By on October 4, 2011

Never assume that press accounts of what’s going on inside the auto companies resembles what’s actually going on. For my Ph.D. thesis, I inhabited General Motors’s product development organization much like an anthropologist might inhabit a Third World village. What I observed during my year-and-a-half on the inside bore virtually no resemblance to what I read in the automotive press. Journalists aren’t inside the companies, have contact with select high-level insiders, and tend to print the PR-approved accounts these insiders provide. These accounts reflect how senior executives want outsiders to think the organization operates and performs much more than how it actually does. To the extent journalists know the reality—and few do any digging—they rarely print it. So I’ve refrained from even guessing at what’s been going on inside GM. Instead, I’ve been hoping that some insider would write an insightful account of the eventful past 10 to 15 years. None have, until ex-vice chairman Bob Lutz’s new book, Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: the Battle for the Soul of American Business. Lutz has a reputation for speaking his mind and straight shooting. What does his book tell us about what really went on inside GM?

Not much. Lutz’s lips might be moving, but he ain’t talking.

Unlike former “car czar” Steven Rattner’s recent tell-all or the “Corvette book” that enraged GM design executives back in the mid-90s, Lutz avoids naming names. Former CEO Rick Wagoner is rarely mentioned, as if Lutz had little direct interaction with him, and always in respectful terms: “Rick was a kind, intelligent CEO of spectacular human qualities.” Consequently, the adversaries in Lutz’s battle against the “bean counters” are faceless and his accounts of what happened are few and lack illuminating detail. We’re treated to a few brief examples of pre-Lutz products that sold poorly, but no detailed accounts of how better new cars were developed under his watch. Clearly corporate norms of what’s permissible to divulge to outsiders had a much higher priority than providing readers with insight into what really went on. As Edward Niedermeyer noted in his review, Lutz ultimately blames outsiders for GM’s fall, and lets his fellow executives off the hook. His book could have been incredible. Instead, for this review I’ve had to work with scraps.

Dealing with “them”

Ron Zarrella, head of GM North America back in the late 1990s, once remarked that he couldn’t do what he knew needed to be done to improve the company and its products because “they” wouldn’t let him. The response of the person in the room who relayed this to me: “I thought you was ‘they.’” The lesson: even those at the top felt powerless to change things because of some faceless “they,” so what hope could those lower down have?
Lutz takes some cheap shots at Zarrella, who as someone long-departed apparently isn’t protected by the executive code, but acknowledges a key failing shared by many intelligent people inside GM: Zarrella gave up. Lutz vaguely describes his own power as limited, but he didn’t give up. Relying on persuasion more than the direct exercise of power and aided by Wagoner’s unflagging support, he was able to make a few significant changes to GM’s way of doing things.

Too many brains, too little focus on what really matters

Lutz repeatedly argues that GM had over-intellectualized and over-complicated the task of developing a new car. The design process began in a room full of disturbingly casual, hirsute, beanbag-ensconced designers charged with envisioning “big ideas” (they failed to come up with anything useful). Marketing and the ad agencies it employed contributed boards that vividly and distinctively characterized the brands and their intended customers (they failed, too). A product planning group full of big brains applied complex analyses to vast amounts of data to deduce segment-busting new products like the Envoy XUV (which then failed to sell). Engineers required that every car meet a vast number of criteria that had accumulated over the decades. In one especially pernicious instance of the “tyranny of process over results,” the Vehicle Line Executives (VLEs) in charge of programs were awarded bonuses based on how well they achieved a large number of subgoals such as piece cost, build combinations, and time-to-market. Lutz recounts how one (unnamed) VLE demanded a bonus because his “scorecard” was all “green,” even though the product had received bad reviews and didn’t sell well. Struck speechless at the time, Lutz observes that “the obstacle has been, as always, pursuing a subgoal that was easy to game instead of putting the real objective above all.”

Design uber alles!

The real objective? Creating cars that sell. For Lutz, there is a simple way to achieve this overarching goal: make the cars look beautiful and expensive. Everything else is secondary, at best.

At the simplest, most superficial level, Lutz repeatedly had to direct designers to add more chrome trim. (Imagine: a world where GM had to be pushed to add more chrome by an exec brought in from outside.) But, as GM learned way back in 1958, chrome can’t fix everything. Even an executive with the so-rare-it’s-practically-raw good taste of Bob Lutz can’t draw a beautiful car on his own. You must free the designers to do what they do best.

To free the designers Lutz:

–eliminated the beanbag room

–eliminated the brand character nonsense

–greatly reduced the role of product planning (a hotbed of over-intellectualization whose focus on numbers squeezed out spontaneous creativity)

–pushed engineers to re-examine each criterion, and consequently discard many that were outmoded or that, due to an overly narrow focus, hurt more than they helped

–handed product responsibility to the VLE, usually short on good taste, and (un)focused on too many other things, only after the design was done

Eliminate handoffs.

Lutz added a handoff to the VLE after the design was complete. But within design he did the opposite, simplifying the design process by eliminating hand-offs from the advanced studios to the brand character studios to the production studios. The often disastrous consequences of these hand-offs in terms of both time-to-market and the appearance of the car came up often in my own research. Eliminating them should have been a no-brainer (and was among my recommendations), but GM was generally oblivious to how people work (or fail to work) together. In this case, and likely others, Lutz brought some much-needed common sense to GM’s top leadership.

We don’t need no education

Note the double negative. Wide, imprecise gaps between body panels endangered Lutz’s drive to make GM’s cars look more attractive and expensive. But this design problem couldn’t be fixed within his design bailiwick. Instead, the gaps were the result of “a generalized tolerance of sloppy [product] execution.” Lacking sufficient power to dictate a fix, Lutz kept bringing the issue up until the annoyed head of the metal fabrication group finally offered, “show me a car that has the fits you like, and we’ll do the same with ours.” Lutz showed this exec a 2002 Hyundai Sonata. The skilled engineers in metal fab then achieved the requested tight, precise gaps with shockingly little effort and expense. Apparently they’d never realized this was desired. Once educated by Lutz, they did much better. Enlightened and encouraged by this victory without losers, Lutz took his show on the road, educating the scattered tribes on how to recognize sloppiness and the need to eliminate it.

Working within the system

Lutz taught me about the danger of a cheap-looking interior. Indirectly, and through a negative example. Among his cars at Chrysler: the original Neon. I advised my sister to check it out. She summarily rejected the car because to her it looked so cheap inside. By the time he returned to GM, Lutz had also learned this lesson. Here as well he couldn’t dictate a fix. But he recognized (as did many of the people I spoke with for my thesis) that cheap interiors often happened because the interior is the last part of a car to get locked in. (There’s less lead time on interior components than on the body and the mechanical bits.) Consequently, any cost overruns over the course of the program had to be counteracted by downgrading the interior. Lutz couldn’t simply eliminate the bean counters’ cost controls. Instead, he intelligently worked within the system by removing interiors from the VLEs’ responsibilities and giving them a separate budget. This way cost overruns in the body, powertrain, or chassis couldn’t result in cheap interiors.

Half-truths without consequences

Lutz notes, without going into any specifics, that the VLEs and product planners didn’t like having their responsibilities reduced. But otherwise he ascribes no negative consequences to his empowerment of design and his war against “the tyranny of process.”

I observed the ridiculed processes inside GM, and can confirm they weren’t working. GM’s executives and managers devoted far too much time and effort to tactics and minutiae and far too little to strategy and the car as a whole. But the things the processes were supposed to do did need doing, and cannot be effectively done entirely by Lutz’s favored creative types. In his earlier book, Guts, Lutz writes eloquently of the need to combine “left-brained” and “right-brained” approaches. The new book does state that, under Lutz’s leadership, the “planning people” and the “idea people” developed mutual respect, where each recognized the value of the other’s work (while still not liking it). But, with no description of how these two groups actually worked together to create better cars, this comes across as the typical PR-approved “one big functional family” effluent. How well are the two approaches actually being combined?

For the beginnings of an answer we must look beyond the book’s unrevealing pages to the products Lutz oversaw. Many of the engineering criteria were unnecessary. But what about engineers’ legitimate priorities? Making the cars more comfortable, functional, or enjoyable to drive doesn’t really come up in the book. In fact, the opposite is the case: Lutz asserts that if a car looks good, buyers (essentially all of them, he’s anti-segmentation) will willingly sacrifice functionality. Creative, cross-functional, both-brained solutions that might make cars both look better and more functional? They don’t seem to have been explored. More broadly, it’s not clear that design and engineering work much better together now than they did earlier. Lutz might have simply shifted the shoe to the other foot. In his approach, there are a small number of top priorities (usually styling) and other things (like curb weight) are allowed to slide. This might explain why GM’s latest cars are hard to see out of, suffer from poor ergonomics, and hug the road with a few hundred extra pounds. While some buyers are won over by the cars’ styling, others are turned off by these shortcomings.

Lutz ad infinitum, by design

So, as vice-chairman in charge of new product development Lutz was able to get some desirable things done. The cars are more attractive inside and out, and drive more smoothly and quietly. But did he fix the core problem? Are GM’s many intelligent, talented people now more able to get done what they think needs to be done to create a better car? (Meaning without working laboriously up the hierarchy to somehow enlist the involvement of a sufficiently powerful senior executive.) Or, do the great majority of designers, engineers, and marketers remain nearly as frustrated now as they were pre-Lutz?
Unfortunately, on this question the book is silent. The role of personal judgment is clear. Design is important, and good design can only be recognized by someone with good judgment, not some left-brained type following a process. More broadly, judgment must fill in the void left by the eliminated processes. People must rely on their judgment, their “gut,” to make many different decisions with an eye to the superficially simple goal of selling more cars.

How many people possess the necessary judgment? Apparently not the VLEs who desperately need it. And if Lutz felt the need to constrain this high-ranking, carefully selected, thoroughly trained bunch within a new set of rules, then what hope is there for people lower in the organization? Though he spent much of his time educating the judgment of the multitudes, Lutz ultimately recognizes only one sufficiently gifted person—Lutz. How, then, can GM survive without him? Though he’s pushing eighty, apparently it can’t. Lutz retired—not for the first time—on May 1, 2010. But, as of last month, he’s back. Again. Still.

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32 Comments on “Book Review: “Car Guys Versus Bean Counters,” Take Two...”


  • avatar
    Austin Greene

    There is only one Bob Lutz.

    Like him or not, he will forever be remembered for his influence on the automotive business.

    As times change, and we grow older, we will refer back to Maximum Bob as the iconic figure that he was.

    • 0 avatar
      Dynasty

      I work in design. I work in government. The government is much larger than GM.

      In my department we try our hardest to design what is right.. But there are a gagillion other forces that all pretty much do everything in their power to cut us short every single goddamn chance they can get.

      Process this, process that… We got to “…pursue a subgoal [that is easy to game] instead of putting the real objective above all.” ”

      And then we end up with some watered down lame version of the original intent that is just a waste of time and money. Looking at you USACE.

      Maybe Lutz isn’t a god, but he is only one man. And one man can only get so far swimming against the current.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    If GM is going to get back up where Ford got in the 80′s they may need Lutz, But it seems to me he has adopted too much of Iacoccas style of selling cars, unlike the more practical ‘European Lutz’ of the past, who was part responsible for quite a few cars that were both practical and comfortable, if not extraordinarily good looking. Watch out for the vinyl-roofed Volt Brougham in the near future ;)

  • avatar
    chuckrs

    Is your PhD in Anthropology? Studying the GM tribe would certainly be interesting. I hear they dip the tips of their arrows in the ashes of failed Powerpoint presentation’s hardcopy.

    • 0 avatar

      Close, sociology.

      As Rattner noted, they do love their PowerPoint at GM.

      • 0 avatar
        tkewley

        I’m curious about your aside regarding the book “All Corvettes Are Red”. My recollection is that it was not particularly kind to then-retiring design head Chuck Jordan, but other than that seemed pretty even-handed to me. What was it that “enraged GM design executives”?

      • 0 avatar

        The characterization of Chuck Jordan.

        I met the late Jim Schefter once. He spent seven years on this book, spending many days inside the company and not just relying on interviews, and the book shows it.

        I managed to largely fly beneath the radar while inside GM. When Jerry Palmer finally learned what I was doing in the design studio–after I’d been there dozens of days–he walked up to me, shook my hand, and said, “So, you’re writing another Corvette book.” I explained that my project was much different, but was nevertheless strongly encouraged to wrap up my fieldwork a few days later. Were the two things connected?

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Bob Lutz – the last real car guy!

    BTW, I like chrome, but not too much, preferably “bright window reveal” (which I love), chrome grilles as god intended, chrome trim rings around tail lights and finally, last but not least, chrome side script, not body-color!

    Concerning “they”, it appears in all organizations, they take on a life all their own and unless you are the proprietor as Henry Ford was, any one guy is fairly powerless to make radical change. Little things, maybe, but you need lots of “political” support there, too. Tthat’s pretty much the way it is.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Lutz asserts that if a car looks good, buyers (essentially all of them, he’s anti-segmentation) will willingly sacrifice functionality.

    If he earnestly believes that, then he’s even worse than I had thought. No wonder he’s had so many failures; apparently, the guy refuses to learn from his mistakes.

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      I guess you have never heard of a guy named Lee Iacocca ? I can’t be bothered to check how many million car Ford, Chrysler and GM has sold on looks (and maybe sound) alone. Sometimes even for years in a row before the sacrifice of practicality became to much. Slightly more specific American passenger cars from 1957 through 1977, with only few exceptions. And that’s still not claiming they suddenly got better in 1978, but at least they started to acknowledge that there was a problem. How do you think BMW sell cars, or Aston Martin for that matter.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        How do you think BMW sell cars, or Aston Martin for that matter.

        You’re proving my point for me. Those are niche auto makers.

        High-volume cars sold in the US are sold in large part on practicalities. The Camry/ Accord/ Corolla/ Civic work well and don’t break often.

        The business model that Bob Lutz likes so much began to die off in the late 60′s. The tailfins and chrome school of car sales has given way to quality metrics and reliability.

        Style is important, but it can’t come at the expense of tangibles in the mid-market segments. Luxury cars can use service and cachet value as substitutes for reliability, but the Hyundais, Chryslers, Fords and GMs of this world get slaughtered if they deliver an unreliable product.

        In many respects, Lutz is a good 40+ years behind the times. This style strategy worked for GM in the past, but those times are over. The world changes; I guess Bob Lutz has failed to keep up.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        The American automobile market has changed drastically since the late 1970s.

        There is a reason that no American car maker, for example, is attempting to sell anything like a 1977 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme (the best-selling vehicle of 1976, and second best-selling vehicle of 1977) as a mainstream family car today.

        Even if it could be made to get 30 mpg, it would fail miserably, as most people looking for a family car would not put up with the cramped back seat, tiny trunk and poor visibility.

        It’s telling that the 2011 cars closest in style to that Cutlass – the Camaro and Mustang – are sold as “fun” cars to people with some extra money to spend on cars. They aren’t being pitched as mainstream family cars. And even those cars need the aura of their high-performance versions to sell at their current level (which, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t all that much).

      • 0 avatar
        Zykotec

        Even if I certainly agree that it makes the most sense to make a good looking car on a decent base, people do prefer a good looking car over a bad looking one, if not, every car sold would be a Toyota. I don’t think Bob is as much 40 years behind time as he is stuck in a European way of thinking. People pay more for a VW than they do for a Skoda, and even more for an Audi, even if they are basically the same car. Same goes for many other rebadgings, even some Lexus models. And offcourse these cars offer more than just the outside ‘design-looks’, it’s like Lutz mentioned the interior quality, the panel gaps etc. But they are certainly not more practical or ergonomically improved. In most cases a ‘premium’ model will be less practical. Not to mention, when was the last time you could see easily out a new car, why has every car maker spent billions on design and finish since Edsel first convinced his father in the 20′s this was the way to go forward. Why won’t Americans buy wagons or hatchbacks? Is it because they are less practical than sedans?
        ( I have to admit, I touched the dashboard with disgust the first time testdrove my CR-V, but I realized ‘when will I ever touch it again, and bought it, used though.? I’m not exactly a common new-car buyer…)

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        people do prefer a good looking car over a bad looking one, if not, every car sold would be a Toyota

        This presumes that those who buy Toyotas don’t care about how they look. Suffice it to say, Toyota makes cars that look perfectly acceptable in today’s marketplace. If you think that the Malibu wins beauty contests over the Camry, then you’re kidding yourself.

        People pay more for a VW than they do for a Skoda, and even more for an Audi, even if they are basically the same car.

        As I keep pointing out, luxury cars can be positioned differently. They don’t need to be as reliable if there are other factors to compensate.

        But in any case, the US is not Europe. We care about reliability. We drive more and we are less likely to have company cars, so these things matter more to us.

        Lutz needs to get a clue. Toyota, Datsun and Honda turned the mainstream US car market on its head, while Mercedes and BMW profoundly changed American preferences for road feel in luxury and sports cars. The 60s are long gone.

        The GM model worked well for about four decades, but then it started to backfire. The world changes. This is a situation when a strategy that worked beautifully for a time is the same strategy that would ultimately fail. When something that used to work stops working, then that’a a hint that it’s time to change. Companies need to adapt to the market, not the other way around.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        This presumes that those who buy Toyotas don’t care about how they look. Suffice it to say, Toyota makes cars that look perfectly acceptable in today’s marketplace.

        Agreed. I don’t like them, but their ugliness is competitive with most of the current offerings from other manufacturers. What Toyota owners don’t care about is vehicle dynamics.

      • 0 avatar
        Zykotec

        I’m not saying most modern GM cars look any better than current Toyota’s. In that part Lutz still has work to do. And I think it’s wrong to blame Lutz for everything GM has done wrong in the 30 years before he even started there. And I don’t think he can save GM himself.
        But I do think he’s too much stuck in the European ways, and I guess working at Chrysler didn’t help. In the 90′s when everyone else was taking a break from making good looking cars Chrysler took a gamble with ‘interesting’ looks, and for a while that did save them, and that may have given him the wrong idea about car buyers.
        Off course you can’t sell a car on looks alone, as much as you can’t sell a car on reliability alone. Toyotas might be better looking now than they were before, but that doesn’t mean they are more practical than before.And honestly, how realistic is it for GM to be able to compete with Toyota on reliability.
        Korean cars have had a reputation for reliability for many years, but now that they start to look good people are suddenly giving them more attention.
        And BMW being a niche car maker, they still outsold Mazda, which is known only for it’s practical reliable cars…
        And again, why won’t Americans buy wagons or hatchbacks?

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I think it’s wrong to blame Lutz for everything GM has done wrong in the 30 years before he even started there.

        I don’t fault Lutz for GM’s failings that occurred before he was there. I fault him for failing to learn any lessons from GM’s failings.

        Lutz doesn’t understand that Toyota and Honda succeeded because they built better cars. Their growth wasn’t a fluke, but the result of hard work and good planning. He should be using them as his role models, not the Sloan era of GM.

        Toyotas might be better looking now than they were before, but that doesn’t mean they are more practical than before.

        In the US, practical = reliable.

        And honestly, how realistic is it for GM to be able to compete with Toyota on reliability.

        Hyundai and Ford are improving their positions because both have committed themselves to a quality message and have backed up that message with more reliable vehicles. Twenty years ago, it was hard to give away a Hyundai here; now, they’re supply constrained and improving their retail sales. It can be done.

      • 0 avatar
        Zykotec

        Ok, I think I kinda agree, consdiering I myself bought one of the least ‘Lutz’-ish cars out there (to complement my old Lutz project car :) )
        I’m still trying to understand the whole American idea of a car only as a necessary evil for commuting only…(just like Bob, I’m European, so I guess we just don’t understand, just look at the low market share of Japanese cars in Europe)

      • 0 avatar
        Les

        @Zykotec

        Oh, it wasn’t always that way, there was a time when Americans were just as excited about cars for cars’ sake as any European.

        But then, Oil Crisis, Smog-control, CAFE-standards, impact-panels that respect the lifestyle choices of every drunken iPod user that leaps into the street to kiss your bumper… all those things kinda took the fun out of it for most people on this side of the pond.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        But then, Oil Crisis, Smog-control, CAFE-standards, impact-panels that respect the lifestyle choices of every drunken iPod user that leaps into the street to kiss your bumper… all those things kinda took the fun out of it for most people on this side of the pond

        Just for the record, fuel economy standards are tighter in Europe, and pedestrian impact standards started there and only recently came to North America.

        Emissions standards are weaker, or at least different, in Europe, but I don’t think you can blame regulation for killing the fun.

        What’s doing that, on both sides of the pond, is money. Cars are expensive, and the next few generations of buyers do not have the ability to make large purchases, nor endure the operating costs.

  • avatar
    86er

    We’re treated to a few brief examples of pre-Lutz products that sold poorly, but no detailed accounts of how better new cars were developed under his watch

    That isn’t articulated but is expressed in prose, but in the glossy colour photos in the middle of the book. He highlights, if memory serves, the Silverado of 2003 and the Silverado of 2007, the Malibu, the Enclave, the Aura, and there’s a photograph of the Envoy XUV.

    Or, do the great majority of designers, engineers, and marketers remain nearly as frustrated now as they were pre-Lutz?
    Unfortunately, on this question the book is silent.

    Lutz believes that his efforts will endure. He states that very clearly in the epilogue.

    Though he spent much of his time educating the judgment of the multitudes, Lutz ultimately recognizes only one sufficiently gifted person—Lutz.

    I think Lutz spends at least a reasonable amount of time saluting the, as you stated, many talented and intelligent people within GM. It gets lost in all the self-aggrandizement, but it is his book.

    • 0 avatar

      The “salutes” are empty without specifics, and we don’t get any specifics. Plenty of executives will praise the talent of their “people.” But how much do they actually rely on the judgment of these people? Put another way, actions speak louder than words, and Lutz describes no specific cases where he actually placed his trust in some subordinate’s judgment.

      Jon Launkner, head of the Volt program, might be a partial exception. Lutz does describe a fairly equal partnership between them. But the Volt isn’t much discussed after the initial concept, so it’s not clear who did what after Lutz stipulated the basics.

      Other partial exceptions: design VPs Cherry and Welburn. But these are also very high-ranking people, and even in these cases we get few specifics. We hear all about Lutz’s taste in design and the changes he demanded in specific cars. Nothing about Cherry’s or Welburn’s input except that the Sixteen was a fitting end to the former’s career.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    This certainly sheds some new light on Lutz. Maybe he was more effective at GM than I thought.

    However, it’s interesting to read this review (I’m waiting for the library copy of the book itself) in conjunction with the recent reporting on the Volt, a vehicle which Lutz very heavily influenced.

    Pluses:

    1. It does have a nice looking interior.
    2. It is an EV, most of the time, with unique on-board backup.
    3. People like the performance.

    Item 1 is available in a Cruze for less, GM won’t have item 2 space to itself for much longer and item 3 can be adjusted with a bigger ICE.

    Minuses:

    1. Seats only 4.
    2. So-so exterior looks (I don’t like it at all, YMMV). It doesn’t achieve the level of visual distinction that the Prius has.
    3. Mediocre to poor cargo room.
    4. The most crammed engine bay I believe I have ever seen except, perhaps, for the Turbo PT Cruiser.
    5. Mediocre extended-range fuel economy.
    6. Requires premium fuel.
    7. Outrageous cost.

    For many people, items 1 and 7 will be immediate deal-breakers. Items 5 and 6 are extremely disadvantageous for a car with green or “git us off’n furrin’ oil” pretensions and particularly disappointing given item 7. Item 2 is a matter of personal taste, so probably not important. Items 3 and 4 are going to affect the long-term liveability and satisfaction of the vehicle but probably don’t have a lot to do with how well the car sells off the lot.

    That’s rather a lot of minuses, packed into $40K.

    And, in the Volt’s 10th month, GM sold a mere 723. This thing does not seem to have “success” written all over it.

    Consquently, I continue to think that GM’s greatest problem was, and still remains, people can’t tell the truth to management. Somebody should have felt empowered to say, “Look, we can’t build this for less than $40K and, with these compromises, it is going to be a tough sell.” GM’s entire hybrid program has been like this. The original BAS pickups of 2004 or so, the BAS Epsilons, the two-mode GMT900s… all of them failed in the market and it was obvious to anyone looking at these vehicles that they would not sell.

    But GM did them, anyway.

  • avatar
    doug-g

    I’m still on the fence with Lutz and generally feel that he is his greatest product. The fact that he admitted to being friends with David E. Davis says a lot about him in my book.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    –eliminated the brand character nonsense

    Could you elaborate?

    I thought one of the biggest problems GM had was having 8 brands many of which had no discernible character.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    What a guy. Long may his more important lessons be told.

  • avatar
    Les

    People who Love a car, absolutely Love it, will forgive many many faults. Lutz’s failing is assuming that what makes people Love a car is it’s styling, since that’s what he himself prioritizes… but it varies from person to person.

    Some people would love a car that is a fuel-sipper, or runs on wheat-grass, or sunshine and kitten-kisses or something that makes them feel like they’re saving Mother-Earth.

    Some people would love a car with a big shouty obnoxious engine with a dozen carburetors running a mixture so rich gasoline pours un-touched out the tailpipe, just because it would piss-off those damned dirty hippies.

    Some people would love a car designed with reserved, refined tastes in mind.

    Some people would love a car designed around an aesthetic that would make the Wu-Tang Clan look subtle.

    Some people would love a car that can go 60MPH on a highway and make them feel like they’re riding a banana-barge across a calm lake at 3MPH.

    Some people would love a car that is constantly Shouting at them, “Oh, that was a rock! Oh, Pothole, Biiiig Pothole. Turning, we’re turning, we’re turning, Oh-Oh! Too much! Turning too much, My Arse is gonna come ’round and.. Whew! Crisis Averted! Oh, incline.. Nggrrrrrrrr, I-Think-I-Can-I-Think-I-Can-I-Think-I…. Oooooooooh, I think I’m gonna need more coolant after this…”

    Some people would love a car that is elegantly and luxuriously appointed with real leather, wood, ivory, rubies, the foreskins of pubescent walruses….

    Some people would love a car where they can get in with their boots on after the annual Sh-t-kickers jamboree without getting yelled at.

    Some people would love a car without all’uh them new-fangled-y Sattelite-this and Tuch-Screen that Malarky, dag-nabbit.

    Some people would love a car that on a good/bad day could accidentally start WWIII.

    And then you have people who love Chrome, Chrome, Chroooooome…..

    *Whop-bop-a-re-Bob*

  • avatar
    theo78-96

    If there had’ve been more “beancounters” and fewer circle jerk buddies from the same fraternity at GM, I suspect they may not have ended up bust.

  • avatar
    Dynasty

    Bean counters are important, but there needs to be a proper balance of bean counters to the cost no object designers and engineers.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    Having worked in a large company myself, I know first hand that it is all about “culture”. It does not matter whether the company is public or private, American, Asian or European.

    Sometimes that culture works wonders, at least for a while. Witness the vaunted Hewlett-Packard or Toyota cultures. Eventually the world changes and those cultures become an anachronism.

    I’m sure that GM’s culture at one point of time must have worked wonders, you don’t become the world’s largest manufacturing company just by being lucky.

    On other topic…Les, your post is a riot. Made me really laugh out loud. oooops, another web cliche!


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