Editorial Reviews for this title:
Few endeavors in history can match Ford Motor Company's impact on human civilization. Launched a century ago by a bumptious squad of clever eccentrics-led by the odd visionary mechanic Henry Ford-the first mass-production auto manufacturer would push the rest of the industrialized world into the modern age. Along with other social upheavals, Ford's reasonably priced and well-made assembly-line Model T would mobilize America's middle class while the company's cleverly generous "$5 Day" did no less than redefine industrial labor relations.
In Wheels for the World, Douglas Brinkley, one of our most engaging historians, reveals the riveting details of Ford Motor Company's epic achievements, chronicling the outlandish success of the Tin Lizzie to the beloved Model A through the glory days of the Thunderbird, Mustang, and Taurus, as well as the revolutionary plants where they were built-Highland Park and River Rouge. Brinkley tells of the amazing acquisitions of Volvo, Land Rover, Jaguar, and Mazda in the 1990s. His narrative also explores Ford Motor Company's darker aspects, from its founder's anti-Semitism, ill-considered wartime pacifism, and disloyalty-not only to the cohorts who made him the richest man of his time but also to his only son.
Along the way, Brinkley introduces us to the whole cast of colorful characters-from the irascible early brains of the outfit, later U.S. Senator James Couzens; to feisty Me-Decade CEO Lee Iacocca to the earnest young chairman and CEO of today, William Clay Ford, Jr.-whose dedication and vision have created a lustrous legacy around the world. What distinguishes Wheels for the World is not only the freshness of the fascinating new material that Brinkley has uncovered, but also the sweep of his story and the compelling clarity of his prose. In his many previous books, Brinkley has proven himself a master at crafting brilliant, accessible historical narratives and this is his finest achievement yet.
In conjunction with its 100th anniversary, the Ford Motor Company opened its monumental archives to the unfettered research of author/historian Douglas Brinkley. And while the 800-page history that resulted from that work (as well as Brinkley's tireless, amply footnoted source work elsewhere) is comprehensive to a fault, the scope and enduring impact of the industrial colossus wrought by Henry Ford make it often seem like mere introduction. Brinkley's meticulous, enlightened work can't help but find endless fascination with the company's founder, whose presence resonates through every phase of the company's history, from its fitful start (FMC was the third company to bear the Ford name), through the rise of the Model T (still one of the most ubiquitous and revolutionary mechanical contrivances of the last millennia), to its cycles of corporate decay and rebirth (variously via Iacocca's Mustang in the 60's and the technical innovations and potent retrenchment of trans-nationalism in the 90's). Henry Ford remains one of the greatest human paradoxes in a century filled with them: a largely self-taught engineer who couldn't read a blueprint, yet became a mass-production visionary; an employer whose social conscience (and no small amount of shrewd business acumen) doubled the salary of his employees one era, employed thugs to crush their union organizing efforts the next; a world figure who read little, yet published much, including anti-war editorials and vile, anti-Semitic tracts--despite the fact that his monumental manufacturing facilities were designed by Jews whose friendship and professional relationships he cultivated. The enviro-social impact of Ford's industrial innovations continues to loom, and Brinkley hardly ignores them. But his research is largely focused on the rich players (and their often perplexing psychology) of the Ford saga, all-too-human characters whose ambitious empire will continue to cast its long shadows over many a generation to come. --Jerry McCulley
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