Daily Podcast: In Praise of Bob Lutz

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
daily podcast in praise of bob lutz

Perhaps I should explain why I gave GM Car Czar Bob Lutz his nickname "Maximum Bob." Nah. Why bother? TTAC's archives are suffused with the demented ramblings, patently absurd pronouncements, wildly inaccurate analysis and stupefying statements of GM's resident bodacious braggadocio. He really is God's gift to TTAC. We [also] thank GM CEO Rick Wagoner for appreciating his own true nature as a Harvard-trained beancounter; a realization that led him to place the entire global product line of the artist once known as the world's largest automaker into the hands of an ill-informed, ADD-addled executive. An automobile executive who couldn't name all VW's brands. But I digress. Automotive News [sub] reports that Lutz is tired of fighting. The Car Czar wants to know why can't we all just drive E85? "There's no reason the automotive industry can't go to 100 percent E85 vehicles, and the world we love doesn't have to change." You see, the thing is, the automotive world already has changed. A funny-looking car called the Prius has outsold the once mighty Ford Explorer– and that's just for starters. Shhhh. Don't tell Bob. TTAC wouldn't be half as interesting without him. Unfortunately (or fortunately if you're a GM employee, dealer, customer or stockholder), it's only a matter of time before Maximum Bob unfurls his bankruptcy-proof golden parachute and floats off into a gilded retirement home (or three), proclaiming himself the architect of GM's product renaissance. He will be missed, but in a different sort of way by a different kind of people. If you know what I mean.

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  • 86er 86er on Jan 17, 2008
    Kixstart: Electric power demand is fairly peaky. The grid is underutilized late at night. Electric companies will almost certainly offer off-peak rates to charge your vehicle. It requires new metering, which costs a bit, which is why they don’t routinely offer it. However, they’ll undoubtedly find it economical to do so in the future. They’ll be able to boost sales with negligible addiional capital investment. Capital expense is the thing they avoid whenever possible. I used to work for a utility and this is one of the things that was commonly discussed. Off-peak or interruptible service rates are available to some clients (mostly commercial users) today. When you say "negligible additional capital investment" do you mean that there exists enough power generative capacity in the U.S. (especially in areas such as California which would be an early adopter of plug-in hybrids) to handle this, even be as it may during off-peak hours? Speaking now to the newsblog, as my previous post alluded to, I don't know what Bob is smoking as per E85, but it is without question that he gave GM a big giant kick in the ass upon his arrival. We can debate until the end of time his efficacy and competence in a number of areas, but I do believe he moved the ball forward and has largely accomplished what the Board set out for him to do upon his appointment, which was use the powers of his office to strong-arm the byzantine operational structure and put out compelling products in spite of the status quo at GM, not because of it. If we all believe that Product is King, then let us compare the GM of 2001 to the GM of 2008 on that count. I think the real beef with Lutz now is that like with many turnaround artists, he has now overstayed his mandate and should turn the reins over to a new generation.
  • Detroit1701 Detroit1701 on Jan 17, 2008

    E85 as the fuel that generates your gasoline motor + lithium ion batteries can equal zero dependence on foreign oil. E85 need not come from corn, but can be produced more effectively with other organic products. The corn lobby in the U.S. is pretty powerful, but it will have to accede to a worldwide ethanol product that will be cheaper. Lutz is not senile, nor is he out of touch. E85 is a nascent thing in the U.S., but worldwide experimentation will result in more efficiency. People will figure out very quickly the most efficient and least environmental hazardous mode of production. So what if your motor powering your batteries gets 20% less economy than oil, if your Volt is getting 50 mpg.

  • Kevin Kevin on Jan 17, 2008

    Well I'm ready for a plug-in since my electricity is 100% wind powered, and cheaper than the natural gas electricity I was getting before I switched. However I'm leaning towards thinking a mandate for E-85 fitment (aside from diesels) might not be a bad idea. Do it, eliminate the subsidies, eliminate the tariffs & restrictions on importing sugar-ethanol from Latin America, and see how the market responds with cellulosic ethanol, methanol (which an E85 car could use) and the new sugar industry for all our friends to the south. Of course I know the government won't eliminate the subsidies, but my main question is what's the real cost of fitting cars for ethanol? It's more than ethanol proponents claim, but not sure how much for real

  • N Number N Number on Jan 21, 2008

    Just thought of something. Is it a coincidence that Chevy's top of the line models are commonly known as the LTZ model?