Friday, April 2, 2010

The Collapse of General Motors and the Return of Ralph Nader to the Library on Sunday, April 25th, 1:30 PM

I'm currently reading Sixty to Zero: An Inside Look at the Collapse of General Motors and the Detroit Auto Industry, by Alex Taylor III. Taylor is a longtime follower of the industry and a journalist more of the business variety than investigative.

It's Taylor's thought that the company's leadership model moved from innovator to bean counter sometime in the fifties. This led to the various car lines interchangeability. At the same time, there is a fine line between competition and infighting, and apparently GM crossed it. Oh, and the design got boring.

And then there was the quality issue, brought to head by the Corvair. Here's a passage from Sixty to Zero:

"Despite its shortcomings, the Corvair continued to sell respectably for several years until a young lawyer named Ralph Nader appeared on the scene. In 1965 Nader published a book entitled Unsafe at Any Speed that exposed a list of safety and mechanical problems that went beyond the stabilizer bar. Nader made three complaints: the Corvair was unsafe on turns; the cooling system leaked carbon monoxide fumes; and in a front end crash, a driver could be speared by the steering wheel."

The book goes on to chronicle the private detectives set on Nader's tail and the public apology that followed when the full story was brought to light.

This is just one story of many regarding the difficulties facing the General Motors. It's like a rollercoaster ride for GM, downhill for fifty years. I can't say it's exactly a business book, because there isn't much good advice here. Just about everything eventually goes wrong, no matter what the company does. The book should be in stores shortly.

I bring this up now, not only because I really am currently reading this book, but because the Milwaukee Public Library is hosting Nader on Sunday, April 25th, at 1:30 PM. It's a talk and signing, on his way to another event in Appleton. The event is at Centennial Hall, 733 North Eighth Street.

There's a special offer too, that harkens back to his roots as a consumer advocate. While at the event, if you buy two copies of his current novel, Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us, you will get a free copy of Winning the Insurance Game. Supplies of the free book are limited.

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