Streams

Crash Course

Friday, January 08, 2010

Pulitzer Prize-winner Paul Ingrassia describes the state of America’s auto industry and reveals the reasons for President Barack Obama’s decision to save Chrysler despite the opposition of many of his advisors. His book Crash Course: The American Automobile Industry’s Road from Glory to Disaster takes us from factory floors to dealerships, and from Detroit's boardrooms to the White House, and tells a story of hubris, denial, missed opportunities, and self-inflicted damage.

Guests:

Paul Ingrassia
News, weather, Radiolab, Brian Lehrer and more.
Get the best of WNYC in your inbox, every morning.

Comments [24]

Mack from NYC

Good question, Chris from NJ! How much CAN be blamed on the UAW?
And why is all the blame being placed on the management here?

Jan. 08 2010 01:33 PM
asdf from

amy -- ok, noted... tho i would hope (w their salaries and workloads) they have country houses or at least shares beyond the reach of the subway! and i honestly cannot picture llopate either on a real train or a zipcar...

Jan. 08 2010 01:00 PM
Amy from Manhattan

On the last topic, SUVs may be safer for riders if they do get hit, but small cars are more maneuverable & better for avoiding accidents in the 1st place.

adsf & George, I think Leonard & Brian both take the subway--I know Brian does because I saw him on the train once, doing research even on his commute home! Can't do that while you're driving.

Jan. 08 2010 12:46 PM
Paul from Ridgewood NJ

We could try and blame the unions for US vehicle quality, but I recently drove a new Impala - what a piece of near-junk. It didn't "feel" anything like the Accord or Camry, the cars they compare it to in advertising. The passenger seat was flat and uncomfortable, even with the car at a standstill. This has nothing to do with "fit and finish". It's poor design all the way.

Jan. 08 2010 12:39 PM
Michelle from Queens

I am from Michigan and I obtained my Master's Degree at Wayne State University. I had to move from MI inorder to obtain a job in my field. I am now in NYC and love it. I do admit though I do miss Detroit and MI because that is where my family is. So many 20-30 something year olds have had to relocate to find work. Poor Jennifer Granholm does not know what to do....the Detroit's Mayors need a stronger urban planning/public tranport/economic development plan. It is always suburbs versus Detroit, which is not productive. Why not hire some of the 20-30 somethings that still have dreams, optimisim, and believe in change!!!

Jan. 08 2010 12:38 PM
jsh198 from Fresh Meadows

GM's incredibly successful model of starting with Chevy and moving up through Pontiac, Olds ... ended in the 1960s when they began to remove the engineering autonomy from each division. Eventually there were no real differences between the cars and the end result was the Cadillac Cimmaron.

Jan. 08 2010 12:36 PM
Douglas Schoenberg from Millburn, NJ

Unrealistic contracts with UAW weren't the union's fault... met the needs of both sides. Allowed car corp.s to buy off unions by pushing expenses into the future... a problem for future exec.s. IT was an adversarial approach, resulting in bad results for both sides, rather, for example, the German approach, with union rep.s on the Board!

Jan. 08 2010 12:36 PM
jj from

had a saturn 40mpg, 35 in city -- no way to turn it in ironically for cash for clunkers.

saturns of last couple yrs are quite nice actually.

Jan. 08 2010 12:35 PM
Val Norets from New York City

why GM is refusing to sell SAAB to 2-3 potential buyers and instead trying to close the factory? they partially responsible for bringing this brand down.

Jan. 08 2010 12:33 PM
antonio from the republic of park slope..

What about the EV1? Come on!

Jan. 08 2010 12:27 PM
Megan M from Brooklyn

Where did GM go wrong with Saturn? My first car was a Saturn I bought new in 2000. It got excellent gas mileage even then at 35 mpg city! It was still in great shape when I sold it in 07 to move to NYC. Sure it wasn't the prettiest looking car on the market but it was a great vehicle.

Jan. 08 2010 12:26 PM
adsf from

george -- lopate is a benz guy = funny!

what is brian lehrer (can't say prius)

Jan. 08 2010 12:25 PM
antonio from the republic of park slope..

I don't think you can blame the unions. Every corporation learned from the Reagan administration that unions could be busted and it could do anything to protect its bottom line (leaving the country etc..)

Jan. 08 2010 12:25 PM
adsf from

By 2017, what percentage of US cars will be made or mostly made in China?

Jan. 08 2010 12:22 PM
Paul from Ridgewood NJ

Not sure you can blame the Big Three for "fat Americans". Some of the blame for sprawl, well perhaps. It was going to happen anyway. Maybe blame our elected officials (and by extension, ourselves) for our generally-awful national public transportation network.

Jan. 08 2010 12:21 PM
superf88 from

"I've a confession, I'm a Republican. I'm a free marketer."

Watch that rewrite of history, friend.

As a free marketer, I was outraged by the GOP's economic signature all the way from the devious SUV tax breaks of his first day to the auto industry bailouts of his last.

This Free Marketer was very happy to see the reign of the GOP's kleptocracy somewhat stymied, albeit temporarily.

Jan. 08 2010 12:21 PM
Richard Johnston from Upper west side

If he throws in another useless "... if you will" I'm going to scream.

Jan. 08 2010 12:20 PM
Graham from nyc

Wonderful guest and segment. Kudos to your staff and preparation for the interview.

Jan. 08 2010 12:18 PM
markBrown from sos-newdeal.blogspot.com

Yeah antonio # 4.

See HERE. for a proposal I made over 2 years ago on how to save our country.
(by undoing the damage GM did to our transportation system in the 30's-60's.)
here: http://sos-newdeal.blogspot.com/2008/11/next-prediction-save-car-companies.html

ALSO.

We DO need a nationwide project to redo the
eisenhower highways to include 2heavy/2light rail
lines on EVERY single eisenhower highway.
See HERE:
http://markbnj.blogspot.com/2007/02/detroit-energy-efficient-vs-suvs.html
or HERE:
http://sos-newdeal.blogspot.com/2008/02/proposal-transportation-and-energy.html

Leonard/staff:

I've been emailing you for over 2 years with a top ten list of things to fix the economy.
See this for a easy to read
TOP ten list to fix the country:

many things are already (under Obama) under way in SOME way...

http://sos-newdeal.blogspot.com/2009/02/top-ten-list-what-i-believe-and-want.html

Jan. 08 2010 12:17 PM
Paul from Ridgewood NJ

Toyota markets SIX(!) brands of SUV, topping out at 18, 19, 22, 23, 27, 28 MPG Highway. Depending on what you call a gas-guzzler, between 2 and 4 of those qualify as such. It's no wonder that they took a loss, even while manufacturing the Prius.

Jan. 08 2010 12:17 PM
antonio from the republic of park slope..

I would forgive the auto industry if they took on the task to manufacture our new local/national transit projects (streetcars, lightrails etc).
After all, they were the ones that bought and dismantled the aforementioned systerms, resulting in years of sprawl and fat americans..

Jan. 08 2010 12:06 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

How much can be blamed on the US auto makers not being at the forefront of automotive excellence.

All you have to do is read the Consumer Reports ratings of American cars and see that foreign cars have better ratings in customer satisfaction, reliability.

I blame management.

Apple should take over a US car company.

Jan. 08 2010 09:29 AM
Chris from NJ

How much can be blamed on the unions?

Jan. 08 2010 08:56 AM
George from Bay Ridge

Does Ford have a chance?

What are the greatest misconceptions people have about the auto industry?

Why did GM and Chrysler quality decline so drastically? How did Chrysler go from the competitive Dodge Neon to the awful Dodge Caliber? And the Chrysler Sebring?

What role did Daimler play in the deterioration and collapse of Chrysler?

I see Leonard Lopate being a Mercedes-Benz kind of guy. What does the guest think?

Jan. 08 2010 03:18 AM

Leave a Comment

Register for your own account so you can vote on comments, save your favorites, and more. Learn more.
Please stay on topic, be civil, and be brief.
Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments. Names are displayed with all comments. We reserve the right to edit any comments posted on this site. Please read the Comment Guidelines before posting. By leaving a comment, you agree to New York Public Radio's Privacy Policy and Terms Of Use.