When former TTAC Editor-in-Chief and now Editor emeritus Edward “Op-Ed” Niedermeyer wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal and warned that GM’s center of gravity shifts more and more to China, GM’s retired multi-role fighter Bob Lutz reamed Ed via Fortune. Now, Bob Lutz himself appears to be an accessory in a deal that transfers U.S. government-financed technology to China for pennies on the dollar. Says Deepa Seetharaman, in-house alternative drivetrain expert at the Reuters Detroit office, in her in-depth article: (Read More…)
Tag: bob lutz
Forward contracts on popcorn skyrocketed at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange as former TTAC Chief Editor Ed Niedermeyer drew massive fire for his recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. On Sunday, GM’s PR Chief Selim Bingo blasted Niedermeyer for “stepping through the looking glass” and for “carelessly comparing GM’s spending in China to that in the U.S.”
Isn’t the Internet wonderful? Now industry types can trade barbs directly, without going through unreliable journalists. Ed Whitacre still needed to write a book (or more like he had it written) to put down Bob Lutz, Dan Akerson et al. Bob Lutz, however, has his own blog, hosted at Forbes, and boy does he take revenge on Whitacre: (Read More…)
It isn’t often one of the biggest news items coming out of NAIAS 2013 is from a tuning house … especially a tuning house nobody has ever heard of before. Attach the name Bob Lutz to a car, along with a brand new, fire breathing, tire shredding 6.2L LT1 V8 from the new Corvette, you are bound to turn some heads. Oh, and they wedged it into a Fisker Karma.
That’s Maximum to the Bob.
From the first part of this clip from Bob Lutz and Elon Musk’s recent appearance on the Charlie Rose, in which the two discuss “The CO2 Thing,” you might guess that the two are at odds with each other. After all, Bob’s the gruff, “Global Warming is Bullshit” type and Elon is the sensitive, change-the-world type. But by the end of this brief clip, the two industry mavericks are falling all over themselves with mutual admiration. But then, both have learned from the other (however indirectly) over the past few years: Lutz’s legacy of the Volt was in part motivated by Musk’s endeavor, and Musk himself has a lot more respect for Detroit’s “old school” manufacturing know-how now that his firm is actually trying to build its own cars in volume. It’s a study in contrasts watching these two iconoclasts from such separate worlds going at it… and yet you get the distinct impression that these two guys aren’t quite as different as you might think.
Watch the complete Musk-Lutz interview here.
Watch Lutz’s one-on-one interview here.
It’s a phenomenon with some precedent: import manufacturers will get nowhere with a certain bodystyle or drivetrain until one of the US domestic brands jumps on the bandwagon and popularizes it. And Jeff Breneman, executive director of the U.S. Coalition for Advanced Diesel Cars, is hoping the same dynamic plays out in the world of diesel power when Chevy brings its Cruze Diesel to the US. He tells WardsAuto
The fact that Chevy will offer a diesel Cruze in 2013 is huge. The gas-powered Cruze will get 40 mpg (5.9 L/100 km), so the diesel is expected to get 50 mpg-plus (4.7 L/100 km), and that will make it a game-changer.
Ford, Toyota or Honda haven’t got a diesel for the U.S. yet, but get ready for 2013-2014. That’s when we’re going to see a lot more diesels.
And, as the diesel booster-in-chief, it’s not surprising that Breneman would come to that conclusion. But what are folks inside GM saying about the Cruze diesel? In a recent interview with TTAC, senior advisor Bob Lutz suggested that we shouldn’t expect the Cruze diesel to conquer America or “change the game” all that much.
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?
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…)
Ed’s outstanding editorial largely disproved ten widely believed myths about Bob Lutz based on their candid interview. But my favorite Lutz myth apparently didn’t pop up in their wide-ranging discussion: that Lutz believes in designing cars from the gut, and opposes testing potential designs with representative car buyers in clinics.
You’ll often read that boring, even bad designs are the way they are because of clinics. Clinics have been blamed for the Edsel, the Aztek, and myriad other car design failures over the past half-century. Touted as the superior alternative: the golden gut, with Lutz as poster boy. The reality from Lutz’s new book, Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: the Battle for the Soul of American Business: he has found clinics to be an excellent indicator of a design’s future potential and firmly believes in their use.
The theme that’s emerged most clearly from my interview with Bob Lutz was, somewhat counterintuitively, compromise. Every vehicle that’s developed and built is the product of nearly countless compromises, on everything from performance to efficiency, and from weight and materials to cost. The question isn’t so much if you compromise when developing a new car, but how you compromise… as was demonstrated in our last Lutzian anecdote. And even during my interview, as the conversation bounced from GM to Chrysler, from mass-market products to niche halo cars, I was thrilled that this issue kept coming up. Why? Because this theme played perfectly into the question that was at the top of my list of prepared questions. After all, there has been a mystery haunting GM followers for some time now… a mystery that I’d never seen a journalist ever ask about. And there I was, sitting with one of the few people who was even capable of fully answering it. So I just waited for a pause, opened my mouth and asked:
Why do GM cars weigh more than other cars?
I had no idea what kind of answer to expect… but I definitely wasn’t expecting the answer I got.
Bob Lutz admitted in his book Guts that he “possesses a certain duality of mind,” and he ain’t kidding. After all, how could someone spend a career in an industry built on “the industrial logic of scale” (to borrow a phrase from Sergio Marchionne) while trying to connect new vehicles with the lust centers of the human brain without developing a certain amount of creative schizophrenia? But, as anyone who has ever driven a Pontiac Solstice knows, sometimes compromises are made between the conflicting pulls of lust and practicality… and when those compromises must be made, Lutz tends to err on the side of lust. I confronted him about this tendency in our recent conversation, and rather than accept the criticism, he doubled down on his premise that lust-worthy design is more important than practicality. And he illustrated his point by telling the tale of a long-forgotten concept and its troubled path to production.
If things seem a little slow around here today, it’s because I’m in the Detroit area, away from the productive calm of my office sanctuary. I’m in town for quite an exciting event: tomorrow, I’ll be conducting an extended interview with the industry’s most infamous executive, “Maximum” Bob Lutz. And though I can’t extend an invite to Lutz Farm to TTAC’s Best & Brightest, I can offer the next-best thing: an exclusive post-interview debrief. If you’re going to be in the Detroit area tomorrow, hit the jump for more details. If you can’t make it to Motown, but you have a burning question for Mr Lutz that didn’t make it into the relevant thread, go ahead and leave it in the comments here. (Read More…)
With a new Viper being readied for a 2012 auto show debut ahead of a 2013 launch, Automotive News [sub]‘s Rick Kranz has discovered something of an issue in the development process: suppliers don’t want in.
Ralph Gilles, who heads Chrysler Group’s design organization and SRT, the automaker’s performance group, says many suppliers said “thanks, but no thanks” when the automaker knocked on their doors.
“It has been tough to get low-volume suppliers,” Gilles says. “We have had a few hiccups here and there as we get suppliers. That type of fringe business has really dwindled. A lot of people are looking for big accounts now, but now that is behind us.”
Kranz blames low volume (2,103 units in its best year, 392 units last year) and supplier consolidation for the “hiccups.” But as it so happens, this has been a recurring problem for the Viper since day one…
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.