In the 1990s, Detroit discovered “shareholder value,” which was the latest fetish of the financial crowd on Wall Street. Not that the Big Three weren’t interested in their shareholders before. But with the stock market booming, it became a mantra that management zealously preached everywhere it went. GM, Ford and Chrysler went after it with a vengeance. They right-sized, diversified, restructured, outsourced, merged, acquired, globalized and dove deep into the digital economy. Everything ...

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