Taylor III is a senior editor at Fortune magazine. He is a member of the International Motor Press Association and is on the jury for the North America Car of the Year Awards. Mike Jackson is the chairman and chief executive officer of AutoNation. Previously, he served as president and chief executive officer of Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC.

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Table of Contents

Foreword Mike Jackson ix

Acknowledgments xv

Introduction 1

1 GM at the Peak 13

2 Growing Up in the Car-Crazy Fifties 23

3 Cracks in GM's Edifice 33

4 Insecure Colossus: The Roger Smith Era 53

5 Ford Speeds Up 71

6 The Saturn Moonshot 81

7 Lee Iacocca, Blemishes and All 93

8 Bob Stempel and the Crisis of'92 103

9 Jack Smith's Unfinished Revolution 119

10 Bob Eaton's Big Score 133

11 GM on Cruise Control 145

12 Succession Battles at Ford 159

13 Wagoner Takes Over 169

14 Nasser, Ford, and Mulally 179

15 The Legend of Lutz 191

16 The Uneven Legacy of Lee 201

17 GM's Inevitable Collapse 211

18 The End of the Road 225

Epilogue 235

Index 243

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2010

    Rehash Lacking Focus

    I have closely followed the US automotive industry through the years. I know quite a bit about its inner workings and intrigues. This book simply rehashes everything I already knew, and in a horribly un-focused manner. Rather than a timeline of the industry's decline, the author jumps all over the place through the years and also switches between GM, Ford, and Chrysler. The author also too often puts himself in the middle of the story by being too self-referential, mentioning too many times the articles he wrote for Time and Fortune magazines.

    This is not an historical account. It is the author's memoir. While it is well-written, it is poorly focused and the title misrepresents the true nature of the material it contains.

    If you are looking for new insight, look somewhere else. If you are looking for an historical account, look somewhere else. If you are looking for depth, look somewhere else (Time and Fortune magazines are not known for their automotive reporting. Now I know why.)

    The most positive thing I can say about this book is that aspiring journalists, no matter what their focus, can use this as an example of how not to become too personally vested in the subject matter.

    Otherwise, don't bother. Move along. There's nothing to see here.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2010

    Excellent book

    Learned a lot more about the auto industry than I did from 20 years of car magazines.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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