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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bill Vlasic's Once Upon a Car

This term I have my students reading 4 auto books:

  • Rudi Volti's short historical overview, (2004). Cars and Culture: The Life Story of a Technology, Greenwood Press, 2004.
  • Tom Wolfe '51, Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, William Morrow, 1965. We were also fortunate to have him as a guest speaker, taking advantage of his visit to campus for the 11th annual Tom Wolfe Weekend Seminar funded by the Class of 1951.
  • Stealing Cars: Technology and Society from the Model T to the Gran Torino by John Heitmann and Rebecca H. Morales, just published by Johns Hopkins University Press. Prof Heitman will also be a guest speaker.
  • and finally
  • Bill Vlasic's Once Upon a Car: The Fall and Resurrection of America’s Big Three Automakers–GM, Ford, and Chrysler, William Morrow, 2011. If the GM story quietens, he might be able to join us for dinner in Detroit.

I call attention to the latter book, because we are reading it in conjunction with the visit of Bill Cosgrove '67, a retired Ford executive who worked directly with many of the people from Ford who appear in Mr. Vlasic's book. Mr. Cosgrove has read it a couple times (he also quotes from Maryann Keller's Collision Course), and will expect us to be familiar with the content.

To help with class discussion – at least one student should be familiar with any particular incident Mr. Cosgrove might bring up – and also because Vlasic's book is much richer than we have time to cover in class, students are preparing notes, selecting quotes and following up with questions. Those are divided into 3 pieces:

I've a good group of students, their notes are thoughtful and they pose good questions. If you've read the book, then they ought to be interesting, and if you're preparing to read it (an "ought to" for anyone reading this blog!), well, come up with your own questions!! This and more are found at Economics 244 at http://econ244.academic.wlu.edu