tv Book TV After Words CSPAN October 30, 2011 9:00pm-10:00pm EDT
very rustic barn. and the barn was taken apart plank by plank. the interior designed by maya lynn, constructed, created. and can then the planks of the -- and then the planks of the barn, the cantilever barn, were then put back around the outside. so we still have that rustic outer skin and then this beautiful, beautiful, modern interior. ..
you're new book once upon a car the folly of the resurrection of auto maker's gm, ford and chrysler i.t. this timely. the companies are now growing, creating jobs and reassuring their global leadership so it's great to have an opportunity to visit with you about that book. i think a lot of the viewers might want to start with just a question of how the companies got to the brink of disaster, these great american icons have come to this point where in some cases they almost ceased to exist. how did this tremendous crisis come about? >> the big three auto makers were dominant for so many years in the 1960's, 1970's, and still commanded 50% or more of the market into the middle of the last decade. but there is a sort of slow acting poison that was going on with the auto companies and there was legacy cost.
these companies were supporting hundreds of thousands of retirees surviving spouses with health care, pensions. there were two retirees for every active worker. this is part of what made these companies so great is that they did have this great retirement plan. these were written when they were successful 90% of the american market times have changed so dramatically that the costs were not sustainable for the kind of volumes of sales the fall into. on top of that it is pretty well known that the companies had made some mistakes since they've been exposed, but the product portfolio became heavily weighted towards large vehicles,
trucks, suvs. these are the profitable products for them and collect the passenger cars and some of the more fuel-efficient models that the japanese competitors were so strong in. over time they lost their way trying to improve their products and was more a matter of survival and trying to sustain what was working for them and in the end they could not support the enormous obligations that built up over the years. >> when should it be apparent to the company's the the legacy costs were not sustainable? >> guest: there's always been able to debate about who is at fault here. is it the union for the united workers asking too much or demanding higher salaries, more benefits, or is it the companies who gave away the store? and you hear that a lot.
people criticize general motors. they just gave everything away to the uaw. people have to remember that these great contracts the union negotiated were among the companies were making a lot of money. maybe they didn't look down the road far enough, but maybe the 90's, maybe even later when the gas prices weren't such below that everybody wanted to own a seventh passenger suvs it might have been the time to look at hybrids or at least direct more resources towards the smaller more fuel efficient cars that a lot of americans wanted they were getting to gm and chrysler. >> were you surprised the mechanism the companies used to the legacy cost profit a balance sheet? >> guest: the 2007 labor talks for a watershed general motors in particular couldn't afford
the billions and billions of dollars of health care that they were spending on every time aeries in particular. i think for several years for every 1 dollar gm spent on health care they spend 1 dollar products. not too many businesses can survive that kind of drain on their cash so they were on the thin ice if you will for quite a number of years and make it quarter to quarter. but the 2007 agreement allowed them to offload the costs to the health care trust. but even then and now in retrospect it was a little bit like monopoly money. committed $30,000,000.07 to the retiree health care and the money just wasn't there and became clear a year later that
the sort of hold the battleship had sprung a big league and the gm financial structure and ford for that matter just couldn't meet these obligations any longer. >> host: you mention the similarities that some of the company's facebook obviously they took very divergent paths as they moved through the crisis and restructuring and now in some ways they are all profitable in creating the jobs but very different ways to get there. they might talk about the three different paths and why you think the companies to the sort of powerless they did with the individuals involved and personalities involved white ford take the path that took verses gm's's obvious choices and chrysler's course. >> guest: we will start with general motors. they've always been the biggest dominant company, the leader in many ways of the industry in america. very proud company with a lot of
success and somewhat resistant to change. i will be charitable here. some people can cast stones at gm and their corporate culture and work for them for many years is what they believe in. general motors has a hard time admitting mistakes. i think that is a lesson to be learned. not so much the senior executives in private but the corporation itself for the criticism or suggestion that maybe they should do things differently besio required for grew up in gm and discard the perfect gm resume seemed to be groomed for the top for many years and was a defender of general motors when gm was attacked mr. webber and his people defendant in hindsight
some of the criticisms and some of the suggestions that gm needed to go in a different direction were not heeded. they fought change rather than embrace it. the ford motor company was a smaller version of gm operationally. the same kind of structure, as a kind of global strategy, but the difference controlled by the ford family, the descendants of the legendary henry ford, so they could make some adjustments based on their leadership which at the time was bill ford, jr., his great-grandson. bill ford after becoming the ceo learned pretty quickly his company was having trouble with gm and what i would consider a very admirable decision on his
part decided to look for answers outside of detroit and other executives in gm and chrysler and perhaps higher their ceos to come and bring some fresh ideas. ultimately he went we'll decide the auto industry to the boeing corporation and created the senior executive building commercial airplanes and brought him to detroit to take a different look at ford. what was wrong with this company? after mr. law had a very epiphany when he arrived in detroit which was to change drastically. all these things started to top but you have to have the wherewithal to make some of these hard choices but ford made
some hard choices earlier than the gm. the biggest of which is in 2006 when they decided to mortgage the entire company and borrow as much money as they could come up $23 billion for a rainy day fund if you will when things get tough and more important resource transitioning the company away from its reliance on a cbc trucks to the smaller more fuel efficient passenger cars. >> host: one of the things you touch on in the book and as a hard-nosed reporter used in the lot of time on the emotional connection between beauford and the company. you might talk about that a little bit because it is compelling you spend a lot of time. is moving actually. >> guest: beauford is a passionate and dedicated the emotional man who was a very unique position. he was an owner and an executive
at the same time. he had a family film history and their financial wherewithal with the corporation, yet he was close to hundreds and hundreds of the men and women of the lion and the design studios, engineers since he was a kid and felt that mr. ford always had the company's best interest at heart. however, he had a legacy to protect as well. he became the ceo ford was still profitable and suvs were still making a lot of money but he saw the handwriting on the wall, and i believe that it was an unusual and difficult decision for him to have met i might not be the best person to be the ceo of this company. where do you hear that in corporate america these days?
someone saying somebody else might be able to do this job better. >> host: humble and courageous of the same time. >> guest: its courageous but it was why is, it was a wise move. bill ford understood that the industry was changing, and whether it was because he was such a familiar figure in the company and perhaps people their emotions got the better of them which was built for here, the family back in charge ford is going to be okay now he saw it a little differently. he realized that this company to maintain its stature and to grow it had to go back to basics and it wasn't -- he needed somebody who was experienced turning around industrial corporations in the size.
>> host: thinking that the three companies that maybe had the least predictable path obviously was chrysler with foreign ownership and then obviously private equity ownership and then of course now the partnership with fiat. talk a little about their behalf and sort of how that all came together. there are lots of different options. there's always some discussion of chrysler merger was one of the american based companies. i didn't come to fruition in the obviously today divergent paths and is doing extraordinarily well. >> guest: chrysler was always the hyperactive youngest sibling of the big three. gm was the dominant one, ford was a little more conservative but always followed such footsteps. chrysler really had a boom and bust history for decades, and i covered the merger with been this which was an extraordinary
situation. the was the biggest merger in the automotive history. i think maybe the biggest industrial merger of all times, looked to be a great marriage of a sort of the german luxury cars and german ingenuity with the mass-market american trucks and minivans and suvs it turned out not to be a marriage made in heaven that was anticipated of the time. these companies didn't mesh, they didn't have enough in common, and chrysler found itself in a position where the german owners actually looked ahead in the future and saw chrysler as a drug as a threat the chairman and ceo of chrysler realize very yearly on when he got the position in the early 2006 that the legacy costs' and the obligations and the paper
thin profit margins that chrysler could turn into a real problem if the market turned. there's some of pressing and in selling the company. i think chrysler was sort of a drift. it was sold to the capitol management, private equity firm on wall street which had a game plan of kind of stripping it down to its essentials and rebuilding the company. i guess we will never know how that worked out, how it would have worked out because the only on the company for a year when the financial crisis hit the country in 2008 and the auto sales went off the cliff and at that point scrambling for a partner to merge with general motors. their executives are traveling around the world looking for a foreign auto makers to link up with, but at that time detroit was in chaos.
the crisis was unfolding day after day, and chrysler really was saved from extinction if you will buy fiat. when detroit went to washington, the government assistance i believe first the bush administration and then the obama administrations of general motors going out of business as a disaster for the economy. for chrysler they weren't even sure it was worth saving. so, this kind of car company that could come and you could call that the company with 60, $60 billion in revenue compared to the other two, really needed a hand and a partner to succeed. >> host: crisford is an important company. they make about as many cars as toyota which was until recently the largest car company in the world it is important that they remain a voluble and growing
enterprise so it gives interesting to see how you leave out the past and what occurred in the book and a partnership with fiat that seems to be extraordinarily successful. any thoughts on the partnership? >> guest: i've been covering the three on a daily basis and i don't think a lot of people give chrysler much of a chance when they come out of bankruptcy. i feel fiat was a little bit of an unknown. they haven't sold cars in the country for a number of years and they don't have the high profile that been tested or to leota for that matter. but again, sergio, the ceo and now also the ceo of chrysler was an outsider. one of the themes and lessons that ought to take away from my coverage of the industry is an outsider bring something to the party in dietrich for the longest time outsiders are not welcome here. their ideas were suspect.
they didn't understand the business, they didn't have the experience. they proved that is a fallacy and with experience and vision to succeed in the auto industry by applying the basic turnaround principles to the production, and procure products for consumer, with the consumers really want, and stick to a plan he has come and see in the good in chrysler, seen what chrysler is capable of doing, which may be people close to it had sort of given up on. she's applying a lot of the fiat engine technology at chrysler. there's going to be a new car built in the united states, 40 miles per gallon with fiat technology, and it's interesting to see the same people ready to
throw dirt on their graves are trumpeting the fact that this company has a resiliency and a sort of know how to come back and make cars and trucks people want which is a seeker. >> host: it's an exciting story. one of the reason the book you read you some facts was the gm ford merger discussions, and obviously gm's interests in pursuing that you might talk about that process and then maybe some thoughts on what that would have met for the industry of something like that had occurred. >> guest: sent to sort of talk about just the conversation for years what would happen to gm and ford through the car companies with it wouldn't even be the biggest three anymore it would be just the one company to through all of their resources together, the market share to the kind of a good hypothetical
but has never been seriously approach because these companies are bitter rivals and have been for years. i think i made the analogy could the yankees and the red sox merge and liable to think that would work out. there's a lot of overlap, but also very distinct identities, and a tremendous competitive spirit, and that's why bill four and adam were so surprised in the summer of 2008 that rick wagner and the executive team approached about a possible merger and effect would say they were shocked. but what they learned very quickly was this was just demonstrating how desperate general motors had become at that point. between the second quarter and the third quarter of 2008, gm went from being a healthy company with plenty of cash reserves to accompany the was running out of money and was going to be insolvent within 60
or 90 days its extraordinary when you think about that because they're spending so much cash to keep their head above water. when he approached beauford and work together on a variety of issues over time, into each other, trade issues here in washington, the union contracts. so they knew each other well and there was a healthy respect. but the fourth contingent was stunned that gm wanted to merge with them totally out of the blue it was indicative that gm has was desperate nowhere else to turn to and then shut out from borrowing money on wall street. they are restructuring options had dwindled down to just cutting jobs seasonally and cutting costs and ford was
looked at as a lifeline and wanted nothing to do with gm in that state and actually felt gm was coming to them because they did have cash, the head of the money they borrowed from the banks but it became clear that ford followed gm to washington to see if general motors could get a lifeline there because the prospect of a gm going to some liquidity would affect the whole supply up and did and it was an indication that the big three was sort of cracking apart if you will gm was going one way to the bush and administration and congress, later the obama administration and ford was going to go on its own path and
turnaround on its own. >> host: the companies have a lot of changes in 2007 that you mention. in 2008 we did go into a deep economic crisis and everything from just obviously the collapse of the financial orman industry and the decrease in home prices which would affect the purchase of what is for most people the second largest purchase besides their car and the collapse of the sales rate from about 70 million to 10 million units, just stunning. a stunning development. how much of what happened in 2008 was beyond the control of the company? what happened in the american car companies was really beyond their control and how much do they have to take ownership of? >> guest: when you go from 17 million to 10 million its 40 plus% drop this is an extraordinary situation.
i'm not sure any business can survive. it's 20% of the volume should have seen this coming i can't anticipate how they would have seen it coming and it affected all the car companies not just the american companies. the japanese companies, the european companies it's been down the hatch this time and the fact is gm couldn't have picked a worse time to go to washington because the t.a.r.p. loans and the assistance to wall street and the financial community already have people very upset, concerned, worried. there was the reelection for congress going on at that time. there was a presidential election going on that it couldn't have been a hot seat to sit in to testify in congress and ask for money to say the
lead to a safe car companies. you ask about a leadership they have to take ownership for the animosities they've been building up for years against detroit for the quality of their products or their resistance to change the fuel economy or the environment. crime followed every time an auto maker made gains to the united states the bill was the fault of washington trade policies it was extraordinary how a lot of the emotions and many of the more negative about the charge card companies and i think general motors in particular just poured out at the congressional hearings and frankly they were stunned. they felt when they came to washington that the politicians would understand immediately
that this wasn't in the national interest to bail these companies out if gm went bankrupt and the ripple effect on jobs would be in the hundreds of thousands and maybe even larger but instead of a sudden the tree all and the anchor had been building up about how vitre had conducted its business for years it all came out whether it was people who didn't like unions, didn't like the gas guzzlers, didn't like the way detroit built cars, had a lousy pontiac that didn't work for them 20 years ago, it all started coming out and was pretty surprising that one of the executives said something interesting in the aftermath said if nothing else there may have been a lot of apathy about the auto industry. do we even need an american auto
industry? word we find is dreading toyota and honda the hearings in the crisis forced americans to address this issue talmadge dewey value having the auto industry? is it important for america to have a homegrown company that makes cars and trucks and that apathy but may have existed for years earlier just a feeling of we are stuck with detroit and became better and valuable to the economy. >> host: if we are going to make anything in the united states we have to make cars, they are the logical thing for us to make and something to start with that we have had a knack for it today americans are turning out some tremendous and great products. we have to think about low-skilled things are not going to be made in the united states
and then obviously things like fighter planes and mri is and things we need extraordinarily well that aren't going to have scale. they aren't going to have scale to mccaul for 14 million of every single year. it creates a lot of jobs and a lot of economic activity it really has to be cars. cars would be the central thing that our manufacturing or could focus around and it really is sort of the underlying foundation of our manufacturing infrastructure. what would be like if one of the companies had actually just collapsed particularly general motors or ford had ceased to exist with that have met for the u.s. economy? >> guest: in detroit it would have been a disaster and it would have rippled out of detroit for very quickly with its dealers or supply years and we have years of supply years, people making the list of to the highest. >> host: in ms. reeder although supply years it's the largest manufacturing sector of
the economy. >> guest: missouri is a great production company if the had a couple of plants down there. they have some assembly plants and they are like small cities all to themselves. they may have two or 3,000 jobs in the plant themselves, but for every job that is in a plant there are two or three or four other jobs, trucking companies, although retailers and restaurants that serve as a plant now. the suppliers to bring the parts in and out. they are a network, and the assembly plant closes these things stop immediately. if gm for example have gone belly up and had to liquidate, it would have been a matter of weeks before all of their supply years would have to shut down, and not to mention the new dealers. the dealers are a big source of
employment in the country. it kind of touches every part of the american life the car does i think. it's part of a birthright, part of our heritage. we invent -- henry ford invented the modern assembly line and other companies, other countries learn a great deal about building cars from us. we don't have a monopoly on it anymore for a long time. but there would be a big hole in the american economy, and i think in the psyche of industry if one of these auto companies or all three of them went out of business. >> guest: one of the things that had been discussed for a while and didn't touch on in the book because it never came to fruition was the idea that maybe these companies all sort of merge into one we would have one american motors of you will, u.s. voters to read i'm not so
sure that would have been as preferable to what we have now which is the competition of the three. competition is healthy. these companies to write each other, force each other to improve and i think we are seeing that now as they are healthy. ford for example has become a leader in the technology. it's sort of a shoe is on the other foot. i did most people would assume that the automakers would have been leaders in the blue tooth and technology and the car connectivity but it's really for the partnered with microsoft and other powerful and successful american companies to bring some of the data and voice connected phones and all the stuff that people love into the car. so it touches all these other
industries as they grow and as the company's growth of the car companies grow it controls in the software companies and the others who want to be part of what's really a lot of people of their stock in a home. >> host: the company's are bringing those types of things people are going to take with them one way or the other they are going to take their phone and some of their applications and things that have become important in modern life you're going to take that into their car and the focus on doing that in a way that actually enhances safety and ensures that we are not diminishing the focus on the driving and getting from point a to point b but they are making some dramatic improvements i think in the driving experience and then obviously in safety to read a number of vehicle models continues to rise and increase over 3 trillion miles. fatalities in these accidents
actually are continuing to decline. so there is a focus item for the companies on the safety and trying to ensure that the applications on an important part of modern life available in a way that doesn't distract the driver. if you did a really good job of pointing out this isn't just -- at chollet you must be because it specifically this isn't just a michigan industry. a lot of the great production facilities or in states like kentucky and missouri and oklahoma and really all across the country and then of course suppliers are such an important part of the economy even in states like california which you wouldn't think of as a traditional automotive state. and then taught at the national scope of the industry and what that means for the american economy. >> guest: some of the plants in the country not in oklahoma anymore but in missouri,
kentucky, if it is a national industry the car company -- these jobs are valued very highly. when i was at the oklahoma city assembly plant when it closed in 2005 it was the largest single tax payer in the state of oklahoma. and these jobs were valued and people instill in the heartland had a real affection for the american meat products american made cars and trucks. on the coast of the companies have lost a lot of market share. but i think part of that is due to the tremendous competition for those dollars. this really is an industry that touches many lives, and the fact is it's important that the fate
maintain these large assembly plants around the country because it's where the lawyers are, or the consumers are as well as the workers. michigan has borne the brunt of the downsizing whistle of plants foreclosed that will never reopen. that is part of the evolution of the detroit companies it has to be a broad base command of course these companies are doing a tremendous amount of expansion overseas as well. gm is the largest auto maker in china and ford now they've got their domestic business straightened out pouring many resources in the expansion and asia and elsewhere even chrysler is looking to expand our around the world. but if you don't have the assembly plants in louisville and in dallas and kansas city
you are losing the heart and soul of the company. >> host: you mention the market share are gaining the market share for the first time. they're different companies. a different companies than they were just a few years ago with her it is a much more competitive cost in the structure and labor cost structure design and quality obviously is beating much of the competition and the winning the quality and the design of words shift fundamentally different in the past. one indicator of it was the willingness to accept and agree to some very aggressive fuel economy standards both for 2016 and then threw to 2025, which will change the type of product launches off on the american assembly line. you might talk about what the new fuel economy standards will mean for the companies and
obviously the environment and the individual consumers. >> host: the new fuel economy standards have taken what has been an evolution to almost a revolution. these are high goals and i will see any reluctance on the part of the beach read all the leaders to increase these goals. we can hit these, we can make this. begin at 54 mpg by 2025. it's going to take a tremendous shift so what people expect from their vehicles it's almost extinct now. you see it in some trucks and high-performance cars, but very few mass-market models. in fact the four-cylinder engine is not the most popular contention for cars sold in the company. when you think about it is a
huge change. the technology the the the companies have pursued with turbocharging and the direct injection and a lot of the things i am probably not capable of explaining have made these cars were just as fun to drive and reliable as the larger displacement in the years passed in the towel for 15 miles per gallon now we are getting routinely 25 to 30 miles per gallon. >> host: it's pointing out different. in general motors both each other around four times what apple spends on research and development every single year. so the four-engine could deliver today is significantly different experience than just a few years ago. the driving experience hasn't changed that ford is putting six-cylinder engines into pickup trucks which seemed like a gamble the time.
40% of the sales are six cylinder in fact i just interviewed by the other day who pay the extra to get a smaller engine because he wanted to save on gas. some people's mind sets are changing. they are accepting these things because the products are fulfilling their needs and they want more fuel efficiency without sacrificing size and power and is a hybrid technology would be a big part of reaching these new goals, and all of the auto companies are expanding tremendous amounts of money and increasing their hybrid technology and then of course electric vehicles. at this point they will be coming some point in the fall to begin building the first american made electric car and electric ford focus it the same assembly plant that they are
building regular internal combustion engine focus, hybrid focus, plug and hybrid electric but what the consumer choose and the flexibility in the plant will allow them to build more electrics. that's what people want and more hybrid's if that is what people want. so, the numbers are out there 54 miles per gallon may seem a little feature stick or inspiring and how can we possibly get there. but the pace of change is extraordinary and a lot of it is being driven by competition because stifel and triggered a one to be the first to get to 54 mpg, too and again it is from the consumer who have more choice, better vehicles and we will in the end use or less is far less concern than anybody in this country.
was to order some of the evidence for the new vehicles? whether it is the electrics there's a lot of interest in europe, some acceptance of the compressed natural gas so what is some of the challenges for the industry as you think through some of those? technologies? >> guest: in electric cars is all about the battery and we are building a battery industry in this country sort of from scratch. a lot of it is subsidized by the government which is not that much different from the week about beverley industries have been developed in other countries, korea in particular. how do you subsidize because they are very r&d intensive, and it takes time to perfect batteries that are going to last long enough and get the kind of performance that's required in an automobile a little different than a applianced of computer so i visited some of these battery
plants. the expanding slowly but surely there's not enough volume right now to support large fleets of which is probably we should be because the consumer acceptance of electric cars is an impediment. most people really don't know too much about how their traditional car works they just want to make sure it starts every morning and gets them where they want to go. its plan to take time for people to be comfortable with the electric car and realize that this is a solid reliable vehicle that they take care of and charges. it's going to serve a lot of their needs. there's talk about the range anxiety meaning how far can i drive my electric car and the companies are dealing with that by offering alternatives. gm for its simple as the chevy volt primarily runs on electric power what has a small gas
engine to recharge the battery if you need to go further than 40 or 50 miles. but this is a changing every day now, and i understand general motors has an electric model they are going to be announcing very soon. all the electorate. and so people are going to be able to decide what it's their life style the best read if you drive 20 or 30 miles a day and feel like you are happy with an electric car you can plug in at night it's going to serve your needs great if you need a second car and primary commuting a vehicle begins maybe you need something a larger gas powered engine, there may be a way to serve those needs as well. but there is going to be a lot of choice and i think the impediments are going to be basically technological and how quickly we can have the kind of
batteries that can allow people to make this their primary car. >> host: somehow feel it presents some infrastructure issues particularly the gas but i think that you're right, consumers are going to in july a range of choices that wouldn't have been possible to envision just a few years ago. and the company's if people wonder of the companies are different today i guess they look at the fuel economy and where as you point out in the past the vigorous defenders of the status quo and pushing the envelope with some tremendous technological innovation? what is it like to write a book about companies that are of this size and magnitude? these are massive industrial enterprises. so what is it like to dig and can't find the data? obviously you have a reservoir
of interviews and knowledge to build up and covering the industry to the >> guest: i felt that this story was the biggest story in the world for a good solid year and there were a lot of things going on in washington. a lot of discussion about what the companies meant. should we save them, do they really matter. i wanted to tell the story a lot of opinions, a lot of emotion surrounding this and still to this day the american tax payer owns 26% of general motors some people are comfortable with that and some people can't fan the concept. but it's what had to be done to keep gm a life which is a bailout if you will.
i wanted to kind of strip away the emotions and the opinions and get to the heart of what really happened here. what were the decisions that were made and there wasn't easy. i've been a reporter for "the new york times" for three years now and cover the stuff on a daily basis. can't say that i've ever worked harder in my life than the last few years because it was such a challenging story to cover and i was fortunate enough i was given some time off to do some research and do some interviews of what went on behind the scenes for the fourth gm merger discussions or what was happening with dimond chrysler when people thought perhaps the merger was going to be success but in fact to the german side of the company was already planning to sell chrysler. i think we learn a lot, i
learned a lot about how people operate under pressure. a learned a lot about leadership, and i learned a lot about teamwork, too. no matter what the organization is you have to have to market the top and the ford motor co's turnaround it gives a great example of how bill ford and adam alladi sort of put their ego aside and worked as a team to set a vision for the company that really needed dramatic action to survive. they came to detroit and said as an outsider these companies have been slowly going out of business for 70 years. hafed so to get that kind of candor as a reporter to have people about about what they saw and what was like face on the
bright lights and congressional hearings sort of the indefensible which is a company that general motors' size was so proud and so prosperous for so many years literally begging for help from the people that sold so many cars over the years to the american public to know without a slight to hear about it, to tell it in human terms it was a privilege for me. i.e. appreciate the opportunity of delete kutz covered this industry for almost 16, 17 years, and to get the kind of insight and have people trust me and tell me what happened again was kind of a privilege for me and something that i saw as a learning experience as well. don't ever -- don't think that's just what you see on the surface
is what is happening. there's a lot more involved. >> host: you have extraordinary access and a left-hander from everybody you talk to about the industry and what they were thinking and what was going through their mind at some pretty critical moments, and the people were willing to admit the human weaknesses and that sort of thing. is their anybody would have loved to talk to that you didn't get to talk to, somebody you would like to know what was going on in their mind and you never got to visit with them? >> guest: i was only turned down for one interview for the book. of reveals cooperated and that was ryan, the now head of the united workers and i interviewed him many times over the years and observed in the events it interviewed a lot of people around him, but he went out the way he came and which is i will talk about what goes on behind
closed doors for the bargaining table which i respected. i would like to have had a chance to ask about some specific dates and places and events, particularly when the final negotiations were going on with the presidents of the latest task force on how gm will go through bankruptcy and what concessions have to be made. but other than that, and i respect his decision once the union negotiated -- >> host: a lot of people were very close to him because you seem to actually get a lot of his perspective things he may have told others. >> guest: i dillinger to a lot of people close to him that were in the room with him and i interviewed him many times before, so i drew on all of that us well and i observed him, and i have a lot of respect for him and it's his principal and i don't blame him for -- he turned down a lot of of the people come to back so it a special case
there. but the fact is most people take longer to fill of trouble. when you lose your job i don't care what it is it's tough to look back and discuss it into chrysler and even ford i think ford and we are really -- they really wanted their story told, and i appreciated their trust and candor because it is an important story i think people need to realize that this is the story of survival. we came very close to losing the american auto industry in this country, and i don't have a firm opinion about the politics, but i do think that the administration and congress ultimately realize that letting these companies fail would have been far more harmful.
>> host: bases to be an effective power at all. dramatic implications for the global economy. talk a couple minutes about your thoughts on the automated taskforce with president obama established the initiative and others, talk a little about their work and what that meant. >> guest: taken together so fast and accomplished a tremendous amount of very short program of time they spent quite a bit of time with really had to conduct a total crash course of understanding with these companies were, with the situations were and the whole industry and how it was interrelated and it makes them very expedient decisions but the time was of the essence and the obama administration was under a lot of pressure on the two fronts. one, do we give them more money,
and if we do, what control do we require over them? over general motors in particular? the bush administration gave bridge loans which put them alive long enough for the obama of the illustration to decide should they stay alive and i think they did an extraordinary job on the task force of boiling down to the essence what needed to be done. in general motors, for example, much like adam coming into the ford motor company steve coming from wall street or ron bloom coming from his background looked at this with how could gm have so many decisions, so many cars that are not selling so many profitable models. we don't want to give of sadr are part yet. the to automate taskforce forced them to make hard decisions which were the right ones and
it's a smaller company now and it's a more effective company. and i think that in the compressed time frame and the pressure that the task force was under the really distilled the needs of the companies and would have to be done to in fact of the taxpayers were going to put up more money some hard choices had to be made and the really pushed them through. >> host: one of the things you address in the book is president obama and the president-elect of the time, president obama and president bush talked about keeping the company's alive even with just the purpose of transition you might touch on some of them from the almost unilateral decisions the president made, president bush made to ensure that that was the case and president obama would then be able to deal with this challenge as he did. >> guest: president bush as it
is my understanding told mr. obama i will turn this over to you as a failure. i will keep these going on till you have an opportunity to assess what you want to do with it. which is the courageous move on his part. was against his sort of core policies and in terms of assisting the private enterprise but to his credit he understood general motors liquidating when the newer administration came in would be a tremendous burden and challenge to an economy the was already struggling. president obama i give him a lot of credit for believing these companies could succeed with the assistance. there were a lot of people who said no matter how much money you give general motors is a lost cause. it won't turn around.
the answer to his credit he felt with the right kind of direction and obviously the financial systems the commitment and the know-how in detroit to succeed and there was a leap of faith on his part i think it's payoff the companies are now growing again. they are adding jobs of course which isn't enough to replace the hundreds of thousands that lost but this is an evolutionary business, and right now gm, ford and chrysler are kind of hot again, and just got finished covering the latest round of labor talks, and we are adding jobs, and it seems that they've lived to fight another day. >> host: we only have a couple of minutes but they are all successful to david how or the different today? >> guest: ford motor company by not seeking government
assistance this is a decision and experience that will benefit them for decades to come. they are the american car company that made it on its own and they should be congratulated for that and the fact is i think will resonate for years. that's something some people in america feel very strongly about, and they are gravitating to the products. gm is evolving as we speak. new management, changing the product structure, and trying to retain that humility was long in coming it doesn't come overnight and i think it's important for them to remember what almost happened. i think to be conservative on some things going forward. >> host: the position as the world's largest automaker. >> guest: it's amazing isn't it. people thought it was gone
forever and toyota would be the biggest company in the industry going forward and gm is back on top. i don't think the size is as important to their success has focused and to continue to improve their products. i think the most telling affect about gm's rebirth is the number one selling passenger car in the country today is the chevrolet cruce, a small car from general motors. >> host: sounds great. we've been talking with bill vlasic, the author of once upon a car. enjoy your book and certainly enjoyed visiting with you. >> guest: thank you very much. appreciate it. ..