The Critical Path: Inventing an Automobile and Reinventing a Corporation

Brock Yates, Author
Brock Yates, Author Little Brown and Company $28 (320p) ISBN 978-0-316-96708-2
Reviewed on: 08/12/1996
Release date: 08/01/1996
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A bolt-by-bolt account of the five-year gestation of Chrysler's latest generation of minivans--the 1996 Dodge Caravan, Plymouth Voyager and Chrysler Town & Country--Yates's narrative, which often smacks of boosterism, also delineates the company's shift from a traditional vertical management system to project teams involving cross-pollination of design, engineering, finance and marketing, The minivan saga--beset by internal rivalries, potential disasters, niggling glitches and sluggish production start-up at the mile-long assembly line in a St. Louis, Mo., suburb--is framed by the departure of Chrysler chief Lee Iacocca, whom Yates flays as a ""self-engrandizing huckster,"" and by Iacocca and Kirk Kerkorian's failed 1995 hostile takeover bid. The minivans also faced a public relations nightmare: seven major class-action suits alleging that dozens of deaths had resulted from faulty rear latches on early models. Chrysler reached a court settlement, agreeing to replace 60% of the latches or to spend millions on consumer awareness programs. Yates is author of The Decline and Fall of the American Auto Industry. Photos. Translation and U.K. rights: Carol Mann Agency. (Aug.)
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