By on July 19, 2008

You don\'t know, what we can find. (courtesy hummerguy.net)In 2001, Robert A. Lutz jumped on the GM gravy train as the automaker’s vice chairman of product development. Since then, The General has continued its inexorable march to oblivion. Car-wise, Lutz’ regime has been marked by brand-defiling badge engineering and a seemingly endless stream of “nearly there” products. And yet the automaker’s camp followers continue to give Lutz a free pass. There’s only one reason for this blind spot: they don’t pay attention to what he does OR what he says. Perhaps they failed to notice that the guy’s got a blog.

Maximum Bob’s latest FastLane entry arrived the day CEO Rick Wagoner revealed his new new new new turnaround plan. Once again, there were no sales or market share targets, or a date for a return to profitability. So, once more into the breach dear Maximo. After all, vehicles, the income side of the ledger, are Lutz’ thing.

“Working Hard on Tomorrow Today.” At the risk of sounding like a Bugs Bunny routine, what happened to working hard on today yesterday? We’ll get to that.

“As you’ve no doubt heard me say before, we've made a lot of progress in the past few years at General Motors. And we’ve delivered on what we said we would do. We went from having, at least in North America, some mediocre products to having acclaimed products that are selling extremely well, especially on the passenger car side. In June, for example, in a slow market, our retail car sales were up 8 percent.”

It’s hard to criticize Bob for failing to deliver on his promises when he doesn’t specify what promises he’s talking about. Not that this really matters. Again, GM’s various turnaround plans have had about as much “granularity” as a house-sized boulder.

But Bob’s numbers are deliberately, shamefully misleading. In June, GM’s passenger car sales fell 18.3 percent. Year-to-date, they're down 8.2 percent. To spin an 18.3 percent drop as an eight percent rise, Bob’s using adjusted sales numbers (for “selling days”) and inserted the word “retail” (as opposed to total, retail AND fleet).

Anyway, who cares? Every single one of GM’s eight NA brands lost sales and market share in June. Trucks, upon which GM’s income is staked, were down 24 percent. And falling fast.

“But even with all the changes we've made and the actions we've taken, our business results aren't yet what we want them to be. Why not? What went wrong?”

Hey Bob, what EXACTLY do you want your business results to be? Oh right, sorry. Ahem.

Maximum Bob blames GM's woes on a “generalized economic weakness due to the mortgage meltdown,” a “big decline in the dollar” and “an unpredictable and very rapid rise in fuel prices.” So much for personal accountability.

“’They should have seen it [gas price rises] coming.’ My answer to that is nobody saw it coming. Not the economists, not the governments, not the oil companies, not the smartest pundits in the world — no one saw it coming, not this kind of rise.”

I’ve got plenty of Death Watch ammo to debate that point. But the bottom line is this: if your entire business model depends on gas prices, shouldn’t you be ready for sudden, dramatic gas price inflation? Especially if it’s happened before. Twice. And if you’re NOT ready, who’s fault is that? Nobody’s?

“And to say that we recklessly and stupidly kept producing trucks in the face of it is just wrong. In fact, if we hadn’t kept producing trucks before the fuel prices rose, we would’ve been in a lot worse shape, and a lot more quickly. And if everyone is so smart except us, how come most of our import competition was rapidly rushing into the full-size truck market, just as the party was almost over?”

TTAC’s Best and Brightest will no doubt make mincemeat of this tomfoolery. The question is, does Bob Lutz actually believe it? The answer is, I’m afraid, yes. The statement reveals Lutz’s ignorance, arrogance, petulance, vindictiveness and complete lack of situational awareness.

“Being a leader means doing what must be done. Let it not be said that we won't make the calls and take the actions that are necessary to keep GM viable and ensure that we remain the best automaker in the world — which I fully believe we are and will remain.”

GM's management hasn’t made the calls and taken the actions necessary to keep GM viable and ensure profitability, never mind being the biggest or “best” automaker in the world. There I said it.

“So while some may choose to see the glass half-empty, I couldn't disagree more, or more loudly. As the saying goes, "Those who say something is impossible should refrain from interrupting those who are doing it."

Don’t you mean “if” they’re doing it?

[read Bob Lutz' FastLane blog here.] 

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44 Comments on “Between The Lines: Bob Lutz’s “Working Hard on Tomorrow, Today”...”


  • avatar
    "scarey"

    While everyone else sees the glass as less than half full, it seems that Mr. Lutz sees it as full. Or most likely, that’s just false optimism, talk for those investors who are still on board.

  • avatar
    Autobraz

    How can you “remain the best car maker” if you have just admitted having “some mediocre products”?

    You cannot believe what this guy says even if you really want to, which makes me conclude that the camp followers choose to believe him no matter what. They gain (or expect to gain) something in return from believing.

  • avatar
    andy777

    I’ve said it before, you can’t understand the way these guys think unless you live here, in Detroit. Or to be more precise, in Bloomfield Hills, where most of them are huddled together. They have money– lots of money, really– but they are what is commonly called rubes. Stupid, ill-read, provincial, golf apparel wearing, Oakland Hills CC members. The only cars they see are their own, company-provided and gas-fed SUV’s, Caddies or Lincs. Oh yes, some of their pals have Benzes from the Woodward MB dealer. But they drive slowly. Yes, yes, call me bitter, but I live among them, and as a litigator in a fancy law firm have sued and deposed many of them. Trust me, these guys are dumb. That’s your explanation.

  • avatar
    Mekira

    @andy777:

    I know exactly what you are talking about! I’m so ready to get out of Michigan. The only thing that everyone thinks they know about here full circle is the domestic auto industry, and then those people have kids and that same kind of “knowledge” and attitude gets passed down. I especially don’t like when you talk positive about a foreign brand here, and then someone who doesn’t have a thing for cars at all will have nothing but empty rebuttals for you to listen to for 10 minutes. I can’t even get my neighbor to believe that his Ford Fusion was built in Mexico~~~and he works at Ford!!! Weird…

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    My explanation is that he has spun so much bullshit that, instead of turning green, he has somehow magically transformed into P.T. Barnum. I don’t think he belives the shit he says, though I think he strongly believes he can say whatver he wants without even anyone calling him upon it. He must be flabbergasted that no one dares calling him a liar. He doesn’t care that the emperor is naked, because, for all he knows, everybody around has turned a blind eye…

  • avatar
    Samir

    I think Andy nailed it. It’s a pure bubble mentality. GM has always acted like it’s a god-given right for it to sell cars. We’ll make it, you buy it. The (lack of) loyalty they are seeing now is decades worth of negative goodwill being returned by once-captive customers who now have options. Aveo or Honda Fit…hmm… tough one.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The “And if everyone is so smart except us, how come most of our import competition** was rapidly rushing into the full-size truck market, just as the party was almost over” is getting really tiresome, both when Lutz says it, and when it’s being repeated by GM fans as red herring to deflect criticism away from GM.

    Yes, Toyota didn’t time the full-speed-ahead implementation of the Tundra well. We know. The thing is, the Tundra slip is just that, a slip. Toyota sells enough cars for enough money to enough people to easily weather a dip in Tundra sales. The cratering of F-150 and GMT900 hurts their respective manufacturers much, much more.

    And, heck, even with the downturn, the new Tundra is selling more or less above level of it’s predecessor. It’s also won some serious mindshare. In strategic terms, it’s still a smart move, even if it’s a tactical loss.

    I’ve said this a few times: Kat Watanabe has gone on record as saying Toyota has slipped in quality, and that it’s their own fault for not holding the line and letting their growth get ahead of them. They’ve also–publicly–commented on the risk of a growing culture of superiority within their ranks, and what they’re doing to address it. Toyota is still making enormous profits; there’s no need for Mr. Watanabe to apologize for anything. Rick Wagoner, Fritz Henderson and Bob Lutz have, to my knowledge, never apologized for any mistakes in GM’s strategic direction, yet they’re in the toilet, comparatively.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    ** You’ll note that GM almost never, ever mentions it’s direct competition by name, except for Ford. It’s always in vague terms like “the imports” or “one of our largest import competitors”. Never “Toyota”. I swear, it’s like Toyota is GM’s Voldemort; even speaking it’s name is risky.

    The truth, though, is that GM does not want to be compared to Toyota. They, themselves, cannot bring themselves to think about their position next to Toyota, because it would really bring home how painfully mismanaged they’ve been.

  • avatar
    jnik

    It’s like this:
    Toyota’s sales are down a little because they have too many Tundras and not enough Priuses.
    GM’s sales are WAY down because they have too many Yukons and NO Prius equivalents.
    Ford is WAY down because they have too many F-150’s and NO Prius equivalents.
    Yes, the Japanese got into the big truck market. But they didn’t neglect their gas – friendly cars, like the D2.5.

  • avatar
    philipwitak

    believing in bob lutz is alot like believing in george bush.

    there are those who never did – me included. those that once did, but not no more. and those who always will – a very select sub-group of citizens whom stephen colbert once defined as ‘backwash’ during his brash, truth-to-power monologue at the whitehouse correspondents dinner, a few years ago.

    believing in bob lutz is very much like believing in george bush. absolutely futile! both should be boiled in oil. :: sarcasm ::

    cheney, too.

  • avatar

    Skooter:

    “Bob’s using adjusted sales numbers (for “selling days”) and inserted the word “retail” (as opposed to total, retail AND fleet).”

    But don’t you guys kill GM for fleet sales?

    Yes, we did– in the sense that the D2.8 used/uses fleet sales as an excuse NOT to build quality vehicles. As PCH101 has pointed-out many a time, Motown’s fleet sales are a symptom of a product quality problem, not the disease itself. Think of it as automakers’ meth: a cheap, easy high that prevents an addict from seeking gainful employment. Only… not anymore.

    No matter what GM PR says, tthe drop in fleet sales had nothing to do with a GM management decision. Fleet sales are down because A) fleets are hanging onto their vehicles longer (resale is killing THEM) and B) fleets are turning away from the D2.8.

  • avatar
    Cicero

    believing in bob lutz is very much like believing in george bush. absolutely futile! both should be boiled in oil. :: sarcasm ::

    cheney, too.

    Deep.

  • avatar

    “Oh, look! Over there! Look at that cute bunny rabbit!”

  • avatar
    philipwitak

    re: July 19th, 2008 at 3:56 pm
    cicero says, “Deep.”

    at least up to their eyeballs – no? :: sarcasm still ::

  • avatar
    jurisb

    `Working hard for tomorrow` is pretty obscure, he could have meant also strongly brushing his teeth for tomorrows dental visit. Give me the goddamned numbers, platforms, timetables and names of executed executives and bluffers. When and what products you are working hard on?
    The best car company in the world? By what standards? Reliabilty? Quality? Diversity? Sales? Engineering capacity? What? There is nothing more pathetic when ambition meets mediocrity…

  • avatar
    jurisb

    And what the hell is that Hummer in the picture? A british version ? Bob, I told you already, don`t put grab handles in the roof line interior on the driver side, it is amateur and distracting driver from steering wheel!

  • avatar

    The only way to rate whether of not the new Tundra is a bomb is to ascertain if it was profitable. Given the $2b investment in the new factory, probably not. Only…

    Toyota thinks long term. And don’t forget, full-sized pickups are mighty profitable. And, although it was not their intent, ToMoCo’s new product put the squeeze on the 2.8’s full-sized pickup truck margins, but good.

  • avatar
    becurb

    For all of the Detroit fan boys that can’t fathom why I will not give GM the time of day, all I can say is, Bob Lutz is a major reason for my refusal to drink the GM kool-aid.

    When I dumped my POS Cavalier for the just introduced Toyota Tacoma, I was uneasy about the also new 3.4L V6, as the predecessor had head gasket issues that Toyota was slow to acknowledge. Sure enough, my Tacoma was recalled for a head gasket replacement. However, Toyota had learned their lesson from the 3.0L V6 problems, and promptly handled the 3.4L problems.

    The replacement Tacoma just recently had the warrantee on the frame extended to the life of the vehicle, due to some vehicles in the same serial number range experiencing rust through problems due to improper treatment.

    Mean while, what do we get from GM? Same old same old. No plan with milestones. Whining about a “perception gap”. Hype about vehicles that were never intended to be sold in the NA market. More hype about a vehicle with a very uncertain market introduction date, and waffling specs. Whining about “well, they screwed up too!”. But, perhaps most telling – an executive that admits to having produced “mediocre” products, and no apologies.

    In many ways, it is a pity that GM does not apply the same effort to their products as they do to their constant PR barrage. A sincere show of contrition and commitment to change would go much further with me than any amount of trumpeting “the next great thing” ever will…

    Now, is Toyota perfect? No. I am unlikely to purchase the current Tacoma, and will never consider the Tundra. In 2007 I rented a current model year Ranger 4×4. The biggest problem I had was the center stack was too far forward (as was the case on the then current model year Jeep), and my right shin rested against the edge of the center stack.

    And, unlike some, I have no problem with the Ranger being replaced with the F-100. To me, the F-100 is a venerable nameplate associated with Ford, the Toyota T-100 not withstanding.

    Bruce

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Remember when McCain’s now ex-economic guru Phil Gramm said: “We have sort of become a nation of whiners” and “You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline.” ?????

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/11/AR2008071102543.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

    Well, I think he must have just gotten out of a meeting with Lutz & Friends when he said it!

  • avatar
    mel23

    I had a look at the local Toyota store yesterday. They had a Prius sitting out front that hadn’t found a buyer yet. It came in unexpectedly; the expected Prius cars are sold before they hit the lot. The dealer is putting a $4k markup on them and they still fly out the door. They have smaller markups on Yaris and Corollas. As they and Honda crank up hybrid production, and Honda starts the new Greensburg, IN plant, I think GM might find that adding the third shift at Lordstown was a little hasty. For the sake of the newly hired workers there, I hope not. Regardless of turnaround press conferences, however “upbeat”, GM has no answer to this market.

    Wagoner finds it very easy to survive by sprinkling a little bullshit when he feels heat. The stock market is a joke as an indicator of anything. Look what happened with the bank stocks last week. Just do what it takes to get a downer expectation from the ‘analysts’ and beat that regardless of tons of disasters in your company, and surprise, the stock rockets up and the CEO is good to go for another few months.

    An interesting contrast with Ford. According to the WSJ, Mulally is pushing through an early move to make small Euro Fords here overruling the views of other Ford execs. Evidently he gives a damn about the company instead of collecting his check while the ship takes on more water.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Uh, wrong. Tundra is a bomb.

    Nope, I’m right. The current Tundra is selling in greater numbers than in it’s prior iteration. Considering that all three of the domestic truck makers, plus Nissan, are selling much worse than 2006 (even after June’s bloodbath, its still selling more than 2004, 2005 and 2006 June, and more than most other months from 2003-2006) I’d say Toyota is doing well.

    You really have to take the 2008 sales and compare them to 2004-2006. 2007 was an exceptional year, and 2008 looks rough by comparison. To prior years, though, it looks damn good.

    Yes, the net margin is probably lower, but they’ve taken a ugly chunk out of the domestic’s share. And Toyota has the necessary cash flow to further tighten the screws.

  • avatar
    macarose

    Sorry, but the prior gen Tundra was an extremely substandard product in terms of satisfying the full-sized pickup market. To say that the Tundra is selling better than the 2006 version is really like saying the Yaris is selling better than the 2005 Echo. It’s easy to say you’ve improved when you’ve gone from piss poor to mediocre.

    On the same side of the coin, I would say that Toyota and Honda have done far worse with their full-sized pickups than Detroit has with their subcompacts over these last 10+ years. Other than Honda, I really don’t see any ‘Japanese’ company that has truly provided small cars that could be considered the gold standard of the North American market.

    If you find one that isn’t named Civic or Fit, or isn’t owned by a company based in Michigan, let me know.

  • avatar

    I personally prefer the Civic but but tell that to the the satisfied Corolla owners.

    Off topic but here in tampa I am told (I don’t watch much television as I cancelled my cable) that the local auctions which had previously been only accessable to those holding dealer licenses is advertising that they are now also open for the general public. Is this becoming more common due to the bad economy and the glut of SUV’s ?

  • avatar
    KatiePuckrik

    I know what people mean about the “Bubble effect”.

    I was watching an interview with Bob Lutz and he said something which kind of summed up GM’s attitude:

    (Paraphrasing) “What we need is consideration from the customer. We turned a whole generation off GM products, now we need those buyers back or at least the consideration…”

    Even in the face of bankruptcy, GM refuses to admit that it’s their fault and their customers are their “God given right”. Why should customers consider you, Bob (if I may call you that)? Shouldn’t you be winning customers back rather than EXPECT their interest?

    Another thing which was interesting on this interview was his VERY careful manipulation of statistics. In the interview, he mentions a JD Power survey in which Buick tied Lexus in reliability and Cadillac came third (Buick and Lexus joint first, Cadillac third, Mercury fourth and Honda fifth). “Where is Toyota in the Top 5? The acknowledged, masterful quality leaders…?” he opines. Well, here are my problems, Mr Lutz:

    1. “Where is Toyota in these rankings?” Erm…they’re at number one, Bob! Where do Lexus get their engineering from? Chrysler?!

    2. Lexus makes the same amount cars as Cadillac AND Buick put together per month and yet, Lexus cars still more reliable. That’s pretty good, wouldn’t you agree, Mr Lutz? Oh, no it isn’t because that would involve giving credit to Toyota, wouldn’t it?

    3. OK, lets run with the theory that Buick has tied Lexus and that it’s all on an even par. Where’s Chevrolet on these rankings, Mr Lutz? Toyota may have come 7th, but like for like, Chevrolet is GM’s mainstream brand, so where are they on these rankings? That’s like for like, is it not?

    Psarhjinian

    GM have no problems comparing themselves to Toyota when it suits them (even if the logic is a bit dodgy). When the topic is something in which GM is well and truly beaten (e.g profitability) then GM will use the term “imports”.

    I’m not completely down on Detroit. I believe Ford is making great steps to get back on track, but I don’t think their turnaround couldn’t have come at a worse time. When “imports” are tightening their belts, then you know that the economic climate is bad! The only thing which will stall Ford’s turnaround is the economic slowdown. Otherwise, they’ve been making the right steps.

    Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ed9MyLDmFIM

  • avatar

    OK. Bashing over. What can they do?

    GM management should recognize they are the problem, and leave. They’ve had years, decades, and they have been incapable of adapting to market realities, provide proper custodianship of their brands, or of accepting responsibility for their mistakes.

    In other words, they’ve been delusional, neglectful and irresponsible. That they’re still in place is beyond comprehension.

    The company has to be broken up. Large portions of the operation have to be closed down – at present they’re kept running in the vain hope that gas will hit a buck fifty a gallon.

    Sadly, quite a few of the brands have to be sent off to the Automotive Hall of Shame.

    Whether GM can find outside management willing to take on the challenge, or whether this hypertanker of a company has to wreck itself against a rock first, is a toss-up.
    What isn’t – is the fact that Lutz, Wagoner and their CFO are seriously delusional.

    And yes – I know one has to sugarcoat and keep up pretenses – but when it’s clearly ridiculous to do so, as everyone (even the MSM) have begun seeing through your smoke-and-mirrors game, then you have to realize that the buck stops at your desk, ’cause it sure ain’t coming to your dealers.
    And that state of affairs is the fault of management – to paraphrase Henry Ford: Detroit has been building bigger horses – and it turns out that’s not what people needed.

  • avatar
    jerry weber

    When did the World first know that GM was intellectually and creatively bankrupt? I think the day they hired Lutz from Chrysler.

    For the world’s largest car company to have to take a retirement aged designer from a company that was always a year away from more financial problems because of the lack of breadth in it’s product line was breathtaking. For nearly 100 years GM was the place where automotive style if not always engineering prowess started. There problem in the past would have been, which of the bright promising in house people would we want to replace a Harley Earl, or Bill Mitchell.

    In other words, it was a matter of whose great styling cues would dominate the next generation of GM products. (Never if there were going to be new great styling cues) This was the direct result of the purges GM went through in the eighties when the best and brightest of their design and engineering staff left or were forced out. GM came back to profitability, but the hole in the back office design studios was never to be filled.

    As to where the money for design did go, it went to trucks and SUV’s. The elaborate balance that GM had in it’s product line from it’s origional five divisions was gone and a laser like attraction to the hottest segement at the expense of everything else ensued. (Remember Ford & Chrysler being much smaller were forced to go for the hot segements, GM could cover all the bases with it’s larger product line and mfg. size.) But they gave this advantage up to catch Ford in the truck and SUV business.

    Toyota only augmented their truck business with a new pickup, and never stopped making competive cars. GM did stop making cars that sell buy starving the retooling cycles.The reason was obvious, they had lower profit margins than trucks.

    The result is easy to see, they don’t sell the trucks or the cars because of fuel costs for the former, and obsolete product for the latter.

  • avatar

    It is said that before the battle of Austerlitz, Napoleon described the development of the battle in detail to his commanders – and on the following day, the clash followed his description to the letter.

    How was this possible?

    Because the forces ranged against him were honor and duty bound to follow the battle array of Friedrich the Great, whose principles of battle were obeyed with religious zeal by the Prussians, Russians and Austrians.

    Napoleon, knowing exactly what his opponents were going to do, played them like fools on the day.

    Toyota and Honda, when they saw that GM had hired a man who flew two trainer jets for fun to run their automotive development, must have been crying with laughter – they now definitely knew what kind of cars GM would be focusing its resources on during the crucial years when Toyota and Honda were going to be positioning their leaner offering.

  • avatar
    jaje

    Ricky / Bobby are from the school of management that to be true leaders must stay the course they chose regardless of what is going on around them (and reality!). They believe if they change their direction it will show weakness (extreme case of denial, ignorance and always someone elses’ problem). So instead of adjusting and making changes they did what they internally set out to do and nothing more. This extreme focus did not work and that’s why they couldn’t see it and why they are slowly dying. This also explains why they don’t do proper market research or realize that economic factors have a substantial affect on their business and they need to plan.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    “Ricky / Bobby are from the school of management that to be true leaders must stay the course they chose regardless of what is going on around them (and reality!).”

    No surprise that Rick and Bush the Younger both got their MBAs from the same school :(.

  • avatar
    detroit1701

    Some of you guys are really amazing. Like “America’s Got Talent” amazing.

    Ok, we got it. GM did not focus on building quality small cars until 2006. GOT IT. We’ll stipulate to that.

    The point is this: Where are we now? For all of the railing against the Cobalt, it is just as good of a design, fit and finish, and fuel efficient as the Corolla. The Astra actually blows the Corolla away (let’s not squabble about 2mpg hwy). The Corolla always has been a cheap, underpowered rattletrap, and the “redesign” simply masks the problem (I know — my roommate has one from 2004). Ok, the Honda Civic — but that is Honda’s really only golden child — GM has plenty of golden children, just not at that size (CTS, Malibu, Corvette, Escalade, etc.).

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    When Honda releases its quarterly results, do you think they will blame the economy, oil prices and currency fluctuations?

    Detroit1701,
    The Civic is Honda’s ONLY Golden Child?

    And the Accord is chopped liver (surrently outsells the F150)? There are more acclaimed subcompacts than the Fit? The CR-V isn’t the best selling small CUV? The Odyssey isn’t the best minivan? What am I missing here?

  • avatar
    lewissalem

    I think that the term “perception gap” is itself condescending. We are educated consumers. The term essentially says “consumers don’t know what’s good for them!” I think the perception gap here is Lutz vs. reality that his products are irrelevant.

  • avatar
    Ronin317

    lewis, I think you need a trip to the local walmart to get a firm illustration of perception gap, and the reality of it. There is a perception gap on pretty much everything and anything, and to ignore it because it’s ‘condescending’ is foolish – it’s truth, not conjecture. Some truth isn’t too easy to swallow – case and point, GM on the whole…

  • avatar

    Detroit1701,

    One has to leave Southeastern Michigan for a few years to be able to see the truth. Believe me, I’ve been there.

    I don’t have a problem with loyalty. In fact, I applaud and respect it. But to guilt the rest of the country/world into blindly following along just doesn’t make sense. That is the problem with Southeastern Michigan. All talk, no walk.

    I’m with you on the Corvette. Not because its the best car in the world, because its not. But because it screams VALUE! It offers exotic performance at a reasonable price. Like having champagne taste on a beer budget. Nobody else matches that. It truly is “class leading”.

    Respectfully, how many “other” vehicles have you driven in the last year? Or five? Or ten? If you haven’t driven any….ever….how can you speak of those GM products as being “superior”? And superior on what level?

    I’ve driven the Caddy’s and Lincolns, the Cobalts and Fusions. They don’t stand up to my Acura OR Honda…let alone a Lexus, BMW or Benz.

    Don’t forget….Pride is one of the seven deadly sins. And Southeastern Michigan suffers from it.

  • avatar
    Zarba

    Couple of points:

    1) Lutz is saying what they pay him to say. He’s no fool, but he has to toe the party line.

    2) On the Tundra. Toyota could write off the entire $2B plant and still make a $13B profit this year. The thing is, Toyota will keep refining and improving the product until they get the results they want. Could GM write off $2B as cavalierly? Ummm, NO.

  • avatar
    NickR

    Bob, when Toyota slips up, it just means they have (maybe) one less sack of cash to tuck away somewhere.

    and as a litigator in a fancy law firm have sued and deposed many of them.

    Andy777, I really want to switch jobs with you…at least some of the time.

  • avatar
    prthug

    That’s it! Robert, I’m insiting you quit the blog bit and get yourself an auto company! I mean, you’ve got the answers, insight and will, a proven business record (okay, maybe not), a proven journalistic record (okay, way maybe not) and a great schtick here on your blog…heck, how hard could it be?! You’re more than Bob’s equal! C’mon…go for it! Get yerself one of dem dare auto companies and show dem dare dummies how it’s done!! Whoo hoo!! Bankruptsy for everyone! Yahoo!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Running an automotive company was never this easy!!!!!!

  • avatar

    Bob (k)Lutz says:
    “’They should have seen it [gas price rises] coming.’ My answer to that is nobody saw it coming. Not the economists, not the governments, not the oil companies, not the smartest pundits in the world — no one saw it coming, not this kind of rise.”

    Then I must be a friggin genius by Bob’s standards. The day before Katrina landed I took my old beater pickup out of the barn and loaded it up with jerry cans and bought as much gasoline as I could carry (and paid about $1.98 or so per gallon IIRC.. maybe it was $2.15… whatever it was, we’d call it “cheap” today!) I then parked the gas-powered pickup and haven’t run it more than 500 miles since. That gasoline has been feeding my lawn mower ever since (along with the occasional shot of “Sta-Bil”) I then geared up my homebrew BioDiesel setup and went into production. My goal was to have the ability to go fully independent from petroleum for daily driving by the time fuel prices hit $4 a gallon. So despite Bob’s assertion I KNEW, three years ago that we’d be paying $4 a gallon, or more by now.

    Perhaps GM should just fire Bob and send me his salary because they’ve obviously been getting a crap return on the Bob Lutz investment.

    If I had been running GM’s development group three years ago I’d would have said “Turn the ship around boys, we’re going for Fuel Economy!”

    By the way, I’m not a genius. But Bob Lutz is a frigging moron.

    –chuck

  • avatar
    Pch101

    If GM was “suffering” like Honda, GM stock would be worth many times its current value, there would be no need for turnaround plans, and GM Deathwatch would not exist. It’s a shame that there isn’t more misery like that to go around.

  • avatar
    ttilley

    macarose wrote: On the same side of the coin, I would say that Toyota and Honda have done far worse with their full-sized pickups than Detroit has with their subcompacts over these last 10+ years.

    Let’s grant this for the sake of discussion, particularly since Honda doesn’t actually have a full-size truck (I understand the Ridgeline to be on a car platform, distinguishing it from it’s look-a-similar Avalanche).

    The follow-up question becomes: who cares?

    Given Detroit’s financial, and market share, performance relative to that of Toyota and Honda, you’ve as good as said that the market hasn’t given a rat’s a** about “full-size truck”s “over these last 10+ years”, even though that time period includes the truck-based SUV craze.

  • avatar
    tech98

    They have money– lots of money, really– but they are what is commonly called rubes. Stupid, ill-read, provincial, golf apparel wearing, Oakland Hills CC members.

    Like much of corporate America, they self-select for blindly-loyal, arrogant herd animals who parrot their bosses’ propaganda and never challenge or threaten their smug worldview, while ostracising (“…not a team player”) and expelling any independent fresh-thinkers who remain, the very people they need most to turn around their dinosaur organizations.

  • avatar
    Morea

    When GM goes Chapter 11, should the headquarters of the ‘new GM’ be moved to New York?

    Would this open up the company to a broader management talent pool?

    Would it give the company a new cosmopolitan worldview?

    If you were to start a completely new car company today would you situate its headquarters in a medium-sized city (<1 million citizens) far from the costal population centers?

  • avatar
    philipwitak

    MgoBLUE Says: “One has to leave Southeastern Michigan for a few years to be able to see the truth. Believe me, I’ve been there.” July 21st, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    me too.

    i’ve lived in san diego since 1982, but i was born in flint michigan [the birthplace of general motors]. i grew up in mott park [named after charles stewart mott; at the time one of the world’s ten wealthiest men and the single largest stockholder of gm] – only two blocks from the general motors institute of technology. i attended durant-turri-mott school. my father worked for gm his entire life. my brother just recently retired from gm after 35 years on the job. his wife too, after more than 30, herself. as did one of my uncles and one of my cousins.

    when and where i grew up, even fords and chryslers were considered foreign cars. almost everybody on my street either worked directly or indirectly for gm. and if you didn’t own and operate gm product you were, for all practical purposes, ostracized from the community. i know this very well myself because when i bought my last gm car – a ’68 buick gransport 400 – in 1969 and then sold it later that same year in favor a ’66 jaguar e-type coupe, i became persona non grata – even within my own family – for quite a long period of time.

    despite that unfortunate turn of events, i have known and respected and appreciated gm for decades because of all that that company has meant to me and my family over the years. it put food on our tables and roofs over our heads. and it enabled us to get good educations.

    but, in all honesty, one must admit that gm has had its chances. plenty of ’em. and it blew ’em, time after time after time. and i do not blame the employees, nor their union representatives, or even consumers for any of this. the highest echelon of gm management – at least as far back as roger smith and as recently as bob ‘he’s nuts’ lutz – these are the people who have destroyed this company; due to their ignorance, and their arrogance and their incompetence; and they are the people who should be held responsible for this impending disaster. because they were the people leading the charge and they were the people making the decisions.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    If GM’s culture wasn’t that of the proverbial tired swimmer, they would not need a visionary leader. Unfortunately, the culture of the company does not hold up excellence in design and execution as important.

    After they are bailed out by the Feds (aka all 300mm taxpayers), nothing will change. Chrysler had Iacocca, and today, Ford has Mulally to force the company to change. GM has no one.

    I worked with a guy who worked at GM and left within 18 months because, as he put it, they don’t want to hear the truth about who they are.

    GM is a terminally ill organization. Keeping a feeding tube attached hides the real problems. GM needs to die. The sooner the inevitable happens, the sooner a suitor can break it apart and save the few productive pieces.

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