Billy, Alfred, and General Motors: The Story of Two Unique Men, a Legendary Company, and a Remarkable Time in American History

William Pelfrey, Author
William Pelfrey, Author AMACOM/American Management Association $27.95 (315p) ISBN 978-0-8144-0869-8
Reviewed on: 03/27/2006
Release date: 03/01/2006
Open Ebook - 336 pages - 978-0-8144-2961-7
Open Ebook - 978-1-281-07994-7
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-8144-3387-4
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Pelfrey's biography of the two founders of General Motors, Billy Durant and Alfred Sloan, evokes times when what was good for General Motors was good for America. Pelfrey, a journalist and author, makes the auto business in its early days sound like Silicon Valley: venture capital was plentiful and overnight fortunes flourished. Durant, a dynamic and colorful entrepreneur who made millions in buggy manufacturing before advancing to the newfangled automobile, has been largely forgotten. After dabbling in Wall Street and losing his fortune in speculation, Durant died in penury, supported by old GM partners while attempting to launch a bowling and fast food empire. Conversely, Sloan, the staid and reserved engineer who organized GM in the wake of Durant's enthusiasms, has won the ear of history. Though the attentive reader may suspect Pelfrey has sugarcoated history, his account of the nascent auto business is fascinating: Henry Ford, admired for streamlining and automating auto production, originally balked at manufacturing cars at all, and Cadillac, Buick and Oldsmobile all have surprising origins. Pelfrey's is an engrossing account of the fledgling days of the American auto industry; a bumpy, surprising and entertaining ride.
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