Told with panoramic detail and gripping insight, The Reckoning is the inside story of automakers Ford and Nissanand the collapse of America's industrial supremacy After generations of creating high-quality automotive products, American industrialists began losing ground to the Japanese auto industry in the decades after World War II. David Halberstam, with his signature precision and absorbing narrative style, traces this power shift by delving into the boardrooms and onto the factory floors of the America's Ford Motor Company and Japan's Nissan. Different in every wayfrom their reactions to labor problems to their philosophies and leadership stylesthe two companies stand as singular testaments to the challenges brought by the rise of the global economy. With intriguing vignettes about Henry Ford, Lee Iacocca, and other visionary industrial leaders, The Reckoning remains a powerful and enlightening story about manufacturing in the modern age, and how America fell woefully behind. This ebook features an extended biography of David Halberstam.
I read The Reckoning in 2013. As a fan of David Halberstam, I knew to expect strong writing and narrative, but I wondered how relevant I would find this history, given that close to 30 years had elapsed since its publication. Would it be filled with predictions of Japanese world domination and paeans to the cultural superiority of the Japanese?
Anything but. The Reckoning’s relevance today is almost haunting – the discussions of topics such as Detroit’s addiction to large automobiles, the pressure to underinvest to meet Wall Street expectations, and the relationship between government and industry could have been written during the most recent crisis in 2008-2009. Prescient for 1986, a chapter near the end explores whether political forces at home might stifle Japan’s further economic expansion.
The Reckoning is also a good history, using two companies, Nissan and Ford, to illustrate the general trajectory of the industry. Halberstam explores both companies’ histories in detail (my paperback version is 750 pages long), giving the reader an understanding of what forces drove the actions of each company, as well as anecdotes and personal histories that bring the stories alive, such as the head of Nissan’s western U.S. division prying the “Fair Lady” label off their first entry into the sports car market in 1970 (he replaced it with their internal designation, the 240Z).
While some of the content in “The Reckoning” may be of less interest now than it was to the 1986 audience – we are probably less interested in the power struggle between Lee Iacocca and Henry Ford, for example - “The Reckoning” still provides today’s readers plenty of lessons about corporate and national competitiveness.
This was a very interesting book, most especially because I read it 14 years after its publication. The author, completing this before the internet was even a blip in everyday consciousness, based his conclusions on a "pre-net" analysis. Concerned with industry, and unaware of the computer revolution only then beginning, this book is an artifact of its time, only 14 years after publication.
It was a very interesting read, particularly because of the mini-biographies it contains. Well-written, but a bit light. Fascinating however, as a record of the state of thinking about economics at the time, and some nicely done summation of the history of post-war Japan.