Robert J. Dewar
A Savage Factory: An Eyewitness Account of the Auto Industry's Self-Destruction  

Why I wrote "A Savage Factory"

I worked at a Ford Motor Company transmission factory in Cincinnati when auto plants were a cross between an insane asylum and a battlefield, and the quality of American cars was an international disgrace. I have an MBA and simply could not believe the incompetence of management in the auto plants. I soon began to feel that the days of the U.S. auto industry were numbered, because Ford cannot run a factory like it is still 1930, the auto industry cannot treat employees and customers with disrespect and insensitivity, and the Big 3 cannot sell poor quality cars in a competitive global auto market.

I wanted to give people a long, hard look behind the dirty gray walls of auto factories so they could see, up close, the conditions in the plants where their cars were built, and the kind of management that was destroying an industry. So I kept a daily journal of my experiences. I made copies of telltale internal documents. I made an extensive collection of defective parts that were routinely assembled into Ford C-4 automatic transmissions. Later, as defective parts began to fail, 200 people would be killed, 1400 injured, and Ford Motor Company would become the only corporation in American History to be charged with reckless homicide. Ford would also receive the largest recall in automotive history - 23,000,000 vehicles with defective transmissions. The only thing that saved Ford from bankruptcy over this massive recall was the Reagan Administration removing the authority of the government to order mandatory recalls.

When I wrote this memoir of my years as an auto plant foreman and general foreman, my intent was not to do harm to the automobile industry. The last thing that I want to see is a collapse of the Big 3 and the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs. So why did I write this personal memoir?

I wrote it because I do not believe anything will change until we look closely at what we are doing wrong. Only then can we change and do things better. I believe stongly that the current troubles in the automobile industry have little to do with the villains identified in the nightly news: poor fuel efficiency, poor design, or unfair competition from foreign imports. I believe that we are losing the global auto war in the factories where the cars are built.