By Bill Vlasic
William Morrow, $26.99, 400 pages

In 2008, the U.S. auto industry was sick enough to land in the Intensive Care Unit. Neither the economic experts nor the auto industry executives knew then if The Big 3 would survive. This is Bill Vlasic’s detailed, engrossing account of what went on behind closed corporate doors in the Motor City.  It is, to a great extent, a true morality play with good and evil in the form of Alan Mulally and Rick Wagoner.  Mulally’s forward thinking ensured that the Ford Motor Company would survive without bail-out funds, while Wagoner was the CEO who lost $45 billion for General Motors (GM) in just 15 months.  Once Upon a Car also covers the failed 9-year marriage between Daimler-Benz and Chrysler, which started out as a mad romance and ended in tears and acrimony.

“In its time of need, GM was missing the one attribute that could save it: credibility.”

In this account, Vlasic strongly and convincingly argues that the Obama administration’s decision to give taxpayer dollars to GM and Chrysler was essential. The disposal of Wagoner was one positive outcome. After reading Car, you’ll understand why Detroit’s back in the game after crashing and burning. The Motor City’s now producing cars like the Ford Focus instead of Hummers, which in the end is a very good result.

Reviewed by Joseph Arellano