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: Read More >
Whether agree that automotive PR needs to take more risks or you think it takes more than enough risks already, we can all enjoy the outlandish quotes that do emanate from industry executives in spite of the protective PR-professional bubble that surrounds them. And though TTAC has only had the institutional follow-through to hold a single “Lutzie Award” in the past, I figured that next week (when I’ll be presenting a flood of content based on my extended rap session with Maximum Bob) would be the perfect opportunity to bring them back. And in order to do so, we need you, our readers, to make the nominations. So fire up the search engine of your choice, and hit the jump for nominating criteria and the rules of this year’s awards.
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I first used this gem of a picture about a year ago. It certainly captures the essence of the man better than any other. I somehow stumbled upon it in an obscure site, and since then, it’s made the rounds on the web. But the story behind the picture was left to speculation, beyond knowing that it happened on an Opel test track. I helped a German site (oldtimer-markt.de) find the source of the photo, and in exchange, I got the story, from Florian Schwaab of oldtimer-markt, who wrote the following: Read More >
As many of you have probably figured out by now, I’m a firm atheist. You die, you become worm food, and your relatives divide up your estate. Life goes on. However, when I was learning religious education at school, I was told about the many different Gods on offer. We have God, Allah, Buddha (not really a god, but you get the gist), Zeus, Apollo, Thor and loads of others. But at no point did my teacher mention a Japanese car company. Bob Lutz just did. Read More >
Don’t bogart that joint: Toyota will recall about 8,000 model-year 2010 Tacoma pickup trucks in the US. Not for unintended acceleration, or brake gremlins, but for good old cracks in the joint portion of the drive shaft, says Reuters. The front drive shafts are manufactured by Dana Holding Corp, and the affected vehicles were produced from mid-December 2009 to early February. Read More >
Bob Lutz rode to Motown greatness on a wave of bombast, charisma and general maximum-ness. And his ability to act like Patton in full advance, even in the face of dismal business results, has been crucial to GM’s several year long “product revolution” denial offensive. But when the war is over, and the other general’s are already discussing the terms of surrender, men like Bob Lutz are suddenly seen less as inspirational figures and more as, well, liabilities. Buried in an otherwise unremarkable piece on the LA Auto Show in MSNBC, we get a little taste of just how minimum things are at GM right now. Global Insight analyst Rebecca Lindland reveals that GM won’t be sending the man of maximum to LA to launch the new CTS Coupe. “The perception of Cadillac is of excess; it’s a high-profile, low volume vehicle and not the type of vehicle you want to be seen flaunting right now,” she said. “And you can’t take a chance that the media will catch Bob Lutz swilling Champagne or puffing on a cigar — it’s a PR nightmare waiting to happen.” Just wait till you see the post-bailout spa bills.
According to Motor Trend, none other than Maximum Bob Lutz (or his mouth, which is independently operated) was behind plans to convert the C7 Corvette to a mid-engined layout. And from certain perspectives (albeit not the traditional one) such a move would have made a lot of sense. Besides putting Ferrari on notice, a mid-engined ‘vette would be easier to convert to a fuel-saving cylinder shutoff system, since the current front-engine, rear-transaxle layout necessitates a seperate clutch to disengage cylinders. The extra weight of a mid-engine cowl and the complication of reeingineering the entire platform has killed plans for a mid-engined Corvette, and GM has pushed the C7 model release back to 2014. In other words, unless GM seriously gets its shit together ASAP, the current ‘vette could be the last model ever made. In any case, the C6 will likely be the last V8-only Corvette, since CAFE standards will likely necessitate a V6 base engine. And you thought a mid-engined Corvette was sacrilege…
Though GM’s new Cruze is likely to qualify for taxpayer funded “efficiency retooling” money, its predecessor the Cobalt is finally coming into its own. Automotive News reports that transaction prices and profitability are headed up for the Cobalt. Average transaction prices for the Cobalt rose $775 since mid-April, thanks to surging interest in one of GM’s most fuel-efficient cars. And the upswing in Cobalt-generated revenue is turning Detroit’s argument that it can’t make money on small cars on its head. GM’s marketing manager for small cars and crossovers, Brian Brown, says profits on the Cobalt are up six percent since 2007. “I don’t think anyone thought this shift of moving into smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles would be as dramatic and happen as quickly as it did,” Brown tells AN. “I have to laugh: In the last 90 days, one of the top five trade-in vehicles for a Cobalt is an F-series pickup.” Please note that Brown is laughing about getting trade-ins from a competitor’s truck rather than his company’s total inability to see this one coming. GM added an extra Cobalt shift in August, to keep up with the 9.6 percent (supply limited) increase in Cobalt sales on the year, which still lag behind booming sales of Ford’s Focus. Sales are doubtless being helped by the addition of the fuel-efficient (25/36 mpg) Cobalt XFE model, while sales of fully-loaded models are helping profitability. Taken together, the trend is clear: well-equipped, fuel-efficient small cars can sell in volume and turn a decent profit. If only Detroit had realized this a decade ago. Everybody else did.
We’ve got to love Bob Lutz and his unabashed capacity to be wrong. In today’s Automotive News, he reports that “The Saturn Astra costs too much for U.S. customers, and sales and profitability of the small hatchback are suffering.” There is no question that sales have been anemic (between 1500 and 2000 cars per month) and that profitability for the Astra was always questionable at best. Or worse. Lutz went on to tell AN that “the profit is no longer there.” None of this has been in contention. But what is blindingly daft is GM’s explanation: the Astra costs too much for American consumers, at $16,495. Before we break out the slide rules and figure that the Civic starts in the mid $15,000s and the Mazda3 sedan starts just a hair under $15,000, keep in mind the comparable levels of equipment we’re talking about here. The Astra comes standard with loads of kit that you’d have to pay thousands more for in options. Many people don’t look at that when they are trying to buy the cheapest new car they can. But many people do want options on their Mazda3, or Corolla or Civic. And for those people, the Astra is not too expensive. The culprit from this writer’s mental CSI lab? First, zero advertising for the Astra. It’s not a legacy nameplate (i.e. Corolla or Civic) so they can’t just expect people to know it’s out there. Second, the mileage is a few pegs off from the class leaders: compare a 24/30 Astra to a 25/36 Civic. I don’t care, but lots of other people do. Third and finally, the Astra is hatchback only. I love hatchbacks. You might love hatchbacks. But Nissan was smart enough to realize that Americans are only warming up to hatchbacks; that’s why the ass-ugly Versa sedan outsells the more pleasant Versa hatch. Bottom line: the Astra (a truly decent car) is headed to the enthusiast’s scrap heap. There it can join other high-potential, half-executed Lutz ideas like the Merkur xr4ti, Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky, Pontiac GTO, and Pontiac G8. At least they’re all cheap to buy used.
Cars.com’s Kickingtires blog has a question: “With consumers so concerned about fuel economy, why is General Motors waiting two years to bring out the Chevrolet Cruze, the replacement for the compact Chevy Cobalt?” Of course, we would ask the question with more of a “if the Cruze isn’t being sold for two years, why is GM hyping it now?” slant. Either way, even Kicking Tires is saying something’s gone wrong, horribly wrong, here. But no matter, Bob Lutz has the answer. “We’re waiting on the new world car because that gives us time to develop the 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder for it,” explains the man of maximum. And the way Lutz tells it, the Cruze’s new 1.4 turbocharged four-banger will be worth the wait. “The 1.4-liter is going to be more high torque than high horsepower,” explains the Car Czar. “High torque at the low end for power takeoffs and quick acceleration while still getting high mileage… We expect to get more than 40 mpg highway, better than with some hybrids.” Well, that sounds worth the wait, right? Well, in yet another Lutzie-worthy performance, Maximum Bob shoots his argument in the foot by revealing that “The 1.4 liter goes on sale in Europe in a couple weeks.” So then why is the Cruze not available until the mythical land of “late 2010?” Instead of waiting for the engine, is it possible GM’s waiting for, say, low-interest government loans for retooling factories to build more fuel-effiecient cars? Bet on it.
Get this: it wasn't last week. It was the week before. GM's Veep of Global Badge Engineering made this comment in an interview with Just-auto [sub] on the 23rd of July at the London Auto Show [sorry we missed it]. Given the $15.5b hole that opened-up in GM's second quarter financial results on the following Friday, I guess you could say Maximum Bob's remarks constitute pre-cataclysmic (post-modern?) irony. Anyway, the winner of TTAC's first annual Bob Lutz Award offered the usual grist for our collective mill. "The US press is full of pontifical analysts on television [Huntley Brinkley?] saying that the real problem with General Motors is that they are just not producing the vehicles that the American public wants. That's a complete fiction. We are producing the vehicles that the American public wants, we just can't produce enough of them because of the sudden swing in demand where all of a sudden everyone wants small passenger cars and a year ago everybody wanted big V8 trucks. We can't turn on a dime like that, but we'll get past that and our future product programmes are all in the pipeline and continue unabated." So, will The Big 2.8 make it? "We have a rough spot to get through in terms of liquidity…"
The print edition of Auto, Motor und Sport (March 13, 2008) carries an interview with GM Car Czar Bob Lutz. Regarding February sales, Maximum Bob told the German car mag “everyone was down strongly, including Toyota;” forgetting that Nissan and Honda were both up for the month. MB also “reveals” that GM’s hybrids are selling “increasingly better” and “the mild-hybrid system in the Malibu and Vue are selling well;” forgetting that GM sold just 577 hybrids in March, less than 30 of which were gas – electric ‘Bus and Vues. Lutz also says “Hybrids are not an economic or practical solution. Driving with two power sources leads to higher costs that the buyer can never recoup;” forgetting that the Prius can recoup its premium in less than five years. Note to Bob: the truth will set you free.
If ever two automotive companies deserved each other, it's Tesla Motors and Fisker Automotive. The former is the erstwhile maker of an electric roadster that's the dictionary definition of irony (the discrepancy between expectation and reality). The latter is a failed "coach-builder" (of hideously expensive re-sculpted SL and 6-Series) turned EV tree-hugger. And now, Autoblog breathlessly reveals that Henrik Fisker designed Tesla's imaginary WhiteStar sedan. Apparently, Tesla kept the design (for its next prospectus) and told Fisker to f-off on the production front. In case you thought this means anything, here's a bit from yesterday's press release from Fisker, which I couldn't quite blog because of a sudden attack of hype-related biliousness. "Fisker Automotive, Inc., a green American premium car company, today announced Fisker Italia as its first International importer. With plans to allocate more than 50 percent of its production to overseas sales, Fisker Automotive is poised to become a leading exporter of premium U.S. automobiles. Additionally, Fisker Automotive, maker of the first of its kind plug-in hybrid premium sports sedan, further announced it has received great interest from 44 North American markets in which it hopes to have retail representation." Get ready to vote for this one during next year's Bob Lutz award.
Who is the most deserving of the first annual Bob Lutz Award? We're looking for the automotive executive who said the most outrageous, politically incorrect or just plain dumb thing. Since this is the first time for the award, we've allowed nominees from the past; next time we'll limit it to the past calendar year. Click on the link below to cast your vote. The nominees are listed in alphabetical order along with an example of why each was nominated. (Yes, I know I said I'd list all the quotes that got them nominated on the ballot, but when I did one nominee had said so many different things the ballot went off the screen.) Only one vote per customer, please. Voting will close at 6PM EST Sunday, so don't procrastinate.
Voting has closed. The results will be posted today. Thank you for your participation.
The nominations for the first annual Bob Lutz Award ("Lutzie") are closed, and boy do we have some doozies! We'll open the polls tomorrow morning for you to vote for the automotive executive who you think made the most outrageous, politically incorrect or just downright dumb statement. And to make it more interesting, not only will you get to vote for the person, but in the case of multiple nominations you'll also get to vote on what you think is the best (worst?) thing they said. The voting will run through 6PM EST Sunday, and we'll announce the winner Monday morning.