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The life of the automobile : the complete history of the motor car
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Fiction/Biography Profile
Automobile industry
Automobile travel
World history
- United States
- International
Time Period
-- 19th-21st century
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Trade Reviews

  Library Journal Review

Parissien (director, Compton Verney House Trust, UK; George IV) explores the automobile from its beginnings in the late 19th century, through its 1920s and 1930s refinements, its classical period in the 1950s and 1960s, and on to the rocky decades after the international oil crisis, with global mergers and financial rescues in the 1990s and on through the start of this century. Readers meet the gifted but controversial car-makers Henry Ford, Karl Benz, Henry Royce, and Andre Citroen; designers Alec Issigonis, Andre Lefebvre, and Giovanni Michelotti; and managers William C. Durant, Alfred P. Sloan, and Lee Iacocca. Regarding the anti-Semitic Henry Ford, we learn that Hitler frequently cited him as an early inspiration, that sections of Mein Kampf were taken from Ford's writings, and that Hitler had a life-size portrait of Ford hanging in his Munich headquarters. Parissien frequently takes to task the poorly run British car industry in light of the dynamism of its continental European, Asian, and American counterparts. Overall, he looks less at automobile technology than at the industrialists and craftsmen whose genius has kept the industry rolling. He also highlights consumer trends, promotional gimmicks, environmental challenges, union unrest, and the motorcar's impact on social mobility. VERDICT This elegant and authoritative work demonstrates the historical links among people, machines, and cultures on a global scale. For readers who enjoy investigations into social, intellectual, business, technological, or transportation history-as well as dedicated car buffs.-John Carver -Edwards, Univ. of Georgia Libs., Cleveland (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Publishers Weekly Review

This sweeping attempt to trace the development, dominance, and refiguring of the car offers some terrific glimpses at the vast and varied worldwide story of the automobile. Parisser, a versatile and enthusiastic English historian, offers entertaining vignettes of late-19th-century car pioneers, from German engineer Karl Benz and his first-ever long car trip from Mannheim to Pforzsheim and car maker Louis Renault. Parisser is at his best with encapsulated corporate histories of such automakers as Ford and Nissan. Along the way he offers devastating portraits of "out of touch" executives who oversaw the decline and fall of Detroit's Big Three car makers in the decades after the energy crises of the 1970s, when "cheap oil and motoring became a thing of the past." He highlights Roger Smith, the unlamented GM chairman from 1981 to 1990, whose tenure was marked by "business disasters compounded by appalling public relations blunders," as well as maverick John DeLorean, whose attempt to make luxury vehicles sank "from tragedy, to farce, to movie stardom" thanks to his eponymous vehicle's role in the Back to the Future movie franchise. Parisser is an enthusiastic writer, but his story gets mired with industrial insider references and descriptions of company mergers. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
<p> The Life of the Automobile is the first comprehensive world history of the car.</p> <p>The automobile has arguably shaped the modern era more profoundly than any other human invention, and author Steven Parissien examines the impact, development, and significance of the automobile over its turbulent and colorful 130-year history. Readers learn the grand and turbulent history of the motor car, from its earliest appearance in the 1880s--as little more than a powered quadricycle--and the innovations of the early pioneer carmakers. The author examines the advances of the interwarera, the Golden Age of the 1950s, and the iconic years of the 1960s to the decades of doubt and uncertainty following the oil crisis of 1973, the global mergers of the 1990s, the bailouts of the early twenty-first century, and the emergence of the electric car.</p> <p>This is not just a story of horsepower and performance but a tale of extraordinary people: of intuitive carmakers such as Karl Benz, Sir Henry Royce, Giovanni Agnelli (Fiat), André Citroën, and Louis Renault; of exceptionally gifted designers such as the eccentric, Ohio-born Chris Bangle (BMW); and of visionary industrialists such as Henry Ford, Ferdinand Porsche (the Volkswagen Beetle), and Gene Bordinat (the Ford Mustang), among numerous other game changers.</p> <p>Above all, this comprehensive history demonstrates how the epic story of the car mirrors the history of the modern era, from the brave hopes and soaring ambitions of the early twentieth century to the cynicism and ecological concerns of a century later. Bringing to life the flamboyant entrepreneurs, shrewd businessmen, and gifted engineers that worked behind the scenes to bring us horsepower and performance, The Life of the Automobile is a globe-spanning account of the auto industry that is sure to rev the engines of entrepreneurs and gearheads alike.</p>
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