The Sack of Detroit: General Motors, Its Enemies, and the End of American Enterprise

Knopf. Jun. 2021. 432p. ISBN 9780525521679. $30. BUS
For a major part of the 20th century, the automobile was a symbol of American ingenuity and prosperity; it transformed how we lived and worked. This comprehensive history by biographer Whyte (Herbert Hoover) sheds light on the rapid growth of General Motors and the U.S. automobile industry; its major figures and critics; and the forces that caused its decline and shaped its current outlook. He makes the case that the fate of the industry was often intertwined with presidential administrations, as the number of federal auto regulations steadily increased in the late 20th century in correlation with the number of traffic deaths. Whyte explains how automobile executives came to be associated over time with a lack of concern for public safety, especially as the industry faced continual political and media scrutiny along with foreign competition and developments like the oil shortages of the 1970s. This book devotes considerable time to discussing safety reform and unionization, as well as the legacy of the United Auto Workers.
VERDICT This important work offers not only lessons but also worthwhile insights about the necessity for business to continually adapt in order to survive. A must for public and academic collections.
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