By on September 30, 2011


It’s strange: When you talk to the big manufacturers in Japan, then they are worried by benchmarking Volkswagen and Hyundai. GM never comes up. When you talk to Bob Lutz, who has been re-hired as a part-time consultant to GM executives, then he is worried by benchmarking Volkswagen and Hyundai. Toyota never comes up. Bob Lutz thinks the Japanese have lost it. Germany’s Manager Magazin disturbed Lutz’s Swiss vacation with an interview, and Lutz, always good for explosive quotes, did not disappoint:

“A while ago, many experts thought, the race for the top position in the auto business would be a dead heat between GM, Toyota, and Honda. This has changed. The Big Three are now GM, Volkswagen, and Hyundai. Toyota is in decline. The Japanese lost their bullet-proof quality image. Their cars aren’t especially pretty. Their driving dynamics is below the level of the best European and American cars.

GM on the other hand has improved its engineering, payroll and healthcare are way down after the bankruptcy. When it comes to platform sharing amongst brands, GM always has been absolutely competitive. Trust me: GM will give Volkswagen and Hyundai a tough fight.”

With Maximum Bob’s, and Martin Winterkorn’s endorsement, I guess it’s safe to buy a Hyundai.

 

 

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74 Comments on “Maximum Bob: The Big Three are GM, Volkswagen, and Hyundai...”


  • avatar
    mad_science

    I’m curious what Lutz’s take on today’s Ford is.

    He keeps talking about the foreign competition, but I haven’t seen much about the cross-town rival. There’s a chance I missed it, though. Don’t spend a lot of time searching for Lutz quotes…they usually find me.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      In Lutz’ book he makes mention of Ford’s current “decent” products and notes their mortgaging in 2008 to avoid a bailout by the U.S. and Canadian federal governments.

      I suspect he doesn’t consider Ford a threat because of its relatively small presence in China.

    • 0 avatar
      geo

      He feels that the recent resurgence of Ford is disproportionate to the quality of its offerings (though the offerings are “decent”). He says, for example, that if the Flex were a GM it would be villified. So he feels Ford is overrated.

      • 0 avatar
        faygo

        and the Flex _isn’t_ vilified ? it’s probably just as much of a sales failure as the Aztec was, but it’s not fugly and it’s got a much more premium look to it than the utilitarian Aztec.

        it’s perhaps the best large family station wagon anyone’s built in the last 20 years, but no one wants a station wagon.

  • avatar
    getacargetacheck

    Toyota in decline? What a joke. Does he really believe this? What, because of exaggerated quality “problems?” Tsunami-related production declines? Non-European “driving dynamics” that Americans have increasingly embraced (judging by Toyota’s sales success) over the last 30 years? Meanwhile, Camry, Corolla and Prius, etc maintain their best-selling status. Get real Lutz.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Meanwhile, Camry, Corolla and Prius

      Benchmarked by what standard?

      Camry is a huge seller in North America, and almost non-existent every where else. Camry is no longer the benchmark for the segment.

      Corolla has long been dethroned as the top seller in its class (TTAC publishes those number monthly) and is woefully behind the competition with so-so MPG, a mediocre interior, uninspired exterior, numb steering, outdated engine, and a 4-speed, yes you read that right, 4-speed automatic.

      Prius remains the top seller in its class, but at no where near its 2007 sales volume peak in North America. That has nothing to do with tsunamis, earthquakes, or, given the money savings proposition and an entry level point of just $23K, a slow economy.

      Look, if sheer volume dictated the, “what do you know they’re number one,” then clearly GM was on the top of its game in the 80′s with all the iron they were selling.

      Toyota and Honda both have been phoning it in for close to a decade (Toyota a bit longer). The last GREAT Corolla was probably around ’98, the last GREAT Camry was ’96. The only vehicle I see in Toyota’s lineup as the benchmark big dog everyone take notice that is what you need to aspire to is the Tacoma – and that is in a dying segment.

      The winds of change are clearly blowing – and as many predicted 5 to 7 years ago, Hyundai is the one to benchmark off of.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Camry is a huge seller in North America, and almost non-existent every where else.

        Er, the Camry was designed primarily for the North American market.

        The American idea of a “mid-sized sedan” is a fairly large car by global standards, and has to hit a fairly low price point in the US that it doesn’t have to hit abroad.

        There are reasons why Ford doesn’t sell Mondeos in the US (it sort of tried and failed), why the US Accord is notably different from the Euro/ JDM Accord, why the Opel sedan in this class is not badged as a Chevy, and why the Camry is positioned differently in those overseas markets where it is sold.

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        APaGttH: “Camry is a huge seller in North America, and almost non-existent every where else. ”

        Camry is also the 2nd best selling midsize car in China, losing to Accord. Oh BTW, China is the largest auto market of the world. I won’t call that “non-existent”.

        P.S. The Chinese Camry is virtually identical to the US Camry. Chinese car taste is closer to that of Americans, instead of Japanese or European.

      • 0 avatar
        faygo

        @Pch101 :
        There are reasons why Ford doesn’t sell Mondeos in the US (it sort of tried and failed),

        not sort of, it did and it failed. Contour = Mondeo with _very_ minor differences. it was too expensive vs a Tempo/Topaz (which it was infinitely better than) which was bigger and still want the buying public wanted, or thought they wanted.

        the next Fusion/Mondeo will be identical but for badging and minor regulatory bits (optics and colors on lights I reckon) and I suspect will be quite popular all over.

        the Cruze is the Cruze worldwide. Buick/Opel is Mondeo/Fusion in terms of the lack of difference. JDM/Euro Accord = TSX in the US.

        horses for courses. but if you have fewer total horses, you are more efficient where you do sell them and can invest more in them.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        not sort of, it did and it failed. Contour = Mondeo with _very_ minor differences.

        The European models included drivetrain and body style options that the US-market cars didn’t have. But as is the case in this class, the primary problem that Ford had with the Contour was that the back seat was too small for American tastes.

        the Cruze is the Cruze worldwide.

        Different class of car. The issue is with the US-market high-volume mid-sized sedan class being a somewhat unique animal to the US market. Manufacturers that want to sell a lot of them have to design them specifically for our tastes and price points.

        Buick/Opel is Mondeo/Fusion in terms of the lack of difference. JDM/Euro Accord = TSX in the US.

        Those are low volume cars. They can’t sell them in large numbers in the US, so they don’t even try (which is appropriate, given the limited potential.)

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        @wsn

        Hmmmm, didn’t even break the top ten according to TTAC:

        http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/01/chinas-best-selling-cars-of-2010/

        Why according to TTAC, not a single Toyota model is in the top ten. However VW, Hyundai, Buick and Chevrolet are represented, along with several Chinese brands, with BYD having the top selling vehicle.

        Camry sales globally are about 75% North American based – give the seven billion people on planet earth, and the 350 million Americans and Canadians that call North American home – ya – global Camry sales outside of North America are not significant.

        Corolla sales on the other hand are huge around the world, while falling in the United States due to the bean counting, innovation neglect, and missing the mark on the desire of US buyers.

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        How many days has it been since we saw the story about the RX being not just bench marked, but mostly copied by almost every CUV maker that hopes to profit?

      • 0 avatar
        tekdemon

        Who cares if the Camry is only a big seller in North America? They make different products targeted for different markets and frankly In Europe that’s the Avenesis so it doesn’t really matter that the Camry doesn’t sell well. And outside of the US where gigantic full-size pickups rule, the Hilux is *the* pickup truck. And much like in the US pickups are huge selling nameplates worldwide. If it weren’t for the fact that Ford lumps all their F-series truck sales together the Hilux would likely have the higher worldwide annual numbers.
        And FYI, Hilux sales have been booming in recent years.

  • avatar
    PenguinBoy

    I think Lutz may well be right about Hyundai. Here in Canada, Hyundai makes 3 of the top selling cars – as much as all of Japan, or all of Detroit, combined.

    source: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-drive/driving-it-home/top-10-sales-winners-at-car-dealerships-in-2011/article2185040/

    I wouldn’t count GM out just yet – the bankruptcy wiped out much of their legacy costs and debt, and the competitive devaluation of the US dollar makes their operating costs much more competitive. If they take part of the money saved and put it into better cars, it will be tough for the Japanese to compete with their current cost structure.

    The Japanese still have a good name, but I don’t think they have enough extra pricing power to offset their higher costs these days. I don’t think a Corolla sells for much more than an Elantra or Cruze…

    • 0 avatar
      Sammy B

      good points

      “The Japanese still have a good name, but I don’t think they have enough extra pricing power to offset their higher costs these days. I don’t think a Corolla sells for much more than an Elantra or Cruze…”

      consider this: If they sell for similar prices, who do you think has the lower COST? My guess would be Toyota or Honda vs Hyundai. Not only from a perspective of not offering as much equipment, but overall economies of scale. So, just hypothetically speaking, Hyundai may outsell Toyota, but Toyota makes more $$. Similar to when GM & Toyota were #1 and #2. GM outsold by a narrow margin (or large margin), but Toyota was making billions still.

      Sales *and* margin are important. [not trying to call you out PenguinBoy, just putting it out there]

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Toyota and Honda are not making more money on product built in Japan and then sold in the United States, the value of the Yen vs. dollar is killing them.

        Hyundai has a currency advantage that Toyota/Honda does not.

    • 0 avatar
      200k-min

      Hyundai/Kia sells a hell of a lot of vehicles around the globe. Most of them are CHEAP and pretty much garbage IMO. GM and VW do the same. I still argue that Hyundai isn’t up to the quality of Toyota/Honda, but never the less, their North American offering (and W. Europe I presume) are much better than what I’ve experienced in other places around the globe. Benchmarking on sales #’s alone seems absurd to me, unless that’s all you care about, i.e. Lutz. We all know where that got GM before. Good luck with that.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        Hyundai’s best sellers overseas are the i10 which is generally regarded as the top citycar and the i20, along w/ the i30 and ix35 (Tuscon).

        The i10 is the cheapest of the lot but is the best performer within its segment.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    I would have substituted Toyota for Volkswagen but I agree about Hyundai and GM; hardly what I would call an “explosive” quote.

  • avatar
    200k-min

    So that “perception gap” about GM cars is a thing of the past now? I assume all because of supposed Toyota quality problems. Good, at least we can put that behind us and focus on who makes “pretty” cars.

  • avatar
    wsn

    GM sure can soundly beat Toyota in term of total global sales. Just double the output of WuLings. Same for VW, just produce more Santanas. Which they are doing.

    Toyota will just stay higher market with it’s best selling model being the Camry in both the US and China, and collecting more profit per car.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Seems like he’s actually seeing Hyundai as a leader, and GM as the underdog.

    BTW, Hyundai is behind GM, Ford, Nissan, Toyota, and Chrysler in sales. No real mention of any of them by Bob.

  • avatar
    axual

    Lutz is out of touch. Frankly, if GM truly designs, builds and sells the world’s best vehicles (as the picture backdrop suggests), then GM would be rolling over everyone.

    Suggesting Toyota does not have very pretty cars is nice … you mean like the Volt? Such a pretty car that Volt.

    Bob … stay on vacation.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      Re the “pretty” part. Those at GM seem to have a teeth brace fetish, which I don’t share.

    • 0 avatar
      acuraandy

      +1 on Bob stay on vacation.

      Mr. Lutz, your time has came and went, just retire to your farm, leave the car world alone, and reflect on platforms you promoted ‘eons’ ago (i.e. when 92octane was under $2/gal, Prowler, GTO, G8, etc.) With all due respect…:)

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Of the 25 Best-Selling Nameplates of August in the U.S.:

    Chevy: 6
    Ford: 4
    Honda: 3
    Toyota/Hyundai/Dodge/Jeep: 2 each
    Nissan/VW/Kia/GMC: 1 each

    Top 25 broken down into sales:

    Chevy: 117,695 (80,863 w/o Silverado)
    Ford: 101,420 (52,625 w/o F-Series)
    Honda: 47,094
    Toyota: 46,605
    Hyundai: 35,736
    Dodge: 33,415
    Jeep: 24,269
    Nissan: 23,016
    VW: 14,500
    Kia: 13,573
    GMC: 13,244

    Sales per Top 25 nameplate:

    Ford: 25,355 (17,541 w/o F-Series)
    Toyota: 23,302
    Chevy: 19,615 (16,172 w/o Silverado)
    Hyundai: 17,868
    Dodge: 16,707
    Honda: 15,698
    Jeep: 12,134

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Being reported that Hyundai CEO has just resigned. Domestic and international sales chiefs are going to split his role – so sales guys are running Hyundai, at least for the time being.

    http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international-business/hyundai-ceo-yang-steve-yang-resigns-korea-overseas-sales-chiefs-to-split-role/articleshow/10182990.cms

    This was announced just a little while ago.

  • avatar
    jj99

    Lutz must be joking. Toyota and Honda are top sellers in LA and Boston. Plus, TOyota is the top selling retail brand in the US.

    Detroit vehicles are poor sellers on trendy coastal markets.

    Have any doubts?

    Just use the web cam on the San Diego freeway ( 405 ), or the Mass Pike ( 90 ). See all the new Toyota and Honda products. Where are GM and Ford cars? The few you see are most likely rentals.

    • 0 avatar
      kenzter

      Wrong again. I commute on the 405 daily and am seeing TONS of Fiestas, Foci and Cruzes. Not rentals either; I always check. In fact the Camry SE seems to be a pretty common rental car out here.

      On a side note, most of the Toyotas I see have some sort of damage, which leads me to believe Toyota owners don’t know how to drive.

  • avatar
    FleetofWheel

    Ford provides a better domestic value than GM.
    VW provides a Euro experience/perception that GM does not have.
    Toyota and Honda provide better quality and residual value than GM.
    Hyundai provides a better middle range value than GM.

    GM is kind of the odd man out.

  • avatar
    tallnikita

    Say what you will, Mr. Putz, but when it comes to owning a car that I want to take to 150K miles with minimal fuss, I know what brand I will pick, and it doesn’t start with H, G or V. Ok, maybe the little h(onda), but otherwise only one other brand proved over the last decades who builds quality cars – Toyota.

  • avatar
    GarbageMotorsCo.

    And in other “Putz-ism” news, hybrids are a fad and Toyota only builds them for image sake.

    Doesn’t this guy fly a Russian MIG plane in his spare time? I think he’s sniffin his own fumes again.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    I don’t really want to defend GM in any way, ( especially since they haven’t made a car I liked since the late 70′s, and that was in Europe,) but no matter how much hate they get, and how bad people seem to think they are (I haven’t driven one in ages ) they are still on of the worlds largest car manufacturers.
    On the other hand, Hyundai is still (in my eyes) a quite new car maker, and didn’t get their act together when it comes to design until the latest generations and current design language, they still seem to have some way to go before they can match the driving dynamics of VolksWagen, which btw happens to grow a reputation of building unreliable cars (apart from being really boring, to distance themselves from Audi), like Ford has done since, well, WW2 ? Ford seems to be quite consistent and boring themselves, which more or less means they won’t suddenly grow, or suddenly go down. I don’t think many people who buy Fords or GM cars really consider the other brand.
    And Toyota has stumbled once (?) when it comes to quality, allthough they may never have built a car that anyone ‘wants’ in the Iacocca or Lutz sense of the word. Honda is mostly a Japanese and American manufacturer, they make some really good cars, but not much that fits well into the European market (apart from the CR-V and Fit, neither of which are best sellers in their segments)
    So, Lutz just might be right, if he by Big 3 means the ones fighting for the titles 2-4 between Ford and Toyota ;)

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Trust me: GM will give Volkswagen and Hyundai a tough fight.”

    I really hope so Bob. I’m a guy whose been watching the industry since I was 14 (I’m now 34) and I love a close game. I want the “game” to be close cause all the players are GOOD.

  • avatar
    michal1980

    just when I thought clutz would not be mentioned for a week here.

  • avatar
    jj99

    Lutz is having a hard time understanding the new world order. Toyota and Honda already won. Detroit lost. Detroit is now living off government subsidized loans and overpriced fleet sales to the government. Hyundai is a big unknown, and the only people that will go there are looking for cheap, cheap.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Uhh, the avg. transaction price for the Sonata is pretty much the same as for the Camry.

      And if people want “cheap”, they’d have better odds with Nissan (either big incentives or low, low MSRP as for the new Versa) or one of the lesser Japanese brands like Mitsu or Suzuki.

      As for Toyota and Honda – they keep LOSING marketshare in the US; the domestics, Hyundai/Kia, Nissan and VW, otoh, are GAINING marketshare.

      The same pretty much can be attributed to the Chinese market, and as for the European market, Toyota and Honda keep losing marketshare to Hyundai/Kia.

      • 0 avatar
        jj99

        If you only how hard it is to get the Toyota or Honda you want in Boston. For months, people were driving to different states to get what they wanted. Dealers were showing inventory that was not yet delivered. Some gave up and bought a different brand.

        It is getting a little better, but still a problem. In a few more months, it may return to normal.

        As for myself, I sold my 09 Highlander for only 5300 less than brand new, and it had 45K miles on it. But, I drove for 2 hours to get my hands on a 11 White highlander. And, it had the interior color I did not want, but I took it anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      kenzter

      Won what? So they had the #1 best selling car for a while. So did GM at one point, as did Ford, and look what happened to them. Same thing WILL happen at Toyota.
      On a side note, you drove 2 hrs to buy a Highlander? A vehicle whose only purpose (and the only thing it’s good at) is to be more boring than a Camry?

    • 0 avatar
      carbiz

      Really? Last time I looked, Honda was 8th or 9th on the list of world auto companies. If you took Toyota’s Japanese sales out of the equation (only 1M YTD, but generally in the 1.5M range), Toyota never really was #1.
      I mean, how hard is it to be #1 when your home market is protected? Japan and Korea are DEAD LAST on the OECDs list of 28 member nations with the lowest penetration of ‘foreign’ auto sales domestically. Dead last. Now, even if you argue that GM builds junk, why don’t VW or Fiat sell cars in Japan?
      Anyway, GM is in the top 3 of the 3 markets that will count the most going forward: the U.S., China and Brazil. Other than the U.S., neither Honda or Toyota make it to the top 8 in those countries. And they’re hemorrhaging sales in the homeland, not just due to the earthquake, but there’s a seismic shift (excuse the pun!) happening with Japanese youth – they prefer video games and noodle cafes over owning a car.
      Not a pretty future for Japan Inc.

  • avatar
    mike978

    Very interesting that both Toyota and GM have listed the same two companies to benchmark – VW and Hyundai. Either they are both right or both wrong.

    As for looking at GM and Toyota products and how they sell in the US. You need to look world wide. Yes GM has a problem on the coasts in the US. Whereas Toyota (and Honda) have a problem in Europe (4% and 1% market share respectively). You don`t get a uniform market share worldwide. It is the global market that matters and this is probably why Ford was left off since they are weak in China and India.

    It seems essentially to boil down to VW, Hyundai, Toyota and GM as the big 4 (why the obsession with big 3?)

    I wonder who Hyundai and VW benchmark (or are concerned with) – anybody asked them?

    • 0 avatar
      jj99

      I think the coast problem is huge. People in the middle are willing to buy Detroit as long as they are good enough. This is because the middle has a heavy private union and manufacturing bias. However, on the coasts, they could care less about the brand. Kind of like going to best buy and purchasing a TV. So, they buy the best value. Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai are winning the value game. Detroit is winning the biased game.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        With new models like Focus, Fiesta and Cruze, Detroit has been making inroads into the coasts.

        The new Sonic, Malibu and Fusion should continue Detroit’s inroads there.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        JJ you have a pronounced persepctive. However lets not overstate things. GM sells on the coasts, just less than Toyota. Whilst Toyota sells in the “middle”, just not as well as GM. What matters is profit and then market share. On these GM is doing OK.
        What is even more important in the context of this article is global size and distribution. GM at least sells well in all the major markets – US, EU, China. Toyota does well in US and China. VW and Hyundai are improving in those key markets (VW is already strong in the EU).

      • 0 avatar
        jj99

        bd2, those inroads are not as great as advertised. Just go to freeway webcams on the 405 ( LA, Orange County ), and Mass Pike near Boston, and few new Detroit cars are here. There are a few Focus, but often rentals. Watch the web cams for a few hours and your perspective will change. On my 15 mile drive from Wellesley to Boston, I usually see 0 new Explorer, 0 Edge, perhaps a Fusion, not much else from Ford. New GM’s are usually Suburban or Tahoe. A caddy or two. Some pickups. However, quite a few new Jeeps.

      • 0 avatar
        kenzter

        On my 16 mile drive thru LA county this morning I saw a Camry broke down on the side of the 405. Toyotas must be crap!

        On a side note, a friend here in LA whose last 4 cars were non-domestic brands, bought a Regal Turbo yesterday. And he’s only 38. I guess he might get a Camry when he’s 60.

    • 0 avatar
      tekdemon

      I don’t know about benchmark, pretty sure that Toyota just thinks that those are the two that they’ll seriously battle for market share with.

  • avatar
    PaulVincent

    Obviously Lutz doesn’t consider repaying the massive government loans or a declining GM stock price as a part of “the race for the top position in the auto business.” Am I wrong, or don’t the outstanding loans and declining stock price matter?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Toyota is in decline. The Japanese lost their bullet-proof quality image. Their cars aren’t especially pretty. Their driving dynamics is below the level of the best European and American cars.

    Part of this is true. The problem is that the Japanese haven’t really lost the bulletproof quality image, that it wasn’t an image at all but a truth, and that they cars have never really been pretty or dynamically top-shelf and—this is the important bit—it doesn’t matter.

    What Mr. Lutz fails to realize is that what matter, in the mass market and especially in North America, is that the car a) start up every time and b) not cost too much to run. On both these metrics, Toyota is still effectively unbeaten.

    It isn’t about design. It isn’t about dynamics. It’s barely about fuel economy. It’s about money. These are expensive, depreciating appliances that move millions per year and drill holes in the pocketbooks of consumers like nothing else.

    People don’t buy Camries and Corollas because they’re attractive or dynamically superior. I don’t think they’ve ever been attractive or dynamically superior, for what it’s worth. I also don’t think buyers particularly care, not outside of niche markets.

    This is Lutz’s problem: he would be a great brand manager for Cadillac or some smaller luxury marque, where this kind of thing matters. He is absolutely not the right person to lead a company of this scale, but he’s seldom called on this inability because the kind of people who give him airplay share a lot of his opinions and value what he values.

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      I kinda agree with you, I think Bob is right in many ways, just not in the American market. He should be sent back to (continental) Europe where they care about stuff like driving dynamics and design and stuff like that. He did very well here before too. Apart from Ford and GM , which makes completely different cars over here, neither of the big players in the US have a big market share over here. On the other hand, none of the European brands besides VW manages to sell the immense number of cars that the big players in the US can. (actually the Norwegian market,apart from being incredibly small, has been dominated by Japanese/Korean cars for the last 20 years, although VW is still the biggest single brand. Mostly because new car prices (and subsequently used car prices) are high, and having someone work on your car with Norwegian wages is hilariously expensive. We try to buy reliable cars with higher resale value. (the average car on the road in Norway is close to 11 years old, and well kept)

  • avatar
    ajla

    Despite his best efforts in Ed’s interview to claim otherwise, I firmly believe (from my both my personal experiences hearing the man and other published interviews) that Lutz hates Honda and Toyota. He considers them passionless, lucky opportunists. He’s an Autoblog commenter with a wider audience.

    I think this quote is just his own personal bi*s coming through and he would’ve said the same thing even if Honda and Toyota held 10/10 on the best seller list.

    Lutz quotes aren’t worth getting worked up over.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      He’s an Autoblog commenter with a wider audience.

      That is an excellent metaphor. I wish I could have said it so succinctly. +1 internets to you, sir!

    • 0 avatar
      carbiz

      Perhaps true, but one has to wonder why an obviously intelligent man, with a ton of car experience (what’s the saying: “I’ve forgotten more about this business than you’ll ever know.”) has those visceral feelings toward Honda and Toyota. Iacocca, another Detroit legend, felt the same way. In fact, many past and present Detroit upper echelon types feel the same way.
      Could it be merely sour grapes, or jealousy? Or do they have an insider’s view as to what Japan Inc has done to Detroit and the U.S. as a whole?

  • avatar

    I feel th brand that has lost it’s way the most is Honda. I feel that brand no long stands for it’s original values. Every model that Honda sells has a competing model that’ll best it in some combination of price and features. I also agree with a friend that all Japanese marques are slowly losing their competitive edge (http://bit.ly/pLzPMi), but unlike him, I think the erosion of market share will take much longer. Many people are still willing to be loyal customers and buy into past reputation. Unless the Japanese take serious note, they’ll have their cake eaten in the same way they ate the domestic’s market share.

    • 0 avatar
      Loser

      Very good post, you are correct. What is going on now reminds me of the 70′s. Back then “Made in Japan” was a punchline and the big 3 didn’t take Toyota/Honda seriously. The Japanese kept improving while Detriot got worse. This time the Koreans (and Detroit) are improving while Japan is slipping. IMHO the Koreans are a bigger threat to Japan than Detroit. That said, I don’t think for a second that the Japanese will fall hard like Detriot did. They still build very good cars, just not as good as they used to be.
      My brother has been a loyal Honda buyer since 1988 but after being burnt on the last 2 Hondas he decided to give Kia a try. He said Kia reminds him of how Honda used to be.

      • 0 avatar
        carbiz

        There are two wild cards here that have yet to play out.
        Toyota and Honda basically enjoy a homogenous, protected market in Japan, which is still a huge market. Toyota is guaranteed 1.5M sales there every year.
        However, the March earthquake is going to tax (literally and figuratively) the Japanese consumer like never before. Although there may be a short term spike of sales as insurance companies replace vehicles that were washed out to sea, the taxpayer is going to be hit with billions in new taxes to pay for the clean up.
        It has been the hapless Japanese consumer that has bankrolled Japan Inc’s conquest of over overseas markets. Japan’s banks, once feared throughout the globe, have been hobbled for a decade. With all these new taxes being contemplated, there will be no money for Japan Inc. The Japanese 5 are going to have to compete on the world stage without any help from the motherland. This should get interesting.
        Secondly, there is a paradigm shift occurring amongst the Japanese youth. This has been well documented. They are turning their backs on auto purchases, preferring to spend their money on other things.
        These two events will likely combine to cripple Toyota, Nissan, Honda, etc. at a critical juncture: their presence in the Eurozone and Brazil are weak. If they lose their home base, things could get very ugly for them.

  • avatar
    stottpie

    i’m not personally impressed by GM quality. of all their recent vehicles i’ve driven, virtually all had fit and finish problems that were completely unacceptable.

    i was in an escalade platinum hybrid, and it didn’t even have push button start. didn’t even have telescoping steering wheel. the leather on the steering wheel was loose on one corner. the bezel plate around the passenger window button was sticking out with a sharp edge. their leather feels cheap. and that was on the cadillac.

    the volt i drove had numerous loose panels, the one above the passenger side airbag you could pull off the car if you wanted to. the trim didn’t line up between the driver door and dashboard, but it looked OK on the passenger side.

    and ford is no better. between their shitty chinese Getrags and interior components – our ford explorer has crappy fitting panels on nearly every door. everything is hard plastic, and, again, cheapest leather you’ve ever sat on. the ford touch doesn’t work worth a damn. it freezes all the time and it’s painfully slow. the A-pillars are wider than your desktop monitor.

    toyota and honda are dead in the water as far as i’m concerned, they have no innovative products, especially honda.

    on the flipside, i just drove a VW passat 3.6 SEL, and was thoroughly impressed. the leather was exceptional, the driving dynamics were stellar, and the transmission was ages ahead of any GM or ford products.

    tldr; gm sucks, ford sucks, toyota sucks, honda sucks.

    • 0 avatar
      Urlik

      Push button start is a stupid fad that I hope disappears. I’m amused that it’s so important to you that you list it first. Shows how different people’s tastes are.

      Then again I hate the hot, sticky plastic coated leather they use on cars these days but nice cool cloth seats just aren’t available anymore.

      • 0 avatar
        stottpie

        well, i’m not coming from a hoity-toity platform here.

        but from a luxury standpoint, don’t you think there’s something nice about just getting in the car and pushing a button, rather than having your entire keychain dangling on your leg? i mean, that feature is on a lot of cars that are priced 1/3 the cadillac. it’s not even something i consider special anymore, any car that calls itself luxury should have at a minimum push button start.

        as an aside, i think that hyundai/kia and honda still do a good job with cloth seating.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    “They still build very good cars, just not as good as they used to be.”

    I look at it as they built good cars when Detroit was building crap. Now Detroit builds good cars. Plus they have competition from Korea and Europe. After that ’01 Highlander I see no reason to ever walk into a Toyota dealership again. A completely awful vehicle in soo many ways. Lutz is right on, GM has nothing to worry about when it comes to Toyota.

  • avatar
    tekdemon

    Did Lutz seriously just *brag* about how often GM rebadged cars? “When it comes to platform sharing amongst brands, GM always has been absolutely competitive.”
    GM’s made nice improvements in interior and build quality on the newer models like the Cruze but there’s still a lot of inconsistency.

  • avatar

    First, it’s a bit premature to count Toyota or other Japanese makers out in a year where their supply was severely restricted by the Great East Japan Earthquake. It’s not an excuse, just a fact. Even if all makers were one way or another affected by the quake (chip shortages), the Japanese ones were particularly impacted of course. For instance the number of supplier plants involved was 600+ for Toyota. What maker — VW, Hyundai, GM — could withstand this better than Toyota has? Competitors have taken advantage of this supply issue — it’s fair game.
    Second, who are benchmarks? Lutz says “Hyundai and VW”; Winterkorn says “Hyundai” — notice how he does not mention GM… If you asked a Toyota exec, they would probably also mention Hyundai and VW. Very respectable performance (i.e. cars) for both.

  • avatar
    RRocket

    As usual, the dinosaur Maximum BS Lutz is out of touch. There is a huge difference between “Big” and “Profitable”. Everyone will recall that GM was the biggest car companies in the world and among the best sellers (depending on time line) when it started hemorrhaging money until it declared bankruptcy. Profit and reliability trumps volume, and the consumer could care less about “Big”.

    As far as Toyota building less reliable cars? Look at almost any metric for tracking reliability (CR, JD Power, etc)and Toyota as a company consistently and easily out-builds GM. Toyota was red-faced during the media/gov’t UA wild goose hunt. You can be sure they will do everything in their power to NEVER be in that situation again, and their products are only going to improve as a result. Toyota as a company is not going to roll over.

    Lutz would be remiss to dismiss Toyota outright. Afterall, it was this ignorance of the competition that eventually led to the decline and downfall of GM. Toyota still maintains a very healthy following in the USA and other major car markets. They won’t be going away any time soon.

  • avatar
    84Cressida

    Just another idotic Lutz rhetroic. Personally, I find every Toyota vehicle to be prettier than the so-called “pretty cars” that he claims GM spits out on a daily basis, and I’d still pit the reliability of a ‘Yota over a Government Motors UAW pot smoker car anyday of the week. Why won’t this guy just STFU already?

    • 0 avatar
      mikey

      @84Cressida…..You don’t think the assembly lne workers, at Toyota get high?

      Think again.

      • 0 avatar
        RRocket

        Well 84Cressida at least has proof that UAW workers get high. There have been numerous TV stories on it, with video to prove. I have yet to see any stories about Toyota workers being busted for the same behavior. Maybe it’s because Toyota workers know they won’t have the union to possibly bail them out if they get caught doing something stupid.

  • avatar
    mikey

    @RRocket…Trust me on this, in the blue collar world, dope smoking is an every day occurance. I know for a fact Honda, and Toyota workers smoke dope outside on the loading docks.

    Hint..I was a shipper reciever at GM for a long time. The same truckers deliver parts to all the plants.

    Live in your fantasy world, if you choose, guys.

    I’ve lived and worked blue collar my whole life. Have you? I think not,or you wouldn’t have made that statement.

    • 0 avatar
      mazder3

      Mikey speaks the truth guys. Drugs, legal or otherwise are everywhere. Blue collar, white collar it doesn’t matter. You just have to realize that for every wake-n-baker (y’know the ones stupid enough to go to work high and get caught) there are 100 dedicated guys who take their jobs seriously and ease the pain after work on their own time.

      I’d really love to see drug tests done on the people who okayed the interior, especially the door to dash fit, on the MDX, the product planners for the FT-86 and everyone who was involved in the ZDX and the Crosstour.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        According to the CDC, in a given month, 6.6% of the adult and teen population has smoked pot. That’s about one out of every fifteen people.

        If some people believe that some of these individuals don’t end up holding jobs outside of Detroit, then they’re fooling themselves. Not that a company should tolerate it during work hours, but there is no way to completely prevent it.

        http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/druguse.htm

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Here is something we can agree upon Pch. To say it’s only union autoworkers who get high at work or at home, they are fooling themselves.

        What is interesting, but in most instances not surprising is how it varies based on ones occupation. http://oas.samhsa.gov/work1996/ch4.htm It is pretty old data but I doubt that it has dramatically changed. I’m willing to bet it is still much more likely to find the guy making pizza, or putting on a roof, getting high on or off the job than say a doctor, nurse or police officer.

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    General Motors will be the top selling global automaker in 2011, probably at least 1,000,000 ahead of Toyota after matching them in 2010. The company made $5.7B in just the first 6 months and is likely to report record profit for the year.

    VW is on track to outsell Toyota, too, and was the most profitable carmaker in the world last year.

    Meanwhile Hyundai-Kia has been growing fast, pushing Ford to 5th place globally, over 3 million behind GM last year.

    Lutz seems to have some powerful facts on his side.

  • avatar
    minneapolis_lakers

    This is great news for Toyota –the Japanese always bring their A game whenever they are the underdog.


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