Retracing the tortuous path of Chrysler; Bailout, by Reginald Stuart. South Bend, Ind: and books. $5.95.
Daily Newsblast. The fact that Chrysler Corporation is in a fix is well documented for all to see and read. Indeed, the end-over-end roll of the once-mighty Chrysler empire has been detailed, almost to a bore, over and over again.
After former chairman John J. Riccardo appealed some 18 months ago for federal funds to keep the Chrysler automotive machine in gear, the drama has been building daily to a crashing crescendo with the finale yet to come.
Will Chrysler make it or won't it? That is the question.
The fact is, Chrysler already has reached for $800 million out of $1.5 billion loan-guarantee pot which the 96th Congress authorized a year ago and now is appealing for another $400 million. To qualify it has made devastating cuts in its own operations, yet the multifaceted domestic concern continues to skirt the abyss of despair. Obviously, the economy is hurting the struggling automaker mightily as it is Ford Motor Company, American Motors, and even GM. Now Chrysler is after more US-guaranteed funds to help it continue in business.
Reginald Stuart, a New York Times writer in Detroit, has come out with a book with the provocative title, "Bailout, the Story Behind America's billion-Dollar Gamble on the 'New' Chrysler Corporation."
Interestingly, another Detroit-based writer, Barrett Seaman of Time magazine, also is putting together a book about Chrysler's agonizing struggle to survive. While Mr. Stuart's book already is on the stands, Mr. Seaman's more all-encompassing book isn't expected out until the fall.
Mr. Stuart traces the Chrysler story from its origins in 1924 to the rap on Uncle Sam's front door in 1979. It is based on numerous interviews with automen , in and out of Chrysler, unionists, bankers, retail dealers, and suppliers to the stalled automaker.
What went wrong? Lynn Townsend, former Chrysler chairman who retired in 1975 , once was quoted as saying: "I can't remember anything that I did wrong." No one else seems to know what went wrong, either. Obviously, the federal government bears part of the blame. Its tightening control of the auto industry through safety, emissions, and mileage mandates has done a lot to drive the US industry up to the wall.
Still Chrysler has always been a volatile company on a roller-coaster ride to tomorrow. Its highs were followed by lows with predictable regularity.
The decision on its future viability is still to come.
"Bailout" is a fascinating drama that is as current as today. However, its rush to the printing press shows up in the typos in the book.
An even deeper probe of Chrysler's wants and woes will be outlined in the upcoming Seaman book in the fall. Meanwhile, the Stuart book tells its story well.