Billy, Alfred, and General Motors

  • by William Pelfrey
  • Narrated by Dickson Lane
  • 11 hrs and 3 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

One industry has had more impact on life in America than any other before or since. Here is the story of two men and one company at the start of it all.
You couldn't find two more different men. Billy Durant was the consummate salesman, a brilliant wheeler-dealer with grand plans, unflappable energy, and a fondness for the high life. Alfred Sloan was the intellectual, an expert in business strategy and management, master of all things organizational. Together, this odd couple built perhaps the most successful enterprise in U.S. history, General Motors, and with it an industry that has come to define modern life throughout the world. Their story is full of timeless lessons, cautionary tales, and inspiration for business leaders and history buffs alike.
Billy, Alfred, and General Motors is the tale not just of the two extraordinary men of its title but also of the formative decades of 20th-century America, through two world wars and sea changes in business, industry, politics, and culture. The book includes vivid, warts-and-all portraits of the legends of the golden age of the automobile, from "Crazy" Henry Ford, Ransom Olds, and Charles Nash to the brilliant but uncredited David Dunbar Buick and Cadillac founder Henry Leland.The impact of Durant and Sloan on their contemporaries and their industry is matched only by the powerful legacy of their improbable and incredible partnership. Characters, events, and context--all are brought skillfully and passionately to life in this meticulously researched and supremely readable book.

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What the Critics Say

"Anyone interested in the current story of General Motors should read this engrossing description of the beginnings and early growth of this largest of all America's businesses. Billy, Alfred, and the General is an important work on the history of the automobile industry." (John G. Smale, retired Chairman and CEO, Procter and Gamble Company; former Chairman, General Motors Corporation)
"This book is particularly timely, with the auto industry in a period of extreme turbulence that features a restructuring of General Motors, as well as other icons of times gone by. In a sense, we may be reliving in the 21st century the auto drama of the 20th century portrayed so well by Bill Pelfrey. The author's outstanding writing and research skills are evident throughout and make this one of the most important and fascinating books I've read in a very long time." (David E. Cole, Chairman of the Center for Automotive Research)
"Every person who is interested in the building of the American automobile industry must read this book. Bill Pelfrey has done a great job researching the early years of Billy Durant and Alfred Sloan and the very different roles they played in the history of General Motors." (Jack Smith, retired Chairman and CEO, General Motors Corporation)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Not Only an Automotive History

Outstanding book. One doesn't have to be an automotive buff to enjoy this read.

It's also a good look into the early 20th century in general, and our industrial history as well. This isn't the only book to do so of course, but it's very interesting to watch as the now household names of Buick, Cadillac, Oldsmobile et al come in to existence. First as independents, then as General Motors.

The only draw back, and I rarely critique the narrator, but this reader's technique for quoting someone was to read in a false voice as if he were trying to sound like someone's grandmother - and doing a poor job of it no less. It was the same weird grandmother-like voice no matter who he was quoting.
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- Ray

Terrific business history

The Flint-Detroit area must have been incredible back in the day when it was bustling with such inventive characters and energy. It was the Silicon Valley of its time. Buick, Chrysler, Ford and their contemporaries were as eccentric and diverse a bunch as one could imagine. One gets a sense of this age, when modern industries and amazing products were leaping onto the American stage, revolutionizing life. In the Alfred Sloane phase, we see too a different phase of American history unfold, as America's industrial giants assumed titanic proportions and management styles to fit. From a fan of good business history, this book is a well-blended mix of the lives (with all victories, quirks, foibles on display) , the finances, and the technologies, I found utterly listenable.
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- Phil O.

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-10-2010
  • Publisher: Audible Studios