Lutz: "If Congress Wants a Sacrifice, It Should Be Me"
As the madness swirled last week, a certain Robert Lutz was being kept well away from the PR-charged atmosphere in DC. But driving Volt/Cruze mules around in circles (instead of to the capitol) isn’t what gets you “Maximum” for a nickname. And with calls for Rick Wagoner to step down busting out all over, reporters are falling over themselves to put a quarter in the Bob Lutz quote machine. Yesterday we were treated to Lutz’s opinion that Wagoner is the “best CEO he’s worked for,” and today there’s even more hilarity in the Detroit Free Press. “These are somber, serious economic times — but it’s still hard to hang up from a 10-minute phone chat with Bob Lutz without chuckling,” writes Freep columnist Tom Walsh. And boy, he isn’t kidding. “If Congress wants a sacrifice, it should be me,” Lutz told Walsh. “I’m older and I’ve made politically incorrect remarks about global warming, so it should be me.” Unfortunately, Lutz didn’t spend the whole interview doing tongue-in-cheek corporate samurai shtick.
Wagoner initiated a review of Saturn before congress even asked for a viability plan, reveals Lutz. “We had to reassess. There’s simply not enough money to support all the brands,” says Bob in one of his few non-Lutzie-worthy quotes. Wagoner also unified purchasing into a single office, and is a “builder” not a “building occupier,” according to his enthusiastic underling. But once again, a single Wagoner decision figures centrally in Lutz’s decision to rally round the RenCen: the decision to hire Lutz himself. “Against the advice of a lot of people,” says Lutz, “Rick made an unconventional and bold move to hire me, at age 70, to come in a run product development. You talk about bold moves — that certainly was one.” Don’t you mean an “American Revolution,” Bob? Seriously, let’s polish up that act and take it on the road.
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From the article: Even the possible phaseout of GM’s Saturn division, he said, was in the works well before Congress demanded that GM produce a so-called viability plan by Dec. 2 to show it can become self-sufficient and pay back its loans Saturn has its best-reviewed product lineup in years, including the Aura sedan. But GM management made a proactive move to look at phasing out the brand because its sales didn’t match the critical acclaim. “We had to reassess. There’s simply not enough money to support all the brands,” Lutz said. Spinning this slightly differently, GM examined Saturn some years ago, decided it wasn't supportable, stripped it of its original identity (and customer base), reinvigorated it (at great expense) with a mix of badge-engineered versions of Chevy products and low-priced cars built in expensive Euros, shuffled the production and sourcing so it couldn't be pulled aside and sold for a reasonable amount of cash and has now discovered that you can sell Malibus and Traverses in only so many thinly disguised ways and is going to review it and maybe just fold it for zilch or a lot of dealer lawsuits? Why do these people have jobs? And, psarhjiniian, I believe you're pretty much right on the money in your assessment of Lutz.