In this compelling, readable narrative, Joe Sherman explores virtually every aspect of the Saturn project, America's biggest and most publicized industrial success of the last decade. Here is the whole story--Saturn's mysterious beginnings inside General Motors in 1982; the site hunt that involved 38 states and ended in Spring Hill, Tennessee; the plant's construction and the transfer of 5,000 UAW members to a historic Southern backwater; and finally the small car's triumph in the marketplace (Consumer Reports and J.D. Powers both dubbed Saturn a made-in-America breakthrough)--all woven together into a candid, panoramic tapestry.
In the Rings of Saturn has a striking immediacy: the reader sees almost first-hand GM's 1991 Annual Meeting at the Grand Ole Opry led by chairman Robert Stempel, as gadfly stockholders turn the event into a parody. We spend a week on the crankshaft machining line under the care of paternal, bearlike teamleader Bob Courtemanche, experiencing Saturn's revolutionary but troubled team structure. We even drive around with Spring Hill's flamboyant, tobacco-spitting mayor George Jones, who tells Sherman that the difference between a "Yankee" and a "damned Yankee" is "a Yankee comes here and goes home; a damned Yankee stays." Dozens of characters, from local farmers, to inspired assembly line workers, to "car smarts and gut feel" engineers, move across these pages. Through these flesh-and-blood portraits, Sherman brings to life a very American story of renewal and growth, of great hope and soured expectations, of greed and lost opportunities. And he reveals as well the downside of the project--that while the car itself is a triumph, the project has failed to provide either the learning laboratory General Motors needed or a model for positive redevelopment rural America yearns for.
In the Rings of Saturn is both the anatomy of a corporate triumph and an incisive commentary on industrial renewal in the United States. And it exposes the high hopes and earthshattering disappointments that occur when big business appears in rural areas. It is a volume that will enlighten business readers, inform the automotive industry, and entertain Saturn car buyers, many of whom will think: "My little car means all this?"
"Deftly portrays the conflicting points of view....[Sherman] covers the gamut in this book, talking about racism in the Deep South, resentment some local people felt for the company that disrupted their lives forever and the mad rush among some to sell the land for top dollar to 'speculators....A wonderful read for anyone interested in what can happen when an industry as large as GM thrusts itself upon a tiny, picturesque town in the middle of farming
"A step-by-step account of the progress of Saturn Corporation from its inception through the company's first two years of production. The most compelling sections deal with the widely publicized impact the building of the Saturn factory had on rural Maury County, Tennessee, and on the town of Spring Hill in particular....Readable."--Publishers Weekly
"Provides an opportunity to reflect on how industrial renewal in the United States might best be handled to benefit both business and the community"--Sloan Management Review
"An interesting, instructive story...Sherman skillfully weaves togethor several disparate themes."--Booklist
"Wide-ranging....Tellingly detailed in many respects."--Kirkus Reviews
"In the Rings of Saturn is a different kind of book about a different kind of company. Saturn has been billed as, perhaps, the last gasp chance to demonstrate a traditional American company's ability to compete in the modern era while, at the same time, serving as a learning laboratory. Joe Sherman has written a provocative and insightful book on this important happening. He goes well beyond a mere description of the mechanical aspects of producing the
Saturn car by looking in depth at the community and its citizens, as well as the empmloyees of Saturn. He aptly describes the depth of human emotions involved in this massive experiment....If you are interested in the process of change in the '90s, the so-called paradigm shift, In the Rings of Saturn is must
reading."--David E. Cole, Director, Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation, University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute
"This is the most complete history of Saturn to date, covering the period from the original planning to Saturn's successful entry inu to the highly competitive marketplace. The author does a fine job of detailing the many problems surrounding the start-up of the Saturn complex, ranging from community resistance to turmoil in the executive suite at GM, as well as describing some important features of the unique people system."--Donald F. Ephlin, Senior Lecturer,
Sloan School of Management, MIT, and International Vice President, retired, the United Auto Workers Union
"A fascinating study that offers a rare look at how corporate America and the American South forged a new chapter in automotive history."--William Ferris, Co-editor, Encyclopedia of Southern Culture
"More than mere 'car talk', this is a rich and detailed assessment of how rural development and the good intentions of many gets turned around and distorted, leaving people and places with fewer rather than more opportunities and options."--Mark B. Lapping, author of Rural Planning and Development in the United States