By on March 2, 2010

Motor Trend reports that former PT Cruiser stylist Brian Nesbitt has been relieved of his duties as the head of Cadillac, ending GM’s post-bankruptcy experiment of putting a stylist in charge of an entire division. But MT figures that Nesbitt’s ouster isn’t as simple as a failure to perform; according to their sources, the firing was political.

The shakeup has major implications for Bob Lutz’s future at GM. He hired Nesbitt away from Chrysler earlier last decade and made sure there was a place for the PT Cruiser designer at post-bankruptcy GM. Nesbitt’s departure would indicate Lutz’s role as one of three GM vice chairmen has diminished to almost nothing… Clearly, [recently-promoted sales boss and President of North American ops Mark Reuss] is putting his own team together, and it doesn’t include Nesbitt, who was posed as the aesthetic face of the Cadillac luxury division.

Reuters spoke with Maximum Bob in Geneva, and asked him about the “R-word.” Lutz replied:
The reason I am giving it active consideration this time is because I honestly feel I can look back with satisfaction and say the team I was privileged to lead in product development has actually achieved more than what I would have hoped for
That, or his word is no longer regarded with awestruck reverence around the RenCen, and the Man of Maximum is finding himself on the outside looking in. More evidence for this can be found in the apparent decision to put the Volt-based Cadillac Converj (which Lutz has actively championed) into development hell. According to Lutz:

As we took a look at our available capital and engineering resources, we decided that therer were things that were more urgent than doing a Cadillac version of the Voltec architecture. We had originally had a time slot for the Converj and that has been put on hold

Does something about Lutz’s use of the first-person plural seem a bit odd? It’s one easy way to conceal the fact that MaxBob and Ed “Rattler” Whitacre are at odds on a number of fronts. Would Mr Lutz like to comment on this rift?

Ed Whitacre is not interested in organizational stability, Ed Whitacre is interested in results. If it takes a certain amount of upheaval to get the right people in the positions than that is what he is going to do.

If that doesn’t suggest that Lutz is on his way out, what would? It looks like Docherty, Nesbitt and Lutz are on the decline, while Reuss and Steve Girsky are exercising ever more control as Ed Whitacre’s hatchet men. GM will be making an announcement about its latest shakeup sometime this week, and we’ll update you with the latest on this palace intrigue as it plays out.

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23 Comments on “GM Shakeups Continue: Nesbitt Ousted At Cadillac, Lutz “Actively Considering” Retirement...”


  • avatar
    Cammy Corrigan

    I hope Bob Lutz gets kicked out. This guy is a blot on the automotive landscape. Talks utter twaddle.

    • 0 avatar
      ASISEEIT

      Hey C.C. I have to agree with you on Lutz. In my adventures to and from Detroit I’ve talked to more than one person connected to Lutz and while they didn’t dislike him they didn’t understand his what they called “Babbling”. I’ve never met the man but reading this website’s article featuring Lutz’s “Chrome Is The Problem” piece, it seems “Babbling” might not explain it all.

    • 0 avatar
      bmoredlj

      At the very least, Bob Lutz cannot be the future of a resurgent GM.

    • 0 avatar
      Audi-Inni

      @Tooling Designer: While one can be educated on the industry without actually having been in it, I agree with your comments. Maybe it’s time for him to sign off, but I don’t think there’s any denying that GM products are leaps and bounds ahead of where they were before Lutz entered the scene and where they probably would have been had he not been at GM. Personally, I believe he has a grasp on what the customer is looking for and has done what he can in what is probably the most bureaucratic culture outside the government. Duds? For sure – the GTO is but one. But he worked within the constraints he had and I believe led a styling and quality renaissance at GM.

    • 0 avatar
      Maverick

      At this point, Lutz has finished his job. It’s time for him to go.

      Just imagine where GM would be if Lutz had not signed on a decade ago. He has a feel for the business that few other car guys in this business have. Huge ego and bluster, notwithstanding.

      Going forward, however, GM needs fresh blood and that includes select high-profile external hires. I’d like to see GM raid Toyota and Ford for a few guys who want to re-build GM.

      The bigger issue is the revolving chairs at GM. It’s understandable that a new CEO would want to put his team in. But it concerns me that this is the 3rd or 4th major change in the past year.

  • avatar
    rmwill

    “Aztek, GTO and G8″ Mark Reuss has a very checkered past and has never proven that he could succeed at anything product related. I am not sure what Big Ed sees in him.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Maybe it is not so much what he sees, but what he hears. “Yes, sir!” (I don’t think Lutz has been in that habit since he left the USMC-R).

  • avatar
    bmoredlj

    The Converj is gorgeous, but it too closely resembles the CTS coupe, and it’s raison d’être as a profitable EREV is in doubt due to the reductions in range luxury features would cause. It would be nice to have a new halo car, but I won’t be too sad if it doesn’t end up being the Converj.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    Like Bob Lutz or not he is more accomplished than EVERY single person on this blog. It’s a simple fact.

    True enough. But it’s also true that the generals who did a good job in the last war aren’t usually the best choices for the next war.

    Things change faster than old men’s thinking patterns

    • 0 avatar
      Audi-Inni

      This constant reference to his age is a simple pat answer that has no merit whatsoever. You really think car marketing and sales has changed that much over the past years? You have to make the customer want to buy your product and nobody knows this better than Max Bob. Many younger than he have failed – and many in the past few days. My father in law worked into his 80′s and knew more about his industry when he left than any up and comers would learn in a lifetime. Ever hear of experience?

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Could it be that Maximum Bob has already had his chance to turn GM around, and all that he managed to do was steer it on to the rocks.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Like Bob Lutz or not he is more accomplished than EVERY single person on this blog. It’s a simple fact.

    With all due respect, that was a pretty idiotic comment. There is no doubt as to his accomplishments. And I hate to say this because Lutz is roughly my Dad’s age, so no disrespect, but his ship has sailed. And while he has had quite a few market singles and doubles, mabye even a triple now and then, he’s muffed a few as well….including mediocre product (Solstice, G6 convertible, etc, etc). He’s been around GM for 9-10 years, and so I consider him nearly as responsible as Wagoner and Henderson for their crash and burn.

    Lutz is a gamer, and the game has run out. I do applaud many of his contributions in the past….

  • avatar
    Canucknucklehead

    I could not for the life of me understand why Lutz was brought back to begin with, other than to get yet another Golden Par Parachute. The man is stuck in chrome and tail fins

  • avatar
    mtr2car1

    Lutz was “accomplished” at gaming GM;
    Solstice
    CTS Wagon
    G8
    GTO
    G6 Convert
    Convertible Pickups
    V series vehicles
    XLR
    Off the Chart Corvettes
    4 versions of a large crossover
    [please add anything I missed]
    Unless this guy had a hand in GM China – what has he done to the better of the company. And before you mention the Malibu, ask youself how much better it could have been w/o these Talent/$ distractions. They still went bankrupt.

    • 0 avatar
      getacargetacheck

      Lutz has missed the mark often for sure. But, he has improved the overall look and feel of exteriors and interiors. Remember the Rubbermaid interiors of the cars that came before him or that were already set for production when he came onboard? Remember the huge gaps in wheelwells or the narrow track stances? The just good enough fit and finish? Those are the areas where Lutz has made a real difference to the customer.

    • 0 avatar
      BDB

      I agree, the interiors of GM vehicles have gone from awful to at least class-competitive and in some instances class-leading.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Solstice – after the intial stampede, a pretty poorly designed mediocre car.
      CTS Wagon – triple, maybe even a HR if it sells well. Which it won’t.
      G8 – excellent vehicle, with the rug pulled out from under it.
      GTO – huge misfire. Two years after they were pulled off active production and marketing I still saw a handful of new ones at the area dealer.
      G6 Convert – huge body flex (I know, it’s a covertible), zero storage.
      Convertible Pickups – I wasn’t aware of this….
      V series vehicles – par excellence, but not worth the BMW-M premium $ unless the history was there.
      XLR – yep, although they sold how many?
      Off the Chart Corvettes – same as above. And the interior materials are still pretty lame for a $50k car. As well as the kid brother (Camaro) with horrific ergonomics and a Playskool interior.
      4 versions of a large crossover – interesting thought. Perhaps his one strong selling legacy. Personally the GMC is the most attractive.

      My point was his record wasn’t ‘all that’, and it’s time to go home. For every hit or semi-hit he helped bring forward, he had a flop. When expediency was needed for a competent mass market sedan, they dumped all their money into rushing the Tahoe to market. We’re now on the 3rd generation of Prius – where’s the self-labeled innovation leader? The Chevy Volt? With the Nissan Leaf on it’s tail? Lastly, keep in mind his mouth wrote checks GM couldn’t cash. He sunk Pontiac back in ’05, undermining consumer confidence in the brand. The same would have happened to Buick had China not taken a hankering to them.

      Again, I applaud his accomplishments – and there’s many of them. But he wasn’t Jesus Christ.

    • 0 avatar
      european

      @Dave.

      that convertible pickup might be the chevy SSR.

  • avatar
    mjz

    mtr2car1:

    Agreed, under Lutz regime no huge monster seller big hits.

  • avatar
    mjz

    Lutz did a fantastic job improving GM interiors, fit/finish, etc. Problem is he concentrated on small niche image cars, as mtr2car1 pointed out. I can’t think of a single mainstream big seller of Camry/Accord stature under his regime.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Maybe all this “active retirement” talk is a ploy to justify a pay and benefits increase … (look what Lutz’s statements did for Whitacre’s P&B package … but he can’t sell that saussage twice, can he?)

  • avatar
    jimboy

    The problem with most of you people on here is that you simply cannot bear the fact that someone has the nerve to stick his head above the weeds, or an ounce of individuality. You soma-tized arse lickers would rather someone be dead than refuse to follow the mediocrity worshipping crowd that you all aspire to. One of the biggest problems with the auto industry for the past 30 years has been the Wagner’s, Eaton’s, Nardelli’s, Press’s, Schremp’s, and LaSorda’s, a bunch of lifers in grey suits who couldn’t recognize an original thought or idea if it slapped them in the face, which is why they are ALL GONE! Like him or not, Mr. Lutz has contributed more to the auto industry than any 10 other recent executives, and I sincerely hope he will continue to do so.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      Yes, early in his career, but since his days at Chrysler some 15 years ago, he hasn’t had one winner. Sure, he’s improved some of the cars, but he’s been part of the problem instead of the solution.

      BTW, you could say the same thing design-wise about Bangle, but that’s not a compliment either.


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