Detailing what is at the center of the troubled American auto industry, this story is described by the people most affected by it as they confront 2009, which is bound to be their year of decision. It is not only Detroits fate that hangs in the balance but also dozens of places such as Kokomo, Indianahome to three generations of auto workers, many of whom are descended from the original pioneers in the state. The exploration focuses on Chrysler in particular and the citizens of Kokomo: union leaders, salaried plant managers, and elected local officials, as well ordinary citizens who run small businesses in town, and the veterans who gather at the American Legion halls. Profiles of some of those affected by the decline of the industry are presented, including the stories of Robert Nardelli, the Chrysler chairman; Frank Ewasyshyn, a Chrysler manufacturing chief who grew up near Kokomo; Tom LaSorda, the talented Canadian engineer who remade Chrysler plants; Bob Jones, a tool maker who farms 700 acres of corn; and former steelworkerand mayor of KokomoGreg Goodnight. This examination explains how the Detroit auto industry stumbled, why the decline matters, and how its collapse would leave the factory cities filled with millions of citizens reliant on part-time or seasonal work or on welfare handouts.

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