What I’ve Read Lately: American Icon

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jtpedersen_American Icon_book review

“American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company”
Author:  Bryce G. Hoffman

ISBN:  978-0-307-88607-1

If you liked Car Guys vs. Bean Counter you will almost certainly enjoy this book. American Icon is an incredible look into the machinations, politics, woes, and triumphs of Ford Motor Company.

Bryce had unparalleled access to senior Ford leadership, including Chairman Bill Ford, CEO Alan Mullaly, and the entire executive team.  The openness shared with the author, and by extension you, is rather surprising in today’s world.  And, it was done without requiring editorial review or permission.

American Icon opens with a look at Ford’s history.  Looking at Ford as the company Henry built, through the 50s, 60s,70s, 80s, on up to mid-2011.  The rich depth of detail leaves the reader spell-bound.  Not only are you seeing ‘public’ history, but insights to past thinking, fly-on-the-wall perspective of the Ford family’s own deliberations, as well as Mullaly’s and individual exec’s frank thoughts at the time.

This book not only looks at Ford itself, but also in the context of the global economic, political, and competitive landscapes.  We see the impact of competitors’ woes and the positive benefit for Ford (and Mullaly’s admonishing his team now’s not a time to gloat).

For those of us who have been closely involved with the automotive industry, this is a view behind the curtain of the history so many of us, or our family members, may have lived.

For those outside the automotive industry, this book offers insights you will find nowhere else.  It goes levels deeper than Car Guys.  Yet it offers the same frank, honest assessments, without defensiveness.

In American Icon, Bryce introduces you to the key players, and takes you on a journey.  The meat of the journey starts with Bill Ford’s ouster of then CEO Nasser, his own challenges as Chairman and CEO, and the realization he needed to find someone to help.  Someone like Alan Mullaly.

The journey, like looking at a changing kaleidoscope, gives you an appreciate of the sheer complexity of an organization like Ford, the people, the culture, and the process of change.  This book—more importantly its focus: Ford Motor Company—will become a case study for business students for decades to come.

American Icon is a book you won’t want to put down.  You will stay up late reading it.  You’ll skip dinner.  You will feel you’ve come to know the characters.  You will be bummed to see it end.  Darned good thing it’s 432 printed pages (read mine on iPad).  The saga will last a few days for avid readers:).

A great read.  I highly recommend it.