By on June 24, 2011

Typically we try to accompany our book reviews here at TTAC with an author livechat, giving you, our readers, a firsthand opportunity to engage influential thinkers in TTAC’s trademark frank, open discussion of the most important automotive issues of the day. Today, however, is something of an exception. As I noted in my review of Car Guys vs Bean Counters: The Battle For The Soul Of American Business, Bob Lutz’s call-out of myself led to an opportunity for me to exchange words with the former GM “car czar,” which in turn led to his graciously agreeing to meet me for a face-to-face interview. Because Lutz is in the middle of a book launch media blitz (not to mention my own fairly well-laden to-do list), that will have to happen later this summer… but I assure you, it will be worth the wait. Meanwhile, I thought that we should at least honor the spirit of our author livechats by giving you the opportunity to submit your own burning questions for “Maximum Bob.” I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to get answers to all of them, but I’ll certainly do my best to make sure that the most germane queries at least get an airing. After all, if I’m going to tangle with one of the more formidable figures in the auto industry, I’ll need the full weight of TTAC’s inquisitiveness and savvy at my disposal.

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91 Comments on “Ask The Best And Brightest: What Would You Ask Bob Lutz (To His Face)?...”


  • avatar
    mikey

    Simple… Bob, can you please garanty my pension? You know,the same way Rick W, and Fritz and yours is?

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Stole my idea, damn you, mikey, although really it was Mr. Farago who asked it first.

      I really would like to know the answer, though. Is his pension bankruptcy-proof? Is Wagoner’s? Henderson’s? For all the talk about how the law was bent for the sake of the union I would be very interested to know how well the executive made out.

      • 0 avatar
        PenguinBoy

        Unlike you (I think…), me, and Mr. Farago, mikey actually has some skin in the game.

        I hope he keeps his pension, It’s part of the deal he signed up for when he started. I know many who lost their pensions and severance in bankruptcy, I wouldn’t wish that situation on anybody…

  • avatar
    86er

    Bob Lutz’s call-out of myself led to an opportunity for me to exchange words with the former GM “car czar,” which in turn led to his graciously agreeing to meet me for a face-to-face interview.

    That was probably a call-out of Farago, who Lutz ran into and all we know how that turned out.

    That aside, this is a huge coup. I would ask him if he was ever serious about fighting a rearguard action to bring American automobiles a little closer to their roots, or if it was all window dressing. Sure, we got the G8 for about 5 minutes, but did his team embed a plan to bring the Caprice in to the general public through a back door (Police) as one last legacy project? Or did his attention shift irrevocably to the Volt?

    • 0 avatar

      The quote is as follows:

      The New York Times featured a guest column by someone named Edward Niedermeyer who writes for something called “The Truth About Cars” -which turns out to be a Web site that often offers anything but- in which he called the Volt a “lemon” and even attacked the $350/month lease, implying darkly that this is a semi-fraudulent come-on as it limits the lessee to twelve thousand miles per year. He conveniently forgets to mention that the limit is pretty much standard for automotive leases.

      For the record, I was not responsible for the NYT’s headline where the word “lemon” appears, nor did I use the term “semi-fraudulent” to describe the lease. And the reason I forgot to mention that 12,00 miles is a standard lease length is because I was pointing out that the daily mileage breaks down to less than the Volt’s non-extended range. The idea of a range-extended vehicle that is only remotely affordable if you never actually use the range extender still strikes me as absurd on a very basic level.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    This guy is responsible for so many cars throughout my childhood and young years, and I guess his view on what a car should be has helped shaped my view.
    Most of all I’d like to thank him for the Sierra/XR4TI, and maybe even the Viper.

    You could ask him if he thinks there’s any chance the europeans and americans will ever agree on what makes a good car?

    It’s something he spend(wasted?) a big part of his professional life on, and I think he has some sort of answer to it. (the closest thing to a succes he has been involved, when it comes to selling the same car on both sides of the Atlantic, must be the BMW E30, a direct competitor to the aforementioned Sierra, and maybe the very reason the Merkur never succeded in the US)

  • avatar
    Sundowner

    Every car is dreamed by engineers and designers. Then it’s subsequently cheapened by accountants and focus groups. Whe cars go from ‘concept’ to ‘production’ they invetiably become less aggressively styled and premium materials or features are removed. Obviously these decisions are made in the name of profitability or broader market appeal, but there must, at some level of review, be a counterpoint algorithm that says “if we remove this, we cheapen this material, delete this feature, or soften this agressive style, we lose this many buyers” I want to know how (or even if) that logic gets put in place and who makes those choices, beucause it needs to change.

    • 0 avatar
      CarPerson

      Exactly.

      One of my favorites is “Nobody cares that closing the doors sounds like a high-speed car crash.”

      There is an RX-8 still sitting at a Mazda dealership because of that attitude. If you are willing to do that to my face, it speaks volumes what you likely did to me in less obvious ways.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    In your entire professional career, is there one incident or episode that you wish you could go back and relive knowing what you know now? (Notice I didn’t ask if he regreted anything cause he has already said he regrets NOTHING. The answer will reveal quite a bit about his character.)

  • avatar
    joe_thousandaire

    I would take off my shirt and ask him if he wanted to wrestle. Settle this thing like a real man Ed!

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    Why was GM never behind the fabulous G8 in terms of marketing, etc?

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      It was built in Australia, so making money was almost certainly never in the cards. The Commodores sell for much more at home before you deal with round-the-world transportation and the soft US dollar.

      • 0 avatar
        Bryce

        The G8 is sold all over the world as a Chevy I guess GM thought a real car would sell itself to people who claim to like V8 RWD cars Bob was wrong Mericans like fwd shit boxes and horrid SUVs

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Do you know what the best selling car brand is in Australia? I do. Their best selling models are strong sellers here too. Why don’t you try to convince Australians that Australian cars are great instead of hoping to fool people that you don’t think know your market?

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        @CJinSD:

        The Holden Commodore has been the #1 selling car in Australia for 15 consecutive years and Holden is possibly on pace to be Australia’s #1 selling brand this year.

        The Falcon hasn’t been worse than the #6 best selling Aussie car for at least a decade although its sales have been terrible this year.
        ___________________

        Considering that, as you put it: “their best selling models are strong sellers here too”, perhaps building and selling the Commodore in North America wouldn’t be a bad idea?

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        ajla,

        Did you notice that I wrote best selling BRAND in Australia? Toyota. Toyota! Oh What a Feeling! Toyota! Fortunately, we have those here.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        CJinSD:

        You also said that Australians would need convincing that Australian cars are great. The Commdore is about as Australian as it gets, and it’s a perpetual #1 seller. The Zeta sedan is not some middling niche seller in its home market.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        If Holdens or Falcons are so great, why do more Australians buy Toyotas?

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        If Holdens or Falcons are so great, why do more Australians buy Toyotas?

        Because most Holdens aren’t really Australian, they are imported Daewoos and Opels.

        Then take into account that the Commodore and Falcon start at about $40K. Not everyone can afford that.

        And, commenter “Bryce” up above wasn’t writing about the entire Holden brand, he was singling out the G8/Commodore.

        ___________
        If Toyotas are so great, why does the Commodore outsell the Aurion 5 to 1 and outsell the Camry over 2 to 1?

      • 0 avatar
        pacificpom2

        Because Commodore is #1 in 6cyl, Aurion #2 and Falcon #3. In 4′s it would probally be Camry Corolla Cruze, therefore on a combined score, yes Toyota do outsell commodore, but it takes two of theirs to outsell 1 commodore, I think the ratio is about 3 Toyotas to 2 Commodores. Even Toyotas “big” 6 Aurion, which we still regard as a v6 camry, can’t outsell the commodore. Tastes change. If you want a 4 buy a Toyota, you want a 6 or an 8 buy a Commodore or Falcon. Please buy the Falcon, ’cause if you don’t we will be subjected to Tauruii or Fusions sporting a “Falcon” badge.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert.Walter

        “Please buy the Falcon, ’cause if you don’t we will be subjected to Tauruii or Fusions sporting a “Falcon” badge.”

        This is likely to happen anyway with the next refresh, unless FoA can convince Dearborn that the next real lincoln should be RWD with the chassis bits down-below being designed in Down-Under.

  • avatar
    Sundowner

    I also want to know why manufacturers don’t even bother to market the precious few wagons they make. It’s no wonder people don’t buy them; no one even knows they exist. the very, very few that actually are marketed, like the Jetta Sportwagen, sell like gangbusters. What’s going on?

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Should I even put forth the question everyone knows I’m dying to ask? I won’t – that’s history.

    But I’d have to ask if he has that much of a say in the cars that are built; does he sit in them, play with the controls, feel the materials, drive them, back up in them, try to even see out of them for any extended period of time? Valid questions, in my opinion.

    • 0 avatar

      if he has that much of a say in the cars that are built; does he sit in them, play with the controls, feel the materials, drive them, back up in them, try to even see out of them for any extended period of time? Valid questions, in my opinion.

      The short answer to this is “yes.” I give short shrift in the review to the details of his post-2001 reforms at GM, because they’re best explained by a read of the book. Suffice it to say, he lays out some very interesting examples of his involvement in the fairly obvious recent improvement in many of GM’s products. This is one of the best parts of the book, because in it Lutz simply sees the problems for what they are and goes after them with gusto. It’s obvious that his style was a much-needed breath of fresh air at the time… what’s not entirely obvious is if GM can manage the balance between the right-brainers and left-brainers.

      • 0 avatar
        SVX pearlie

        “Lutz simply sees the problems for what they are and goes after them with gusto. It’s obvious that his style was a much-needed breath of fresh air”

        Of course, the very fact that it was novel for Lutz to do this and that he had to push really hard to make stuff “not crap” explains volumes about why GM was heading down as hard and as fast as it was.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        Ed, you may ask: If he has sat in the cars, driven them, played around with them, did he ever question the lack of visibility resulting from “gun slit” windows and the safety issues that presents? If so, why do these cars make it to production? Also, my pet peeve – never mind the pillarless hardtop question – side impact ramifications – but why not buck the industry trend and make rear windows on coupes (Camaro) open once again? Car-related stuff like that. Then you can ask about reasonable styling (three-box) on sedans that makes sense.

    • 0 avatar
      Tommy Boy

      >>Ed, you may ask: If he has sat in the cars, driven them, played around with them, did he ever question the lack of visibility resulting from “gun slit” windows and the safety issues that presents? If so, why do these cars make it to production?”

      DITTO … a bunch of great, big DITTOES!

      I can’t wait for the day that this fad goes the way of opera windows; some cars are so bad with the gun-slit visibility issue that they are crossed-off my consideration list on that basis alone.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    Ask him why it took until the current generation Malibu for GM to market a competitive top selling midsize sedan.

  • avatar
    ajla

    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.

  • avatar
    tparkit

    I would ask Bob if he thinks GM will, 20 years from now, still be building many of its cars in the US northeast using UAW labor?

    If the answer is “yes”, the follow-up might be to ask if/why he thinks that will be a viable business model. Washington may not be able or inclined to maintain the steady flow of overt/clandestine subsidies this would require.

  • avatar
    AaronH

    Guaranty Pension? Lutz is in his 80s and still working hard and never needed even a penny of “Pension”…Maybe you should as well?

    I like what he says about the American MBA Twits…He is a smart/rational man who had to beat thru the system of MBA mediocrity and stupidity.

    Ask him about how much pension money he gets…LOL!

  • avatar
    MikeAR

    Bob, would it be possible to look more smug than you did in that famous picture of you with your foot on the car you had just rolled whil smoking a cigar?

  • avatar
    morbo

    My question for MaxBob. If the beancounters cheapened the product to the point of marketplace irrelevance, who ordered the beancounters to do it initally? It’s easy to blame the accountants, but it was a Lutz-ian level executive that made the decision. Why does MaxBob blame the people who were doing what they were ordered to do?

    Now if he blames actual executive by name for ordering the cheapening of the cars, whole different story.

    • 0 avatar
      CamaroKid

      Best question of the thread… I would add as a follow up, Bob, you worked at GM for 10 years give or take… How many of these useless MBA’s did you show the door?

  • avatar
    morbo

    Also, can I have the money I wasted on my ’03 Bonneville back?

  • avatar
    Mullholland

    I’d like to know more about his experiences and contributions when he was involved in the development of a full line of innovative and successful products. Namely his time at Chrysler.

    The other thing I’m interested in learning more about is what is Maximum Bob’s take on GM’s second strike (The first being the squandering of the immense human and financial capital along with dominant market share that GM had amassed at the end of the 1960s)? Specifically, does Lutz have an opinion on the missed opportunity to use some of the huge profits from the SUV/truck craze to fund the development and production of a line up of of simple, well made and designed fuel-efficient cars?
    Ed, your review of the book was quite good. But it seems to me that Lutz’s career at GM, in both iterations, was heavy on the self-promtion, bluster and B.S. that passes for leadership in Detroit and most American companies. His whole career was built on his ability to get the attention of the media, this fairly indisputable fact makes his excoriation of the press the height of craven duplicity.

  • avatar
    jruhi4

    Two things I’d love to hear from Bob Lutz about:

    1) As briefly touched upon by ajla, I regret that his plan to (literally) expand on the Kappa platform beyond Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky to build the Chevy Nomad 2-door sportwagon and a cut-rate. Pontiac-badged BMW 1-Series rival never took place. Is that among his biggest GM-related regrets?

    2) I’d also love to hear him expand on what he really thinks of Toyota. He comes off as not being a fan, yet Lotus (where Mr.Lutz is a paid consultant)is currently using Toyota power; GM-badged Toyota vehicles (Geo and Chevy Prizm, Pontiac Vibe) were far more durable and reliable than most if not all GM-developed vehicles; and a passage in his book reportedly admits to using Lexus and Audi interiors as a benchmark.

  • avatar

    The only questions I would ask him would be ones where Bob is strapped into a chair in some northern virginia basement and juiced-up with the appropriate amount of Sodium Pentothal/Amytal.

    Anything less would just be an exercise in futility and further encouraging a professional bulls*** artist.

  • avatar
    Cammy Corrigan

    Mr Lutz, In a video on YouTube (don’t worry, I can provide you the link) where you declare yourself as a Republican and a believer of free market economics. With that information to hand, how can you justify the validity of the bailout of General Motors?

    P.S. Please do not give me that rubbish about “we needed to save American manufacturing”. Free market economics dictated that American manufacturing wasn’t up to scratch. And even if it was, someone would have picked up the good parts via an ordered bankruptcy.

    • 0 avatar

      Cammy, it’s hard to say that “American manufacturing wasn’t up to scratch” when the US is still the leading manufacturing country in the world and is also one of the top three exporting countries. Just because GM & Chrysler were mismanaged (with no small assist from idiots in Washington who handed the Japanese a gift called CAFE) doesn’t mean that Americans don’t know how to make things. Now it’s true that fewer Americans make their living from manufacturing (mostly due to improved productivity, robotics and computers) than before. A modern auto assembly plant employs about 2,500 people, compared to maybe 10,000 back in the 1950s or 1960s. The US makes more and exports more than the EU combined, including Germany.

      I think for the next 20 years or so, the US, Japan, Germany and China will still lead the world in manufacturing.

      Still, while it’s true that we’ve let important segments of our manufacturing base go away (like the machine tool business), the seemingly counterintuitive truth is that America still makes a ton of stuff. Everybody always talks about a decline in manufacturing and the colossus of China, but if you look at the stats, the US is still in the top 3 or virtually any measure of manufacturing and exports. Go figure.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    I would ask who’s paying for lunch? You’re not likely to get a meaningful answer to any question of greater depth.

  • avatar
    SWComp

    Why the f*** was there no room for a small roll aboard bag and a computer case in the Solstice trunk? Why the h*** could you not design a simple to raise/lower top for the Solstice? Why did the d*** G8 only come with &%*(&$^% black interiors?

  • avatar
    newfdawg

    If I could ask Bob Lutz one question it would be: Will GM still be building cars in the United States?

  • avatar
    Acubra

    What was the thinking behind buying a SAAB? As GM virtually ran it into the ground by stiffling them with outdated corporate platforms and while at it – by sucking out all technological expertise from it (turbo, safety,..)?

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Lutz was at Chrysler when GM made that particular mistake. I’ll guess that GM thought they could be a player in the near-luxury class, having already squandored all the near-luxury credibility of Buick, Oldsmobile, and Opel.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      By the time GM bought SAAB, it was well-behind the curve on both safety and turbo technologies.

      The hard-to-accept fact for many is that:
      a) seeing SAAB’s best days were far behind it, the Wallenbergs were happy to sell, cut and run from SAAB, and
      b) GM not seeing what the Wallenbergs did, but reacting in a knee-jerk fashion to losing Jaguar to Ford, GM was happy to buy-in and then not accepting the enormity of their mistake buy-all, and not learning still, but to begin continually doubling-down on their previous bets, and in so doing, GM kept a has-been company on life support by pouring both financial and intellectual capital into SAAB for the better part of 20 years.

  • avatar
    MarkySparky

    1. Select examples from GM’s lineup of compact, mid-size, and full-size cars for each year you were employed by the company.
    a)Compare GM offerings with the competing Ford/FIATsler cars. Who won and why?
    b)Now do the same with non-Detroit manufacturers. Who won and why?
    Note:Please limit your answers to the objective merits of each vehicle as encountered by non-enthusiasts in showrooms.

    2. Are consumers who choose competitors’ products over GM’s products displaying sound judgment in your opinion? If yes, list the reasons.

    3. If any GM vehicles won out in Question 1, please name the GM executive primarily responsible for its success.
    a)Why are they not running GM?
    b)Who is primarily responsible for them not being in charge?

    4. May I have an autographed copy of that picture of you next to the upside-down Opel?

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      Note that Lutz can’t change the past, he can only affect things which are still in-design, or under development while he was there.

      • 0 avatar
        MarkySparky

        I’m really not interested in assigning any blame to Lutz. I’m curious how he views GM products in relation to their direct competition, and how this influences his narrative of GM’s history. A narrative about saving a crappy passenger car company with the GTO/G8/Volt/Solstice/ZR1/etc is more interesting to me than a sob story about the “perception gap”.

  • avatar
    Doc

    So he thinks that the Volt is the future and that he really does not understand the hatred for it especially on the right.

    I would like to know why he thought it would be a good car to bring to market back in 2006.

    Did he really believe that the car buying public was dying to buy an electric vehicle that has such a short range that it needs a back up ICE? Did he think that a small but vocal group of environmentalist geeks would buy it and that they could sell enough to be profitable?

    Was it for publicity? Just to show GM’s engineering prowess similar to the Bugatti Veyron? If so, was it a good idea for GM to undertake such an expensive marketing effort while they were going broke?

    Or, was it primarily to meet CAFE standards. I am not sure if 2006 cafe standards would provide any benefit to GM for the Volt. If not, did he smell what was coming in the wind and wanted to prepare GM for future environmental regulations? I would except this as an answer (frankly I would be impressed) but then cut all of the BS about how this technology represents the future and level with everyone.

    I would also like to know if they considered killing the Volt during the restructuring to save money. If they did consider killing it, why did they not?

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      I don’t believe that any answer Lutz could give could possibly satisfy you. Your “questions” are really being asked for the pleasure of the asking, not to actually gather information.

      Lutz was correct that EV technology was not in a position to replace an ICE-powered car. As the limitations with the Leaf reveal, EV still isn’t ready to go mainstream. Hence the integrated on-board genset.

      If you look at the history of companies, when a company is going broke is usually the last chance to make a change for survival vs going out of business. IBM 360, IBM PC, IBM Services are 3 examples of IBM reinventing itself with a fundamental change in technology / “product” to survive in a changed market.

      The last question is a clear reveal of your bias. It’s not even a Lutz question – it’s a bailout question. Obama’s team saw that the Volt project was sufficiently mature that continued development made sense.

      • 0 avatar
        Doc

        While I agree that my questions are rather pointed, I disagree with your next assertions.

        I would agree with your premise if GM fundamentally changed its product lineup to try and save itself but it did not. It was only developing one product, not reinventing itself at all.

        The last question is asked because in the interview that Mr Lutz did with Autoline Detroit Afterhours, he specifically discussed why decisions were made during the restructuring regarding getting rid of Pontiac and keeping GMC. I have not heard from Lutz or from Rattner why the decision to keep the Volt was made. Did you read that somewhere?

  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    Congrats on landing the interview, Ed, but I’ve got nothing. Lutz is an interesting character, for sure, and a true car guy. But career-wise, Lutz’s only real accomplishment is furthering the myth of Bob Lutz.

    That’s not to say that Lutz didn’t have some good ideas or that he didn’t have an impact at GM. Frankly, it probably didn’t matter how good Lutz’s product concepts were; GM’s hopelessly backwards, soul-sucking corporate culture still ensures that no truly uncompromised, class-leading products will ever come to market. I actually still give Wagoner a fair amount of credit for having the foresight to understand he needed a product guy like Lutz. That’s probably the best move any GM leader has made in 40 years.

    Now, if Iacocca hadn’t screwed Lutz (and, ultimately, Chrysler itself) by naming Bob Eaton his replacement on his way out the door, Lutz’s career and Detroit in general might look a lot stronger.

  • avatar
    geo

    I just finished the book. In it, he addresses most of the concerns both directly and indirectly. He states that design should often trump practicality because people buy a car on an emotional level. The lease rate concern falls under this; people know logically that there are more economical options out there; this is an emotional buy. People want to drive without gas because it feels good, just like others want 500 hp under the hood.

    Ditto with “trunk space” and other things mentioned here. GM almost died trying to cover all these bases. Lutz did a lot to fix this “everything to everybody” culture.

    I would ask Lutz if he counceled Akerson to do that disasterous interview with DN a couple of weeks ago, if it was a mistake, and if the fallout changes his opinion about CEOs being this open with the press.

    And I’d love to learn more about the “horror show” he saw in the design department in 2001. :)

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Does Bob Lutz think the Camry has dominated US sales over a couple of decades for emotional reasons? How anecdotal is that? And he’s probably the best they’ve got…

      • 0 avatar
        geo

        People often buy a Camry because they feel safer, sensible, more intelligent and superior to the domestic-shoppers. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that this is “emotional”. Not too many would rather tell others that they just bought a Fusion.

        In the book, he describes a conversation with a woman who bought a 15 mpg Sequoia because “everyone knows” that Toyotas are far more fuel efficient than domestics (he informed her that a Yukon is far superior in this regard).

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Ironically or not, that lady was right. A friend has a Sequoia he uses to tow his car to the track. It gets the same mileage towing 4,800 lbs that I used to get in a 2008 5.3 liter Suburban with nothing but passengers and some luggage. I did drive faster in the Suburban than we ever go with a trailer hooked to the Sequoia though. The 2008 Suburban was the new body with the old 4 speed automatic transmisson. Its easy to figure out where the EPA numbers disappeared to, since I wound up using larger throttle openings than I wanted to in order to keep the transmission from jumping into too high of a gear and killing acceleration. Love those games!

        I’ve known plenty of Camcord drivers, and I’ve driven the Camcords. They do what they’re supposed to do, and they do it well. People keep them a long, long time, and then they buy another. There’s nothing emotional or impulse about repeatedly buying a car that serves you well and suits your needs compared to buying something overstyled to the point of having a mail slot for a trunk opening, or a back seat that is torture to occupy, on impulse. Lutz’ defense of non-functional design is a reminder that he had plenty of influence on US automakers during their descent. Compromised cars bought on impulse don’t make for happy ownership experiences. He sounds like a leftover from when GM thought they could increase turnover frequency with planned obsolescence. Its the thinking that opened our market to the Japanese in the first place.

      • 0 avatar
        86er

        CJinSD:

        We have no idea if Lutz was right or if you are right. The Sequoia doesn’t come in 3/4 ton or extended versions like the Suburban, not to mention way more engine options. YMMV.

        Taking a look at EPA ratings for comparable 2011 Suburbans and 2011 Sequoias, the Suburban comes in at 15/21 while the Sequoia is 13/18.

        Or for comparison, let’s try 2007 models of same, when the Suburban had the 4 spd and the Sequoia a smaller engine and was based off the previous-gen Tundra.

        14/19 Suburban
        13/17 Sequoia

        Yes, a pattern is emerging.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        That might influence me if I didn’t have experience with both of them. And yes, the Suburbans I drove were all half tons. EPA mileage doesn’t do anything for you once you’re in the car or truck. With the Sequoia, the woman Lutz was so contemptuous of is probably happy that she averages close to the EPA highway figure at all times. With the Suburban, she might be unhappy to have believed the window sticker only to never break 14 mpg. It was painfully obvious how the Suburban had its transmission calibrated to perform artificially well on the EPA test cycle from behind the wheel, and I mean painfully.

        If you want to see a pattern using EPA mileage results, look at a few recent Motor Trend comparison tests. In the compact sedan test, the un-optimized for CAFE old Mazda 3 outperformed(used less fuel than) a bunch of cars with advertising friendly numbers. In the last V6 automatic pony car comparo, the Hyundai Genesis combined the worst EPA numbers, often by a big number, and the best fuel mileage, also by a large delta. In the real world, you gear a car so that full throttle shifts place the engine speed at its torque peak in the next higher gear. This maximizes perfomance and efficiency. On the EPA test, which is conducted on a dyno with a model so bad that the figures are doctored down from time to time to diminish customer anger over real world results, the emphasis is on calibrating the transmission to be in high gears under large throttle openings to minimize pumping losses while accelerating at rates even lower than people routinely use in modern traffic. It has no real world application. It just creates miserable drivability and sub-optimal efficiency.

      • 0 avatar
        86er

        YMMV. EPA is one metric, take your pick.

        And the lady in Lutz’s book was still wrong. That’s the perception gap Lutz refers to, and it extends to Toyota’s full size truck and SUV offerings, where the argument is on far shakier ground.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Why was the lady wrong? Because of bogus EPA numbers that don’t relate to the real world? Which I just fully explained but you’re ignoring. I’d say the problem was that she was too informed, and unable to be fooled by GM’s tricks.

      • 0 avatar
        86er

        CJin, what’s wrong with the air there in San Diego? The lady was wrong because she was under the erroneous assumption that every single one of Toyota’s products are superior in fuel economy to their competitors, which is simply not the case.

        The lady bought a Sequoia under the erroneous assumption that it would deliver superior fuel economy to a competitor’s product.

        She was wrong.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Never mind. You don’t care that Sequoias use less fuel than Tahoes. You only care what it says on the EPA sticker, even if creating the inflated number hurt the Tahoe’s actual fuel consumption and made it a chore to drive. Got it. You are the target market.

      • 0 avatar
        86er

        Now now, let’s not reduce ourselves to impugning motives. I could easily turn that “target market” argument back around, but that wouldn’t be indicative of one of TTAC’s “Best and Brightest”, now would it?

        You’re venturing into some dangerous territory now. I’ll take the high road and acquiesce to terminating this conversation as you wish, but I would try to do a better job of persuading my debating opponent beyond one or two anecdotal examples that the Sequoia uses less fuel than a comparable Yukon (as per what geo said. You jumped to a Motor Trend example pertaining to radically different vehicles. If pickuptrucks.com and Motor Trend and Consumer Reports were all telling us what you’re telling us, I’d be persuaded. I remain unswayed.

        Let’s not kid ourselves, everybody games the system. Toyota had to downgrade the HP ratings on several of their vehicles a few years ago when a more accurate SAE system came out.

        Hell, I even gave you a freebie and accidentally used EPA figures for the Suburban, which is a longer and heavier vehicle. Since you’re so familiar with the Sequoia, you would be aware that Toyota doesn’t make an extended version of the Sequoia as GM does with the Yukon XL and Suburban.

        I know it all runs counter to your narrative that Lutz is a know-nothing boob, and in many ways I’d agree with you. But not this time.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Why make excellent world class cars when you’ve got a halo car that dominates the Nurburgring? If that doesn’t sell Malibus nothing will. I don’t care how well built and technically advanced your bread & butter cars are, if you can’t set records over in Germany, no one will show up at your lot. Are you listening Toyota, Honda?

    I’m not saying the Corvette & Volt and their award winning engineering excellence don’t make a great impression and get potential Cobalt buyers to the showroom and signed into a contract or whatever but if they don’t become repeat lifetime customers, it’s just the old GM chasing its tail.

  • avatar

    Ed, I’d ask him about Dan Akerson. Peter DeLorenzo has slammed Akerson but when Lutz was on Autoline After Hours and said what seemed to me to be complimentary things about Lutz, Pete didn’t challenge him.

    Akerson seems to be everything that Lutz rails against in his book. While Akerson’s undergrad degree from the US Naval Academy is in engineering, but he’s got an econ degree from the London School of Economics.

    • 0 avatar
      geo

      Lutz seems to be guarded but hopeful about Akerson in the book. I think Lutz is now a close advisor to Akerson, and it’s likely that he coached him before the interview that DeLorenzo calls “The Thud Heard ‘Round the World”, advising him to be as open and honest as possible with the press (he even states in the last chapter that the press will forgive a CEOs gaffe as long as he does this).

      Lutz believes that the CEO tradition of leaving the press duties to the PR people is wrong, and the CEO should be all over the media, clearing up misconceptions and getting the message out.

      I doubt Lutz would say anything about Akerson that could be seen as hurtful or damaging, at this point.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      “but when Lutz was on Autoline After Hours and said what seemed to me to be complimentary things about Lutz”

      I’m sure Lutz did a lot of that too, but I think you meant to type “but when Lutz…about Atkerson”.

  • avatar

    “Mr. Lutz — may I call you Bobbo? Thanks — you’ve built a distinguished career as a maverick auto executive, an accomplished business leader, a skilled Marine pilot.

    “You have left an indelible mark on the American automotive landscape, and your name will be remembered for years to come as a courageous and audacious force to be reckoned with.

    “So, with that in mind… how did it feel to wake up on July 10, 2009, knowing you and your fellow GM execs were now little more than the idiot bitches of the US government and the United Auto Workers?

    “Feel free to take time with your answer, Bobbo.”

  • avatar
    Adamatari

    In my opinion, there is only one question really worth asking:

    Why, Bob, couldn’t you make a 4 cylinder small car and midsize that was worth getting excited about? Why couldn’t you imagine a car that people would consider both the height of practicality and fun?

    Lutz likes cars, he understands style, fun and power… But he just can’t imagine a small car that people would buy because they LIKE it. Like the Civic, which even now manages to be both “civic” in practicality and interesting enough in Si form for young people to like it (and for a while it was the center of tuner culture, which he may not like but which is essentially people getting very excited about their cars). He built a bunch of fun cars, but the age of V8 cars for everyone is dead, and he helped sink GM due to his lack of understanding that not everyone has the money or wants a gas-guzzling V8.

  • avatar
    couper

    …was it you who said “they (car buying public) will buy what we build period.” ? …

  • avatar
    bytheway

    Lutz, a well known problem with the Cadillac Deville and DTS were and are windows literally falling into the doors because of poorly designed window regulators. The piece that fails is plastic and I’m wondering how in the world this got from design phase to production without anybody seeing this piss poor cheap ass design.

  • avatar
    NN

    I would ask Bob what he thinks about GM’s product development future, and the chances of GM offering desireable products.

    Who is serving in Lutz’s role now as a lead product guy with the focus of making compelling product? Certainly not Akerson. Is it Nesbitt or Ed Welburn? What about on the engineering side, especially with Opel in dire straights?

    Do GM International engineers (majority Korean and Chinese, I presume)have the same seat-of-the-pants experience and knowledge to create properly sorted chassis and handling characteristics, like the Opel/German enginners and John Henricy & the niche US team does/did?

    The roads and driving styles of home countries of the engineering does have an effect on the final product. I think Lutz would believe in this, but I don’t see that it is in place in GM to create world-beating products.

  • avatar
    bytheway

    My other question is who is the genius that decides that push button climate control is better than old fashion knobs? I dont understand the advantage of pushing numerous buttons to change temperate, fan speed, and air flow over just turning 3 basic knobs that takes all of 8 seconds?

    Can ANYBODY try to provide an explanation on why manufactures do this, not just GM?

  • avatar
    Tommy Boy

    I’d love to know about comparative “mean time to failure” standards between manufacturers.

    Today car reliability and longevity is primarily determined at a CAD station an the design and materials specs that are used, not the final assembly on the line (defects in which will largely be picked up in the first 90 days of ownership). Conversely, bean counters will seek lower cost components with higher “mean time to failure” rates — particularly post-warranty period when the “less than optimum” parts will fail on the ultimate consumers’ dime.

    Obviously there will always be some legitimate trade-offs between production cost and engineering, but just as obviously some manufacturers are more “nice” and others more “naughty” in this regard. (I’ve believed that one reason that “Detroit” quality has been relatively shoddy for the last four decades is the impetus to offset the costs of having the UAW on the premises but cutting component quality.)

    In turn, the manufacturers all purchase each others products, tear them apart, and do some reverse-engineering (including calculating what their competitors actual production costs are). So inevitably they also calculate what MTF parameters are being used by each other.

    So, arguably even more so than Consumer Reports or True Delta “after the fact” results, purchasers of new products today would be well-served by knowing which manufacturers are operating under a higher-level of MTF specifications.

    So Bob, without spouting GM Kool-Aid, what are the comparative MTF’s currently being used by the various manufacturers????

  • avatar
    86er

    Ed, does Lutz talk in his book about the financial ground GM was on in 2005, about the time the TTAC Deathwatches started?

    If so, it’d be interesting to hear how product development arcs aligned with the real, not reported financial situation.

  • avatar
    Type57SC

    Why do so many of the passion projects you championed at GM not seem to be profitable vehicles? Or the opposite question, Why does Toyota successfully sell so many vehicles with the “appliance” design approach so despised by “car guys”?

    If he struggles, give him the hint that most people just want a reliable appliance.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    If the ‘appliance’ cars is what ‘everyone wants’ then why did the Japanese try to build Lexuses (Lexi?), S2000′s Mr2′s Supra’s ,Acuras, CRX’s or Z cars. Why do Europe still build cars, especially Porsche and BMW?
    Why is GM still one of the(if not ‘the’) biggest car makes in the world?
    I think Lutz is on to something, it’s just that he happens to work at a company that just doesn’t give a flying rats a** about it’s customers, and probably haven’t since the dawn of time. (well, at least after they knocked Ford off the first place in the 30′s) And they don’t understand (and I’m not sure Lutz does completely grasp it either) that they are not the only manufacturer in the world. They truly expect the american government to help them out because they finally did what everyone else has been able to do allready, build a f***in hybrid. So now they can save the world (since they still think american customers have no nother choice than a GM hybrid)

  • avatar
    nevets248

    hmmm, one question comes to mind…. how could you single-handedly destroy the Pontiac nameplate??? Lynn Meyers, Susan Doperty, Bob Kraut and various other assclowns that got your rubber stamp of approval. I find it interestiong that you can tell others at GM design staff that you had the most “fun” while working on Pontiac-themed products, but where is the legacy (other than the Kappa and products from the land of kangaroos???). Other than stuffing a V8 in archaic W-cars and slapping non-fuctional hood/fender louvers on various platforms; there is NOTHING that this Pontiac enthusiast can think of.


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