Motor City: troubles and success story; Detroit 1985, by Donald McDonald. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co. Inc. $10. 95
This is one more look at what's wrong with the domestic car industry -- a popular subject for the last few years and one that has included Arthur Hailey's "Wheels" and John Z. De Lorean's "exposure" of General Motors.Skip to next paragraph
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The book purports to give a behind-the- scenes look at the inner workings of Motor City USA, why things have gone awry, and what is in prospect for the future.
The author is a former writer who spent nine years reporting on the auto industry. He is also the author of "How to Buy a Used Car," "New Cars 1968," and "New Cars 1969-73."
McDonald suggests that it may be time for the trustbusters to take over. In other words, the solution for Detroit may be in the breakup of the mammoth industry into new, smaller companies that are less cumbersome and more responsive to world demands in popular transportation.
"I do not pretend to have the detailed knowledge of industry resources that would permit me to block out the exact composition of the newly independent car producers that would emerge from divestiture," he writes.
"Could these newly independent producers afford the research, planning, marketing counsel, styling, and plant engineering formerly provided at least in part by GM's central staff?" he asks. "I believe so, because much of this staff activity is redundant, or if not, it could be categorized as theoretical and thus many man-hours away from practical application."
The day of divestiture may never come, he concedes. "Aligned against it is an oddly assorted but powerful group, even odder because those allied don't recognize the nature of their alliance," he writes.
"We have chieftains of industry whom the stockholders elect. The chieftains then commit wrongs against their customers, wrongs of great magnitude, wrongs of commission and omission, and the customers, who are the people, rebel. They rebel by approving a proliferation of government to control the chieftains, and then the stockholders, who pay for this proliferation, wonder where their dividends went and blame the government.
"Somewhere in all of this, there may be sanity, but I fail to see it."
Clearly, the author shows his disenchantment -- his bias -- not only against Detroit but against the governmental establishment as well.
What the book does is provide a litany of the up-and-down history, ancient and modern, of an industry that is sorely hurting today and perhaps somewhat unsure of tomorrow.
If nothing more, the book lays out the problems -- and it's up to the reader to make up his mind.