Daily Podcast: The Once And Future Czar

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

This weekend’s announcement that “Maximum” Bob Lutz will stay on at GM is the biggest blow to GM’s re:invention PR since Fritz Henderson was handed the helm by Rick Wagoner. In essence, Lutz’s “unretirement” sends the very same message Wagoner once repeated ad nauseum: GM’s turnaround would be going well if it weren’t for that darn economy. And, of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Lutz arrived at GM in 2001 with a single thesis: excitement could turn the General around. Eight years later, and the results speak for themselves. Despite injecting Pontiac with its best products in decades, Lutz couldn’t even save GM’s “excitement brand.” Though Lutz created the Malibu to add his aesthetic appeal to GM’s long-ignored mid-sized offerings, the car only excited automotive journalists. Consumers preferred the plain-jane Impala. Ultimately, Lutz proves exactly how little GM has changed. His old-school, hard-charging pursuit of glamor, performance and excitement are little more than a fading afterglow from the good old days of Motorama excess. The market has moved on, but GM hasn’t.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

More by Edward Niedermeyer

Join the conversation
4 of 19 comments
  • Ajla Ajla on Jul 13, 2009

    @argentla: I've never seen an official list of hopeful competitors for the G8, but I would guess that GM was aiming at: 1. LX-platform buyers 2. GM performance car buyers 3. Buyers of certain V6 cars like the Mazda6s, Maxima, Legacy 3.0, Galant Ralliart, etc. 4. People thinking about buying a used European car. I agree that claiming it went up against the Avalon or a new BMW would be wrong or wishful thinking. ___ As for some of your other points, keep in mind that the G8 V6 and GT we got represented the sportiest options that Holden offers. Plus, GM added the fake hoods scoops and air dam to better match the performance brand ideal of Pontiac. I would expect a Chevy version to be more subdued. The basic Commodore looks like this: Commodore Omega. I don't think that is too aggressive as to scare away prospective buyers. Someone will correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that Holden offers 3 different suspensions for the Commodore lineup all with varying degrees of comfort and sophistication. So GM could offer a Caprice trim level that gives a smoother ride for people not looking for a sports sedan (I'm thinking fans of the B-body and Panther platform would like something like that). Unless importing the cars are a massive money pit or they are reliability nightmares I don't see why GM shouldn't pull the the trigger on a Zeta Caprice. The alternatives are rebadging the Lacrosse or soldiering on with the W-body for 3 more years, neither of those sound like a winning plan.

  • KixStart KixStart on Jul 13, 2009

    I don't usually listen to the podcats but I did listen to this one and I really appreciated the Straight Talk on Appliances. I know people with Camrys and Accords and they do take pride in ownership of those cars. They clearly value them as appliances (for the routine things they do reliably and well) but they also seem to appreciate the intrinsic value and appeal of the car. I don't have the funds for a pure fun car - and may never - so I have to get my routine joy from going out to my appliance on a -35degF morning, turning the key and hearing the engine start. And I'm really OK with that because driving an appliance to work at -35degF really is waaaay better than walking to work at -35degF. Of course, I initially bought the car because it looked like fun - it had an appeal. It was only after some time with it that I came to really appreciate its value as an appliance.

  • Aqua225 Aqua225 on Jul 13, 2009

    I am no Government Motors apologist. But I think you guys are coming down a bit hard on their approach to performance cars. What GM needs to learn (and the TTAC editorial staff!) is that GM needs to get their appliance cars up to spec. That is not to say that the cars are "bad spec", but that the build quality is not what it could be. I think a lot of appliance buyers out there would happily buy a GM appliance, if they knew they could depend on it to run 100K miles trouble free under the hood (Japanese car owners obviously don't care about interiors, most Accords I see have crap interiors in just 3 years) GM needs to figure out how to do this, before trying to sell zippy cars as well again. As much as I have desired the Z28 (which got cancelled), I would have refused to buy one on two conditions: (1) GM is now Government and UAW Motors. GUM in my mind :) (2) I worked on a pickup this past week (I am not a mechanic, but have a advanced code tool and a engineering degree, and am called in on such problems when there is no local dealer to run too), which was practically brand new, and had the cylinder drop technology. That technology threw a generic code with no reasoning behind it. GM MUST GET QUALITY AS JOB 1 (to quote the old Ford commercials, even though they hardly took the mantra all that seriously themselves). Just look at the sheared shafts in the SS V8 Camaros in a later post... but what can be expected of a company that practically gave itself away too its unions?

  • John R John R on Jul 14, 2009

    "On sales front, the G8 has sold much better the last couple months. In June it outsold the Charger, Avalon, Maxima, Taurus, and Lucerne." I believe the fact that Pontiac is taking a dirt nap (so those being able to barter can probably get one for song) combined with the fact GM is offering 0% for 60 on them may have more to do with the sudden uptick in sales than the general quality of the car. I won't hate on the car, its a great whip, but I will call a spade a spade. The car was a non-starter until the word got out that Pontiac was toast.