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Making and Selling Cars

, 416 pages

33 halftones, 19 line drawings

May 2008


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Making and Selling Cars

Innovation and Change in the U.S. Automotive Industry

From the creation of fast food, to the design of cities, to the character of our landscape, the automobile has shaped nearly every aspect of modern American life. In fact, the U.S. motor vehicle industry is the largest manufacturing industry in the world.

James Rubenstein documents the story of the automotive industry... which despite its power, is an industry constantly struggling to redefine itself and assure its success. Making and Selling Cars: Innovation and Change in the U.S. Automotive Industry shows how this industry made adjustments and fostered innovations in both production and marketing in order to remain a viable force throughout the twentieth-century.

Rubenstein builds his study of the American auto industry with care, taking the reader through this quintessentially modern history of production and consumption. Avoiding jargon while never over simplifying, Rubenstein gives a detailed and straightforward account of both the production and merchandising of cars. We learn how the industry began and about its methods for building cars and the modern American marketplace. Along the way there were many missteps and challenges—the Edsel, the fuel crisis, and the ascendancy of Japanese cars in the 1980s. The industry met these types of problems with new techniques and approaches. To demonstrate this, Rubenstein gives the reader examples of how the auto industry used to work, which he alternates with chapters showing how the industry has reinvented itself. Making and Selling Cars explains why the U.S. automotive industry has been and remains a vigorous shaper of the American economy.

James M. Rubenstein is a professor of Geography at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. His previous publications include The Cultural Landscape: An Introduction to Human Geography, An Introduction to Geography: People Places and Environment, and The Changing U.S. Auto Industry: A Geographical Analysis.

"Surveys a wide terrain, ranging from the development of Henry Ford's production methods to the impact of globalization on the automobile markets at the end of the century... Throughout, the prose is clear and accessible. Rubenstein has the eye for a telling statistic and the ear for a pithy quotation... If this book were a car, it might be a full-sized sedan. Capacious and comfortable, it covers a lot of ground smoothly. Historians, geographers, and industrial organization specialists in economics will find it appealing... The book is carefully designed and eminently functional. Finally, it is likely to hold its value well and provide a comprehensive, reliable treatment of a pivotal industry for some time to come."

"The strengths of the work lie in its discussions of the early entrepreneurs and dealerships and of recent market trends. Rubenstein, who is a geographer, presents an excellent examination of regional sales and production trends... [ Making and Selling Cars] would serve as a fine text for undergraduate courses on the motor industry."

"Rubenstein has written a very useful book for those of us interested in the evolution of the American automobile industry... Rubenstein manages to make sense of the evolution of key factors, at the same time as isolating elements that remain central to the success (and occasional failure) of the U.S. automotive industry."

"The analysis within the book moves understandings of the [automobile] industry in a number of new directions... The length of the perspective taken (over 100 years), the breadth of disciplines that the author draws on, and the attractive writing and visual presentation of the book all combine to provide readers with a valuable source text."

"This is a comprehensive history of the automobile industry with much data on production and the market... Rubenstein obviously loves cars... The book is fascinating."

"A comprehensive and engaging survey of the history of the American automotive industry."

"This is a book written for the person who wants to learn everything there is to know about the history, economics, sociology, engineering practices, marketing strategies, and biographies of leading figures associated with the automobile industry, all contained in a single, easy-to-read story."

"James Rubenstein's new book adds to the voluminous literature on the industry. What makes his book noteworthy is that he has brought together material that is usually the preserve of different types of scholarship, and done so in a straightforward manner impressive in scope."

"It is the best discussion of the evolution of the process of manufacturing cars that I know of."

"For readers seeking an overview of the industry Rubenstein's book offers a useful profile, especially for the last quarterly century."

"No one has actually performed the service of covering the entire U.S. motor vehicle industry in great detail—until now."

"This book is suitable for the general reader interested in automotive topics. The historic car buff will find plenty to enjoy. It is good background reading for undergraduates in transportation. But it is the marketing student who will get the most out of this book with its focus on consumer motivation, advertising, and franchising."

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