Bob Lutz Knows Quality

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

Quality, if you believe Bob Lutz, is not only the absence of things gone wrong.”We shoot not only for absence of problems, but we especially shoot for a joyous owner experience,” proclaims the Car Czar in the latest “Case For GM” video at GM’s Fastlane blog. Which is a convenient way of taking attention away from the “things gone wrong” element of quality, and allows Lutz to spend the rest of the video claiming that body gaps on the Chevy Malibu are smaller than those of any Japanese or German premium brand. In other words, this video confirms what GM marketing has already told us for some time: useless J.D. Power “Initial Quality” rankings define GM’s perception of quality, rather than the durability of its products. So yes, the Malibu has shinier paint and tighter gaps than GM products of seven to eight years ago. But Lutz isn’t Sarah Palin. He can’t simply play the expectations game and expect consumers to choose his company’s products. Word to Bob: make another video. This time try wowing us with your warranty claim breakdowns. Otherwise you’re just bragging about shinier lipstick on the same old pig. Gosh darn it.

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  • MrUnexpected MrUnexpected on Oct 07, 2008

    This boils down to semantics. In one of my engineering classes, we had a lecture on quality vs reliability. In short, for us, reliability is how often something works. Quality is how well it works (how 'nice' it is). VW and Mercedes are great in quality (nice inside, nice to drive), terrible in reliability (often). My '97 Ford Expedition is the opposite. Squeaks, rattles, leaky exhaust, door panels that visibly flex with opening and closing windows, etc... But in 10 years and 200,000 miles, what broke? A/C compressor failed (under warranty, hasn't needed even a charge since), accessory belt started slipping (after 140,000 and I WD40'ed the pulley bearings. Oops.), 2 coilpacks went out (after I powerwashed the engine. Oops.), and the starter went out (180,000 mixed miles). Not bad for a first year model. In the customer's mind, quality determines reliability. Recently, VW and Mercedes (did) have reputations of reliability, based on the quality of the car, despite reality. BUT, its important that someone analyzing a car company, from inside or outside, talks about the two distinctly and seperatly. They are two different things, even though to the customer its one vauge, fuzzy concept. GM has improved both quality and reliability. They are almost up to Korean car levels! (Yes, I know, cheap shot. But its sad AND funny AND true...) The bitch part is customers are slow to learn, good or bad. VW and Benz both are slipping in perceptions. You can only sell so many people unreliable cars for a premium unnoticed. Now they have to re-prove themselves. Same goes for GM, only they have 3+ decades of shit to overturn. Its something that US automakers never learned: The old Chevy POS, smoking on the shoulder, is powerful marketing. As is the benz with a 500,000km medallion. Gen X and Y know GM for the awful hand-me-downs we drove in high school and college. It will take YEARS of quality AND reliability, until most GM cars in service at the time are "good." Then opinions will chagne. How much money/time does GM have again?

  • Tom-W Tom-W on Oct 07, 2008

    >>It will take YEARS of quality AND reliability, until most GM cars in service at the time are “good.” Then opinions will chagne. Since GM isn't yet there on quality or reliability, how long it will take for perceptions to change post-GM production with quality and reliability is an academic question.

  • Golden2husky Golden2husky on Oct 08, 2008

    MrUnexpected: Well said. That pretty much sums up the story. Our family "inherited" a 99 Buick Century. Exterior fit and finish is very good, although not class leading, and the paint has held up fine. Interior is quite disappointing but at least is has held up well. Reliability in its 110K of use has been fine except for that damn intake gasket. The dealer basically said tough crap, fork over $900 bucks. We went elsewhere. Moral of the story is that a satisfied owner now is unsatisfied because the maker refused to fix a known defect. So now, the worst memories are at the end of the ownership period, just when you are ready to contemplate a new vehicle. Foolish. As for Maximum Bob, what he said makes sense. What he didn't say is what concerns me.

  • Mxfive4 Mxfive4 on Oct 08, 2008

    Wasn't that VW's line? I guess they are going to have to go back to Farvegnuget.