By on October 29, 2008

Being Bob Lutz has a fantastic job. He’s rich as sin (thank you, Daimler, for buying Chrysler), and he has Czar in his unofficial title with GM. He can say whatever he feels like, whether it’s about global warming (“a crock of shit,” in his words) or random price projections for meeting the next round of EPA standards. During Maximum Bob’s epic career, he’s “championed” some very interesting though chronically unsuccessful products. Some of these were on sale twenty years ago, others are on sale today. And still others will likely never see the light of day. While so many cars have been touched by Lutz’s magic hands, we present to you his big nine.

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32 Comments on “Bob Lutz’s Nine Greatest Hits...”


  • avatar
    Blunozer

    Yikes.

    Thanks for showing just how overated Lutz is. The only car among that bunch that is a legitimate success is the Viper.

    Didn’t know he was involved in the XR$4tTi. I certainly wouldn’t want to take credit for that ugly thing.

  • avatar
    Canucknucklehead

    Lutz is the epitome of everything that is wrong with the American model of business. Here is a guy who has made himself stinking rich on crappy products. He has run into the ground every company he has ever worked for. He has shamelessly played the media for his own personal benefit. The stock price of GM is at an all time low. He has never once tried to market a well built, efficient and profitable family car. He is a dinosaur, completely obsessed with the 50 year old Detroit notion of trying to squeeze the highest profit per car and damn the consumer.

    The consumer has gotten smart and stopped buying his junk; however, Lutz has succeeded in his goal. That is to make himself ever richer. How often do you see Honda and Toyota have cars like the ones above? They just keep churning out Fits and Corollas to a market that Lutz abandoned to them thirty years ago.

  • avatar
    snabster

    Last month I visited my parents. I my old bedroom I found a ancient yellow book “Sports Cars” from 1977. It is the kind of book that people buy at the bargain bin at Borders as cheap presents. I never understood the book since in the 70s we didn’t get much info on sports cars racing, and there are only about 5 pages on Indy racing. the rest is all euro. Re-reading it, it is amazing.

    I could remember almost every page. My favorite picture was a old pre-war BMW or Merc, with a biplane in the back. Red, I think. I loved that picture because it looked classic, like a 9 year old imagined sports cars to look like (not some formula 1 or le mans car). What I noticed this time was the caption, “Image courtesy of Bob Lutz, BMW corporation”

    I wish I was Bob Lutz. He has had a good life and I envy him. But it is time to go, my friend. Time to go.

    And don’t smack on the XRa4ti. That is a great car.

  • avatar
    NickR

    I agree with Bluenozer…this guy has gone 1 for 9 (the Viper). Who the hell stays at the top of their industry with a record like that? Amazing. And, yes, thanks for adding the Fauxlt. That car was a complete and utter fraud, and he knew it all along.

  • avatar
    1996MEdition

    I believe you asked in this article:

    Making A Connection

    why doesn’t Lutz come on TTAC and write a rebuttal. Maybe he agrees with all that is said here. Pretty much truth to every one else.

    I remember my parents having to take my Grandfather to a home when he started talking like MB. Time to put him out to pasture.

  • avatar

    The Viper will always be Lutz’s greatest legacy. It’s a raw, visceral, legendary car and will always remain so.

    His stint at Chrysler also included putting the emphasis back on car design and style overall. Something that really shown throughout the 90s at Chrysler. Most of their vehicles at the time were very good looking, a stark contrast compared to the 80s. This is why GM brought him on board years ago.

    Though he’s not getting credit for it here he has done the same for GM. He’s refocused GM’s emphasis on design and style, especially inside where the interiors went from grey, shiny and utterly embarrassing to being good to genuinely appealing. Don’t discount what a massive achievement that has been and it was entirely Lutz who cut GM’s talent loose.

  • avatar
    Canucknucklehead

    Chrysler cars of the 1990s may have had style but they were some of the worst engineered Pieces of Bleep that I have ever had the displeasure of dealing with. The LH cars were so bad they would self destruct even before the warranty expired. Styling was everything on them. For the low hood line, the air intake had to be low. Hit a big puddle and yer engine wound take a big gulp of said water. It was not a warranty repair. I live in a wet climate and we saw plenty. Try explaining to a customer that their six month old $35k car was now due for a $10,000 repair! How about having to remove the left front wheel to get at the battery? Doing the brakes and rotors at 20,000 km? How about the upper ball joints that cooked from the exhaust maifolds? Do you ever see a ten year old LH in the street? No, they all self destructed long ago.

    The Sebrings and Neons weren’t much better. I won’t even get into the disaster the 2000-2004 Grand Cherokee was. When one came on we rubbed our hands with glee: The “Grand” meant the owner was going to fork over $1000 in upsell when he went in to get the oil changed! And if he didn’t, the damned thing was going to leak oil all over his driveway. The hardest seal to get at, the transfer case input seal, was specifically designed to fail first, since it was the hardest (And most expensive) to replace.

    These customers were lost forever. When the 300 was introduced, we did not get them back. They bought Japanese cars so they would not have to deal with American junk. Well done, Bob! You made yourself a ton on bonus cash. When you fly away from the company in one of your jets, it is full of money. Too bad about the shareholders!

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I agree with Bluenozer…this guy has gone 1 for 9 (the Viper). Who the hell stays at the top of their industry with a record like that?

    Rick Wagoner?

  • avatar
    NickR

    snabster….I have seen that picture. The car in front is a vintage BMW 328 and the plane in the background is Bucker Jungmeister (Ringmaster) a freakin’ awesome aerobatic plane.

  • avatar
    tomm

    I find this article extremely unfair. He championed the new Chevy Malibu, which I would take over a new Camry any day. He also championed the new CTS. GM currently has some of the best and most competitive cars in decades. Unfortunately GM also has some totally uncompetitive cars and Lutz has recently said some bonehead things about how great the Cobalt, Aveo, and Grand Prix are. But still, many of the poor GM cars came before his time. I think if he spoke less, we would all have a higher opinion of the job he is doing.

  • avatar
    Canucknucklehead

    So, GM has the most competitive cars in decades. It just doesn’t sell them and then has to go to taxpayer for corporate welfare to pay Lutz’s and Wagoner’s bonuses.

  • avatar

    Lutz isn’t an engineer, what he knows is style. That’s what he’s brought to each automaker he has worked for. That’s what he deserves the most credit for. Like tomm said, he was almost singlehandedly behind the product style and design revolution we’ve seen at GM.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    7 of the 9 cars have manual transmissions and 7 of the 9 cars have rear wheel drive (giving the Cunningham the benefit of the doubt on both counts).

    I’m not sure if Lutz should be praised for trying to champion the rear wheel drive manual transmission layout or chastised for, through failed, poorly positioned, under developed niche models like the XR4Ti, Solstice and GTO, making the big three loose faith in that layout.

    I tend to err on the side of the later.

  • avatar
    Canucknucklehead

    Some revolution. Reminds me of Frank Zappa:

    “All of our stuff is American made,
    It’s a little cheesy, but it’s nicely displayed.
    We don’t get exited when it crumbles and breaks,
    We just get on the phone and call up some flakes.”

    Lutz is a flake. A snow haired flake. He has snowed consumers and share holders to make himself rich. And now he is going to snow the taxpayers of the USA on a car he knows will never be sold, the Volt.

  • avatar
    John R

    We have him to thank for the Prowler?!

    Ooooh, boy…

  • avatar
    Sammy Hagar

    Jim Rome (Goatee Hall of Fame inductee) periodically does a bit about a craptacular XR4Ti he owned; reading between the lines, I suspect he did not care for the vehicle.

    On a side note: One time I was going into a Safeway in Seattle and, parked w/in a few spots of each other, were an XR4Ti, a Delorean & a Sterling 827. Needless to say, I took my business elsewhere…no need to shop for Cocoa Puffs in Bizaro World.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    According to wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Lutz and even TTAC: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/double-lutz/ Lutz took part in the development of the BMW 3-series.

    After taking part in the creation of the most successful performance sedan line in history of the world maybe he figures he doesn’t need to create successful cars that people buy anymore.

    A more sinister possibility, given that he’s Swiss, and “Among other aircraft, he owns and pilots a Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet in German Luftwaffe colors”, is that he’s a double agent and trying to undermine the American automobile industry for the benefit of the Germans.

  • avatar
    autonut

    Lets ask ourselves “what did Putz really do?”. Most of folks are clamoring about Viper, but where was Lutz in development process? Was he Product Manager? No, not really. Lutz during that time was the member of board of directors. At best he reviewed some clay models and engineering reports presented to the board. Realistically, he was talking with engineers and buying them coffee.
    Lee Iaccoca was Product Manager for Mustang, while at Ford. That was a revolutionary car which started a new auto segment. Very same Lee Iaccoca was CEO of Chrysler when mini van was introduced and that started another segment. If anyone read Lee Iaccoca memoirs, you’d hard pressed to find 2 kind words about Lutz.
    At GM: GTO, G8 were conceived and developed in Australia. How further form Bob you can get? Perhaps those cars are decent, because vice chairman could not screw them up? Perhaps they are less then successful in US market, and credit should go to exec who decided to bring it over. Solstice was completed at GM before Lutz arrived. As any good exec would do – he accepted the credit for this work.
    Regarding his stint at BMW, where he allegedly help to build 320i. I owned 2002 (no not famous tii but a cheaper one) and 320i. I can personally attest, that 320i was not a step forward compare even to “civilian” version of 2002. If Lutz did have hand in this screw up, there is nothing to be proud about.
    Lastly, for the car guy he does not hold engineering degree, he isn’t designer or product manager. The guy is perfect example of Murphy’s Law “In a large corporations everyone has a chance to rise according to level of his incompetency and stay there”

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    The Viper is a very exciting and fast car but WTF has it done for a mass-market automaker like Chysler? Absolutely NOTHING! In reality has served as a big distraction or shall we say a “false” promise.

    Take a truck engine and install it into a barely refined chassis, WOW big freaking deal!

    The measure of Success for any mass-market company are products that actually generate VOLUME sales.

    Hell, any auto exec can redirect limited and necesssary fund from the REAL projects into a psuedo-exotic that will sell to the crowd that could careless about long term quality. In other words the Viper is NOT a “real-world” car.

    Put the Viper into context, like comparing it to a refined sportscar like a Porsche and the story quickly changes.

  • avatar
    mikeolan

    What about the Jeep Grand Cherokee? Dodge Ram? The current Malibu? The mid-90′s Chrysler lineup? (Blame Bob Eaton for scrimping on engineering)

    Actually, most of the cars here aren’t bad machines. Isn’t the purpose of sites like TTAC to try and steer people away from popular-but-wrong vehicles like the Camrolla?

    As a design exercise, I still like the Prowler.

  • avatar
    1996MEdition

    mikeolan :
    October 29th, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    What about the Jeep Grand Cherokee? Dodge Ram? The current Malibu? The mid-90’s Chrysler lineup? (Blame Bob Eaton for scrimping on engineering)

    Actually, most of the cars here aren’t bad machines.

    I’ll agree, not bad machines, but the competition is better in terms of quality & resale. Two very important considerations.

    Isn’t the purpose of sites like TTAC to try and steer people away from popular-but-wrong vehicles like the Camrolla?

    I believe TTAC’s job is to provide a forum for the truth, just like the name says.

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    whatdoiknow1 :

    I wouldn’t call the chassis of a car that set the production-car lap record (bettering the best that Porsche has to offer at a fraction of the price) on the Nurburgring ‘barely refined’.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    A few points to make here:

    First, yes, Bob Lutz has been involved in some ways with the development of some very good and even successful products. The scope and scale of his involvement is probably not something any of us is going to figure out.

    Second, yes, Bob Lutz has often been in favor of RWD cars – some of them extremely interesting (Merkur XR4Ti, Pontiac GTO). But most of these were, from the start, going to be niche products. Sure, the Pontiac Solstice is great to look at, and decent to drive (especially the turbo version), but so what? What if it was perfect?

    There’s a very important balance, or tension, between cars that “car people” want (i.e. many of the cars Lutz really likes and that we might really like) and smart business decisions.

    And letting Lutz divert attention and resources to niche products, while cool, is a dubious business decision. Even though you get benefits from having interesting cars in the lineup, it seems like the interesting niche products haven’t succeeded in pulling people into the showroom.

    GM isn’t picking up G6 sales because of the image or draw of the Solstice.

    Finally, at times, everybody has to deal with bad luck. Lutz being in the automotive industry for a long time, some of it is inevitable. The Saturn Astra? Which one of us, 3 years ago, would have said it was a bad idea to bring the Astra to the U.S.? I still crow every day about how Ford should bring the Euro Focus to the States.

    That’s where good business instinct some come in, however. I know as well as you do that currency-wise, Ford can’t just ship the Focus from Europe to the U.S. and call it a day. They have to build them in North America. Lutz and his associates should have known better – even when the U.S. currency was stronger.

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    thetopdog :

    I wouldn’t call the chassis of a car that set the production-car lap record (bettering the best that Porsche has to offer at a fraction of the price) on the Nurburgring ‘barely refined’.

    I would. But then to me, refinement is on-road refinement. Yes, the Viper is very track refined (e.g. perfected, optimised for the track, etc). But it’s a bad on road car. Always has been, going back to the first generation giving people burns on the side of their right leg.

    That said, the Viper is still awesome. For me, the appeal is that it’s not refined.

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    thetopdog :

    Ummmm, exactly how long has the Viper been around and what model year Viper put up that 7.22 time?

    The Viper has come a very long way from the orginial model that arrived in the 1990s.

  • avatar
    Canucknucklehead

    mikeolan, as someone who worked at a service adviser at a Chrysler dealership for many years, I can personally attest that Jeep Grand Cherokee is one of the worst pieces of junk this planet was ever blessed with.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    My personal fave is the Solstice.

    Loved the proto in Chicago.

    Then heard how heavy it would be…Lutz said 2700 lb…I thought “dang that will be 2900 production” (guess who was closer?).

    Then the “top/trunk stories” started to come out.

    Then it got pasted by the Miata is every head to head.

    Then the first year reliability was aweful…

    and the second…

    three in a row…

    rhymes with “Fiero”.

    One owner satifaction survey has seen it plummet from 80 something (100 point scale) to 59. Must be great to live with. The Miata has been 80s right along.

    To finish it off…they admit they lose 10k per.
    Priced for profit this rat would have to run with the 350Z and S2000. Got spanked by a profitable 22k car.

    And the man responsible for the only redeaming feature, styling, went elsewhere.

    Total Failure.

    This is the car that says “Quadruple Lutz” to me.

    Thanks Bob.

    Love and bullets,

    Bunter

  • avatar

    I don’t see why several of Lutz’s other cars, such as the 2008 CTS, 2008 Malibu, GMT900 trucks and SUVs (their political incorrectness notwithstanding, they are great trucks) would be excluded from this list. He’s not an engineer, but from a bringing-cool-cars-to-market perspective, the mid-1990s Chryslers – including the 1994 Ram – were pretty nice vehicles.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Lutz may have “championed” the dubious idea of importing the Astra, but other than that, he had nothing more to do with it than any other car developed by Opel. And the Astra was not distinguished in any characteristic; the Golf has it beat in every metric, not to mention sales.

  • avatar
    Liger

    whatdoiknow1–

    You obviously don’t know much. The Viper 8.0L V10 is a totally unique engine from the Ram 8.0L V10.

    Just like the GM had several 6.0L V8 engines. The previous generation CTS-V 6.0L V8 was different from the Pontiac GTO 6.0L V8, and that was different from the GM truck 6.0L V8.

  • avatar
    Dr Lemming

    I’m surprised that folks are calling the Viper a success. Certainly it can’t be called a commercial success, because sales have been small even by niche standards. I wonder whether the Viper has any hope of ever generating a profit for Chrysler. So what then did it accomplish?

    The Corvette has been good for GM because it displays the corporation’s ability to compete with the best sports cars in the word. The Viper, in contrast, is iconic only because it is so excessive and crass. It’s the kind of car a 13-year-old would design.

    How does that help Chrysler’s branding, particularly given the rest of its product line? A modern Jeepster would have been a more useful halo car than the Viper. But because Lutz has such a small one, he had to insist on the ultimate compensation car.

  • avatar
    Wolven

    The Corvette has been good for GM because it displays the corporation’s ability to compete with the best sports cars in the word. The Viper, in contrast, is iconic only because it is so excessive and crass.

    Your not biased or anything, are ya?

    And how loooonnnnngg did it take before the Corvette became even REMOTELY close to the Viper in performance??? And WHO was it that moved from ChryCo to GM and pushed for a Corvette that would actually be able to compete with a Viper? You ever notice how much the Vette began to look like the Viper after Bob went to GM?


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