By on May 20, 2011

The auto media has been receiving its advance copies of Bob Lutz’s forthcoming book “Car Guys versus Bean Counters” over the last few weeks, and have been leaking some of the more provocative statements and conclusions from it. I too requested a book and tore through it over the past week, enjoying Lutz’s direct voice and keen insights into his time at General Motors… as well as the attention-grabbing, politically-charged statements that the rest of the media seems so fixated upon. The bad news is that I won’t be able to write a full review until we get closer to its mid-June launch date, but the good news is that our forbearance has been rewarded: despite sideswiping yours truly in one passage, a brief but rewarding email conversation has generated more mutual respect, and Mr Lutz has agreed (in principle) to a TTAC interview to accompany our review at the time of the book’s release. Sometimes observing an embargo is worth it.

But fear not: just because the promise of an interview with one of the most influential figures in the industry has us delaying our review for another month or so, we’ve got more Lutz-related material with which to build up to what I expect to be a watershed interview for TTAC. Next week I’ll be publishing a review of Mr Maximum’s previous book “Guts,” and to kick of the coming months of Lutzmania, we’ve got a very special contest that is sure to stump even TTAC’s most well-versed Best and Brightest.

Shortly after Lutz’s arrival at GM, he began tackling the problem of body panel gaps, which at the time was 5mm with a variation of up to 2mm, a standard that he “complained and complained” about, given that the Germans and Japanese were building cars with smaller gaps and almost no variation. At one point, Lutz attended a large meeting at GM’s Milford Proving Grounds in which he and senior execs from GM’s Product Development, Design, Quality and Manufacturing examined GM’s then-current lineup and compared them to the competition. After some loud complaints about GM’s inability to create crisp panel gaps, Lutz was confronted by the executive in charge of GM’s sheet metal fabrication, who apparently grabbed Lutz by the lapels and raised him up on his toes, saying

OK, I think I’ve heard about as much of this shit as I want to. YOU are now going to take ME to the car that you think is best and we’re going to focus on that one.

Lutz then took him to one of the competitive cars that Lutz thought was the best sheet-metal-wise… which leads us to the question: which car did Lutz identify as having the best sheet metal of the competition? This vehicle became GM’s “new standard for sheet metal,” and learning from it directly improved GM’s sheet metal quality, according to Lutz. So, what was it?

Leave your answer in the comments section, and the first correct answer gets our Lutzian prize: a special booklet and USB storage drive (along with branded packaging) that was handed out to journalists attending the launch of the Chevrolet Volt. In short, your knowledge of GM’s obscure history will gain you a piece of GM’s less-obscure history. Qualifying answers must identify the make, model and generation (expressed in the range of model-years produced or model code, for example “1998-2005 (E46) BMW 3 Series”). This contest is closed to GM employees, members of the auto media or anyone else in possession of an advance copy of “Car Guys”(i.e. show a little honor and don’t cheat).

Good luck!

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129 Comments on “TTAC Contest: What Car Inspired GM’s Panel-Gap Improvements?...”


  • avatar
    tn4601

    Cadillac CTS?

  • avatar
    Zackman

    It’s gotta be a Toyota Camry or a BMW.

    Educator Dan is going to have a field day with another photo of Max. Bob to add in case he ever gets tired of having Mr. Nielsen as his avatar (I won’t – it’s the greatest!).

    I know the Camry was the standard that Chrysler tried to emulate back in the 80′s. Too bad they couldn’t pull it off. My 2004 Impala has some odd-fitting pieces in and on the dash, but it doesn’t detract from the car as a whole, which I love, but I understand the perception of quality consistency of fit and finish represents.

  • avatar
    drylbrg

    I have a hard time picturing anybody grabbing Lutz by the lapels and lifting him up on his toes. I wouldn’t think that a Marine would allow that kind of thing.

  • avatar
    Pantherlove

    I’m going to guess the Lexus LS 430(XF30).

  • avatar

    and who was the executive that questioned Bob? my guess is Joe Spielman.

  • avatar
    jjster6

    Lexus LS 400.

  • avatar

    I’f I had to impress upon someone that 5mm gaps were unacceptable – I’d use the Honda Civic. Honda is a smaller manufacturer and doesn’t have a bunch of money, so that excuse is gone. Honda manufactures in America with American steel and workers so that nullifies those excuses, and the Civic is mass produced so that nullifies the “it’s a luxury” car argument.

    So my guess: Current model (at the time) Honda Civic.

  • avatar
    DDayJ

    E120 Toyota Corolla

  • avatar
    AKADriver

    Lutz joined GM in 2002, so the gold standard of panel gaps at that time – at least among cars that would be considered competitors to GM products – would have been the A4 Volkswagen Jetta. Possibly the B5 Passat instead, but definitely a Volkswagen.

    Toyota’s build quality and precision at that time was on a backslide from the high point set by the original LS400 and the “baby Lexus” ’92-’96 Camry.

    • 0 avatar
      Diesel Fuel Only

      Aren’t they still the gold standard for tight bodies? Yeah, the cars are prone to various gremlins, but VW is fixated about assembly quality. The Wolfsburg plant is phenomenal, not a single outdated piece of machinery anywhere on that line. I’ll go with a MK VI Golf (1999-2004) since everyone has already mentioned the Jetta and B4 Passat.

  • avatar

    E39 BMW 5 Series (’97-’03)

  • avatar
    DenverInfidel

    He probably took a look at my Maxx SS and decided there was nowhere to go but up. I can fit an entire finger between body panels at various points around that car. And I’m not skinny.

    Seriously though, I would agree with Ben above and say the civic. Or even the accord, but probably a Honda.

  • avatar
    NN

    Opel Omega (i.e. Cadillac Catera). Just a guess…maybe GM was already building cars to the desired tolerance in their European operations, and Lutz wanted to show them that. It can’t be too obvious, otherwise it wouldn’t be interesting enough to write about.

  • avatar
    Benya

    6th Gen Honda Accord.

    • 0 avatar
      kurtamaxxguy

      The ’82 Accord Hatchback had big panel gaps, especially around the hatch. I had to inspect 20 of them to find one car that had equal spacing on both left and right rear side.

  • avatar
    GMLCountry

    You mean it wasn’t the Saturn Ion!?

    My first thought was a Lexus LS, but that’s been said a few times already. I’ll go with the Mercedes E-Class (W210).

  • avatar
    mikey

    I was taught front end sheet metal fit,in 1976. Fender to hood,was done by eye. Both sides had to match,and you couldn’t have a “pie shape” front to rear. Fender to door was done with fender shims. The feature line had to align. We were not allowed to move the doors. Moving doors caused wind noise and water leaks. Or so we were told.

    I little inside info here. A standard hexagon Bic pen,was the minumum gap. Any smaller and the door would bind.

    BTW… I’m fairly sure I know the answer. Ed…..your secret is safe with me.

    • 0 avatar
      Athos Nobile

      The problem with moving the doors is that you almost surely will peel the paint on the bolts and expose the area that wasn’t painted/treated before. That would be a solution to take when everything else fails.

      Wind noise comes when the surfaces are not flush. That’s from my experience. Water leaks is a completely different and interesting topic itself, and fixing them sometimes is more an art than a science.

      As long as there’s enough pressure and contact surface with the seal, everything should be OK.

  • avatar
    PartsUnknown

    ’84 Dodge Daytona

  • avatar
    MoppyMop

    ’98-’05 Volkswagen Passat (B5)

  • avatar
    sean362880

    I’m thinking Audi. Maybe a ’02-04 A4.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    VW Beetle

  • avatar
    Atomicblue

    My guess is it was a Toyota Camry. I’m debating if it would have been the 1996-2001 (XV20) model or the 2002-2006 (XV30) model. Maximum Bob got to GM in Sept 2001 time frame so that would have been right when the change over in the Camry generation was happening. If this incident happened a few months after he got there it would have been easy to get either of two models. The XV20 was a better car quality wise, but the XV30 was Toyotas newest and GM wouldn’t have yet realize the quality wasn’t as good as the previous one. I’m going Toyota Camry (XV30), 2002 model.

  • avatar
    goacom

    I say it is the B5 VW Passat or possibly the A4 VW Jetta. These two cars were the industry benchmarks in the non-premium sector in their day.

  • avatar

    Ed, I don’t know if I’m eligible for the contest, but the answer is Hyundai. I heard (with my own ears) Lutz once say that the Koreans were the benchmark for sheet metal quality.

  • avatar
    Verbal

    Tata Nano.

  • avatar

    Still waiting for a qualifying answer…

    • 0 avatar
      AKADriver

      My answer from above in the official format:
      1999-2005 (A4) Volkswagen Jetta.

    • 0 avatar

      I take it that I’m ineligible, or wasn’t specific enough. Hyundai Sonata?

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Pre-DCX PT Cruiser? pre-2002 Chrysler 300M? The Prowler?

      I’m assuming Lutz had a soft-spot for Chrysler.

      • 0 avatar
        Pig_Iron

        @psarhjinian

        I don’t know about the best volume production vehicle – but the best panel gap and surface match I have EVER seen on ANY car was on the prototype PT Cruiser I saw at the Bemidji cold weather test site. It was as perfect as I ever seen. My mind was totally blown – especially with all the the compound curves on it.

        I sorrily let down when I saw the production version. Don’t even get me started on the aluminum hood on the LH. Anyway, I still take out my old taper gauge and poke the slots in my Pontiac from time to time.

    • 0 avatar
      Atomicblue

      By qualifying answer I assume you mean correct answer as opposed to a properly formatted answer.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    This is the kind of thing that really bugged me about Lutz. Panel gaps, truly, don’t matter.

    The reason GM lost marketshare isn’t because the cars were chintzy inside, occasionally ugly outside, drove badly, handled worse and had half-inch gaps—contemporary Toyotas weren’t much better in this respect—it’s that the cars broke down too often and cost too much to keep running and (this is important) GM et al made it really hard for their customers to get any recompense.

    Saturn, for all it’s faults, was a testament to how good customer service would forgive otherwise-awful products and, yes, huge panel gaps.

    Lutz never got this because he never had to deal with GM (or Chrysler’s) quality assurance and warranty claims process and the costs it imposed on people. It’s also why, while I like some of the product coming out of GM, I don’t get a level of comfort about those core issues having been addressed.

    • 0 avatar
      segfault

      Yeah, but even Saturn had a bunch of issues with oil burning on the S-series and electronics on the L-series, and I think a lot of those customers walked away mad.

      • 0 avatar

        I had a terrible time getting Saturn to deal with the oil use problem–over a number of years, to the point where I was convinced their vaunted customer service was bullsh*t. At one point, they made me spend $300 to fix a minuscule leak in order to be eligible for another of their oil use tests. And when I finally did get the engine replaced, at a cost of $700 (the difference they said between doing the ring and valve job which was typical) and the cost of a new engine, they left a lot of old stuff in there, so that my gas mileage didn’t improve at all (and I was burning ~2 quarts in 3,000 mi when I finally got the replacement). I had to figure out something was wrong after the transplant, and then badger them to fix it.

        It’s true, on the other hand, that the panel gaps really didn’t matter.

    • 0 avatar
      mac

      Yeah, focusing on panel gaps gives off a real cargo-cult vibe.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Psar nailed it. There was a clip on this site a few months ago featuring Lutz going on about “nested” hood of the Malibu, or maybe the Cruze, I’m not sure. He was so into it, but nobody really cares about that. We want cars with transmissions that don’t grenade after 50,000 miles, and in the 90′s none of the Detroit 3 could deliver. That’s why they got killed.

      I think Lutz did some good work at GM, but he didn’t seem to get that you have to nail the big stuff before you sweat the small stuff.

      • 0 avatar
        segfault

        Yeah, the head gaskets, intake manifold gaskets, transmissions with 100k or “lifetime” fluid that would grenade before 50,000 miles, the cold start knock problem on the full-size trucks, the steering clunk on the Impala and Epsilon cars, undersized brakes that are designed to warp rotors, giant A-pillars, the list of GM design flaws that were never really fixed is pretty staggering. Sadly, most of their vehicles drive pretty well when they’re working properly.

      • 0 avatar
        M 1

        BUT… the UAW pension plans were funded and Congressional mandates were satisfied.

        What, that’s the kind of car company you voted for, wasn’t it?

    • 0 avatar

      Must disagree. Some buyers definitely examine panel gaps, both because tight even gaps make the car look better and as an indicator of how thoroughly the car was engineered and manufactured.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        I concur. Big gaps may not turn off some buyers, say when it was on a Porsche 944. Saturn gaps were large because of the expansion needs of the plastic panels. But beautiful tight fits of say, an Acura NSX (recall the white one featured here at TTAC not too long ago)…such assembly oozes quality…of course it doesn’t mean much if the rest of the car is crap, but that combination is rare indeed.

      • 0 avatar
        MoppyMop

        Maximum Bob’s Sonata itself, and late 90s/early 00s Hyundais in general were an example of exactly that combination. The panel gaps may have been top notch but the horrid interiors and disposable mechanicals didn’t live up to that promise.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Wow, what a great question!

    I will go for a mini-darkhorse here. Lexus SC430. Either that or a Mercedes S-Class.

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      That lexus was pretty good for machine made stuff. By that I mean, they don’t seem to do the same amount of manual massaging to get the same results as the Euro luxo ships.

  • avatar
    340-4

    Daewoo.

    I think.

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      That would make my brother Jon happy. He works in university machine shop. The students call him Jaewoo (after his Lanos), and tell him his rims are sick. This confuses him.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    I never thought panel gaps were a big deal. Transmissions that last more than 30k or headgaskets which stay put are a bigger issue.

    Am I the only one that thinks Lutz looks like Leslie Neilson?

    • 0 avatar
      340-4

      And let’s not forget intake manifold gaskets!

    • 0 avatar
      jeffzekas

      And the paint that peeled after only a year or two!

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      I never thought panel gaps were a big deal

      If you can’t even get the major parts you can see to fit right – imagine the horror going on where you can’t see.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      “Am I the only one that thinks Lutz looks like Leslie Neilson?

      @GS650G: After about 5 minutes of cracking up, was I able to comment on your note! Educator Dan must be cracking up, too! Brilliant!

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        Ohhhhhhhhhhh but I’m sooooooooo tempted to change my avatar to that picture of Lutz that’s at the top of the thread.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        Ha ha ha! Please don’t! Puleeze? But if you do (temporarily, I hope), use the photo from a month or two ago when he’s sticking his head out the window of a Volt, looking back! Now THAT was a funny shot, one that Mr. Nielsen would be hard-pressed to imitate!

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        This site needs a “Lutz” link at the top of the page. The Man, The Myth, The Legend, Bob Lutz.

    • 0 avatar
      MattPete

      Panel gaps are a big deal, and that, along with similar faults, are why I would never buy a GM car.

      Here is why they are a big deal: when I’m stuck in traffic, and checking out cars, the GM cars, in general, looked like junk compared to everything else around them. Huge panel gaps. Blacked-out glass edges to disguise unnecessarily large pillars (yesterday’s “black triangles”). Bodywork in back that did not reach below the bumper, so that I had a full view of the gas tank, spare tire, sway bar, and 50 pounds of road gunk. Giant wheel wells with tiny tires — the wheel wells were so large you could see half of the strut spring. You didn’t see that on the other cars, and all of them added up to make the GM cars look cheap.

  • avatar
    NN

    Hyundai Sonata

  • avatar
    jeffzekas

    My son totalled his 1968 Ford Galaxie last November, and bought a BMW 328i… awesome build quality (the Beemer, not the Galaxie)… so, Lutz either pointed out a Beemer, or the Beemer-MB clone: a Lexus LS 400/450/460

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Well congratulations on snagging maximum Bob for an interview. Whatever else it may be, it will be a fun read!

    Now, to the question. Although it was launched prior to Maximum Bob’s arrival at GM, IIRC, the Mazda Millenia, the first in a series of cars for a nascent Mazda luxury brand to be called Amati, featured extremely tight body panel tolerances. A second generation car was rolled out in, IIRC, about 2000. I confess I can’t be any more precise about the model designation. But I recall the small body panel gaps being promoted by the company and mentioned by the reviewers. Given that the car wasn’t truly a luxury car, or luxury-car priced, this was a significant accomplishment.

    The Millenia S had a miller-cycle engine that was turbocharged, another unusual combination.

  • avatar

    the first gen saturns had huge panel gaps, so I’m guessing that was it. (I didn’t pay close attention to the later ones.)

  • avatar
    obbop

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&sugexp=ldymls&xhr=t&q=lulz&cp=4&qe=bHVseg&qesig=m5WLl8z3jnNgWQ8ALuWKhA&pkc=AFgZ2tngyJaaJ8PR7GJKeTRgbI63a286euFpRMSUJAIHGP4X5GfmLMW8XLyMUGOQXHReffcs1-r50AUCW05_q_5Hm1Wdwfh6fw&safe=off&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&biw=1280&bih=847

  • avatar
    Lampredi

    [W]hich car did Lutz identify as having the best sheet metal of the competition?

    Not sure which car it is, but it’s probably a car Ferdinand Piëch (aka Herr Spaltmass) was involved in developing.

  • avatar

    Changed my mind…

    Lutz had a hand in the 70′s in the BMW 3-series design. So, that’s my guess.

  • avatar
    Jungle Jim

    All of you are wrong! Believe it or not, it was a Hyundai Elantra

  • avatar

    Still waiting on a qualifying answer. Take that as you will… and keep on guessing!

    • 0 avatar

      Meaning you’re all wrong so far. B&B my ass.

    • 0 avatar
      Kosher Polack

      Qualifying, you say? Sounds racy. Something homologated? 2001-2007 Subaru WRX. Has lots of seams and holes cut in a simple body designed to handle a beating. (I really have no clue)

    • 0 avatar
      benzaholic

      then in qualifying format, let’s try:
      Hyundai Elantra, third generation (XD), made from approximately 2000-2006.

      Not entirely convinced of it, but it’s apparently the previous post that I most believe.
      Wasn’t it Hyundai around that time that was talking about using a single piece of metal for the whole side of the car, instead of the several pieces that others used, that needed to be welded together?

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Someone has already given the right answer, but likely they haven’t gotten the format right.

      I think its a Lexus, but would have no clue as to model or year. I remember that old Lexus ad where they rolled a ball bearing down the hood / fender gap… that was impressive.

      My current Dodge Dakota has gaps big enough to lose a #2 pencil in. A prime example of bad fitment: the windshield wipers actually HIT the hood in one place. That’s just sad. And I own a B5 Passat as well… never really noticed the gaps but I can tell you this: the interior is NOT screwed together well at all despite looking nice when first purchased. As far as interiors goes it has worn worst then any previous vehicle I have owned. So much for “soft touch” plastics – they ALL peeled after approximately 5 years of garage kept ownership. The rock hard plastic in my Dakota truck? Looks as good as day one even after nearly TEN years of Florida sun exposure.

      • 0 avatar
        Kosher Polack

        Your argument is exactly why I immediately disregard reviewer complaints about hard-plastic-rubbermaid interiors. Yeah, they’re not luxurious, but have you ever looked at used fifth-gen Jettas? Sure they were beautiful inside when they left the factory…

      • 0 avatar

        What’s sad is that when that Lexus ball bearing ad was released, Lincoln still had assembly workers banging on hinges with hammers like apes.

  • avatar
    douglas751

    Volkswagen B-5 Passat, sold from 1998 to 2005 here in the USA. 1996 to 2005 in Europe.

  • avatar

    BMW since he worked in BMW. Cannot believe it would be Ford or Chrysler.

  • avatar
    newfdawg

    I’ll say Honda Accord.

  • avatar
    beken

    I remember seeing a Nissan Sentra commercial where they rolled a steel marble along the gap between the hood and the fender and the ball rolled smoothly at constant velocity along that gap as display of perfect panel alignment. So I’m going to say Nissan.

    Incidentally, my 1999 Buick Century came out of the factory with the door misaligned so poorly that the passenger door required me to pull up on the door in order to close it. The gap at the top varied in width from about 5mm to 0mm actually touching. GM has come a long way since then.

  • avatar

    OK, more specifically, BMW E46?

  • avatar
    Commando

    This one is too easy. The early 80′s Imperial. Assembled on a dedicated line by hand.

    • 0 avatar
      MoppyMop

      So was the Reatta, later Corvairs, and any number of wretched British crapcans from the 60s/70s. Hand built isn’t a guarantee of good build quality, if anything it often makes things worse.

  • avatar
    RGS920

    Audi A4 – B6 Type 8E/8H, 2000–2005

    • 0 avatar
      wagonsonly

      Volkswagen New Beetle (A4 platform), first released in ’98, refreshed in ’06, may it rest in peace…

      For having plastic pieces all over the place and composite front and rear fenders, the panel gaps on these things are incredible.

  • avatar
    Marko

    2002-2006 (L31) Nissan Altima

  • avatar

    Toyota Camry V20 1988-1991

  • avatar
    vent-L-8

    a SAAB 9-5, I had one of the first 1999 models and I think that they peaked with that car.

  • avatar
    RGS920

    Lexus LS430 2000-2003

  • avatar
    Doc

    I will guess 2nd generation Lexus LS400 (XF20)

  • avatar
    Trend-Shifter

    1990-1994 Toyota Camry V30

    I think TTAC should set-up an ECO challenge similar to the CTS sedan challenge. Bob and Jack would be perfect participants.
    Rather than pure power it would be a formula of who can cover the most ground in 3-4 hours on a race track while factoring in who consumed the least amount of fuel.
    Perhaps limit it to GM products and part of the challenge is you need to also pick the car you want to use. Is the Corvette or the Eco-Cruze the answer?

    Darn, I think I just invented the next phase of NASCAR racing. I can just see all those left coast tree huggers with a NASCAR hat!

  • avatar
    Amendment X

    I was going to guess a premium automaker, but I know Lutz is a good politician – it would be more persuasive to put a well-engineered budget car in front of everyone rather than something like a Lexus or a BMW – in order to show that closing the panel gap is something attainable by any car company.

    I say it’s the 1997–2006 Volkswagen Golf MK4

  • avatar
    celebrity208

    ’02/’03 Acura TL

  • avatar
    Doc

    I would not have guessed this but by deduction, I am going to place a second guess. 2nd gen Hyundai Elantra (J2) 1995-2000.

  • avatar
    anchke

    Well, I woulda guessed a permutation of VW/Audi, but them’s taken.

    But there’s something the missus and I noticed barely two hours ago on the subject. One of those wretched, swoopy, space shippy new Hyundais was stopped at a light next to us. Light color. It looked like it will in a few years — dated and crappy. Why? Because the design calls for a lot of seams outlining body panels and, in a light color, the sheer number of seams and any slight variation in them sticks out in a decidedly sore thumby way. Darker colors mute the problem. Ol’ Bob might have missed the fact that designs requiring too many tight seams are also undesirable.

  • avatar
    bam210135

    either a W220 S-Class (1999-2005) or a W211 E-Class (2003-2009)

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    “Qualifying answers must identify the make, model and generation (expressed in the range of model-years produced or model code, for example “1998-2005 (E46) BMW 3 Series”).”

    model-years 2001-2006 (UCF30) Lexus LS 430

  • avatar
    ajla

    F50 Infiniti Q45.

  • avatar
    Twin Cam Turdo

    1993-1997 (AE101/AE102) Toyota Corolla

  • avatar
    geozinger

    1965 Volkswagen Type 1 Beetle.

  • avatar

    2002-2005 Hyundai Sonata. The styling was… inspired… but the metal was solid.

    (If this is the right answer, it also explains why GM has the same weight problems today, that Hyundai had 10 years ago.)

  • avatar

    Agreeing to an embargo is never worth it.

    • 0 avatar

      I know better than to disagree with you in this forum, but believe me when I say that forgoing a “scoop” book review is worth getting to ask MaxBob multiple questions. I realize it requires a little faith at this point, but I assure you that when Bob and I finally sit down, the results will be worth reading.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        @Ed:

        I’m sure you have tons of things in mind ask Lutz, but before you do get to sit down with him, maybe you could solicit some ideas from commenters?

        I could really use some closure on the whole “Kill the F-body, build the SSR, create the Kappa platform, call the Monaro the GTO, build the (successful) Zeta Camaro without a Firebird partner, kill Pontiac” thing.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        Is it? That’s how one starts off down the velvet alley.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        Pleas ask him to make the rear windows open on coupes again – and to make the Camaro a pillarless hardtop – I mean, the convertible is complete, why not hhe coupe? Oh, yes – make the windows larger so I can see out of them, because that’s the only way will I ever get to buy one!

      • 0 avatar
        Pig_Iron

        @bumpy ii

        Isn’t Lutz the one in a velvet alley?

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        Interesting point. I suppose it depends on how much of a worked shoot the whole “car guy” schtick is.

      • 0 avatar
        Dr Lemming

        Living may be easy in Farago’s white-and-black world, but it doesn’t always lead to the best journalism.

        Edward, I hope that your deal proves worthwhile. However, I question whether it makes sense to announce it in advance of the interview. Lutz is an old hand at working the media. Truth be told, you don’t yet know if the results will be worth reading. Perhaps more importantly, you might have had a better chance of getting interesting responses to your questions if you had flown below radar.

        Strikes me as a beginner’s mistake.

  • avatar
    Mathias

    Gotta be a Volkswagen product, under the tutelage of “Fugen-Ferdi” Piech himself. Another term I remember from the era is “Spaltmass-Fetischisten” — panel gap fetishists, applied to VW in general.

    To keep it simple, I’ll go with the Golf. Mk IV, since you asked for specifics.

    Cheers -Mathias

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Hyundai, bloody Hyundai.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    I read this some hours ago, but posting with the cell phone is a b@#$%&.

    When I worked in QC we looked after gap, alignment and that all surfaces were even. There were standards with tolerances for every dimension and workers knew how to properly do the job. We also looked for dents (and some are so small that the customer won’t even see it), which fixing was “magic”.

    I don’t think he was thinking about any of the Germans, because even today, some of them have gaps in the 4-5mm range. VAG products are the best ones from what I see on the local parking lot

    Of the Japanese brands, I usually see that Hondas are the ones with tighter gaps. The holy brand is not particularly impressive with either gaps or alignment. Flushness is generally OK on all of them.

    Also since he was going to scold those guys, the brand of choice had to be “cheap” in order to be able to teach a lesson. An expensive brand was out of the question. I would have done as he did.

    I was thinking more in the lines of the 3rd gen (01-06) Hyundai Elantra, which has some very tight gaps and overall good fit. And so I lost.

    And seeing the final result convinced me that my suspicion was complete when I was thinking in the last hours about a massive car.

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      The worst, as I was taught, were vocational vehicles, like full size vans. This was because the panels were huge, and fit & match were a lower priority. In general that seemed to be the case, but the worst I ever saw was the Hummer H2 at Mishawaka.

      I was shocked that such horrible distortion would be allowed. The guy on line went into a laughing fit when he saw the look of horror and disbelief on my face. It must have made his day – I think he was near tears. I remember his reaction kind frightened me too.

    • 0 avatar
      Athos Nobile

      I haven’t worked for GM. When I worked with commercial vehicles we had to respect the same: gap, alignment and flushness.

      Fitting in them tend to be more difficult because as you mentioned panels are bigger, but the standards are enforced anyway, with emphasis on zones with direct/1st time/usual customer eye contact.

  • avatar
    hgrunt

    The 2002-2005 (EM2, ES1, EP3, EU1) HOnda Civic comes to mind. It has paper-thin panel gaps and millions of them were produced across the globe. If anything’s a good benchmark of tight panel gaps on a production car, that’d be it.

  • avatar

    A 10 year old car is what GM is trying to catch up to? It’s a telling reason why the “Big 3″ were hurting so bad. Unfortunately fixing the issues with the cars is only the first step, fixing the terrible dealers and the way they treat customers is another. I will never own another Ford, GM, or Chrysler product after going to German (VW) and Japanese (Infiniti) vehicles (except for pickup trucks). The way my wife and were treated at VW and Infiniti has been worlds better than any domestic dealer. Example (of many): Jeep (yes, I know, not GM but still an example of “Big 3 ineptitude) recalled heated seats on my Grand Cherokee LTD. Had an issue afterwards and was informed it was my problem/fault, they would diagnose for $100 and then “talk about repair costs and see if any discounts were applicable”. ANY issue I have had with the VW or Infiniti has been “yes sir, we will take care of it. Would you like a free courtesy car?” or “we understand the normal XXX service is expensive but we can do it for $X.XX instead.” I can deal with gaps that aren’t great, but when you sell a sub standard product and also provide crummy service, you lost a customer – for life. I’m only buying Infiniti or Audi from now on, not even going to consider Lincoln or Cadillac because I don’t trust a GM/Ford/Chrysler delear with ANYTHING. Ever.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve been at Honda dealership and they did not even want to talk with me unless I buy car right away. Kind of “We do have enough buyers to bother to test drive with you and btw forget about negotiating the price too”. Nissan dealership I went to was like run by Afgan drug dealers or like Eastern bazaar if you want. On the other hand I had good experience in Lincoln and Ford dealerships – they were friendly, did not charge extra and I could always apply discount coupons. E.g. when I thought there was problem with cooling system on my car Ford performed tests, did not find problem and did not charge me a cent.

      I will never buy another Honda or Nissan.

      • 0 avatar
        MoppyMop

        When I was shopping for cars it was the other way around – the import-brand dealers were pretty laid back, the Ford dealer was the stereotypical hard-sell joint everyone thinks of when they hear “car dealer”. I think it depends on the area more than anything else.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    Many “import” dealerships are owned by the same individual/company that owns the “domestic” dealerships. So how you are treated in the sales dept. at either is primarily a function of how the owner runs the store. Same can be said for the service dept. although the campaigns that either pay or partially pay for non-warranty repairs are factory sponsored. Overall after spending thirty years in the sales end of dealerships I can’t say I ever was able to detect much difference in the service depts. between domestic/import sales on the other hand ranged from high pressure typical stereotype to low pressure.

  • avatar
    HappyMarkJapan

    Maybe the Audi A6 1997-2004??

  • avatar
    65corvair

    Chrysler Minivans, starting in 1996. The generation with the four doors. My wife had one. Excellent workmanship and trouble free for ten years and 140,000 miles. Traded it in on another Caravan.

    Why would he compare it to an expenive car? Cheap and a U.S. brand.


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