By on September 30, 2009

Kruse cruzes for the exits (courtesy:businessweek)

Bob Kruse, GM’s executive director of global vehicle engineering for hybrids, electric vehicles and batteries and the man in charge of the Volt’s battery development and integration, is leaving General Motors. The Detroit News reports Kruse is leaving to start an EV consulting firm, creatively named E V Consulting. “My departure from General Motors has nothing to do with my view of the future success for the Volt,” says Kruse. “I’ve left on very good terms. I have a lot of respect for the leadership of General Motors.” And then he goes and confuses everything by claiming, “I’m not going to lie. Are they happy about my departure? Probably not.” And GM’s response? “There’s no good time to lose good people, but that said, the Volt team goes way beyond one person.” Which, for comparison, is a more straightforward response than Tesla’s Elon Musk gave when his head of development and manufacturing suddenly ditched. But the real irony is that GM’s bailout, which at this point is a gamble that rides on the success or failure of the Volt, was the motivation for the Volt’s top midwife to ditch in the middle of its frenzied gestation.

GM’s bailout came with consequences, not the least of which was a cap on executive pay. And GM has been putting the squeeze on white collar employees since the bailout as well. As another auto industry consultant puts it to the DetN,”You can’t blame the guy. What is the prospect of ever making serious money…working for a ward of the government, where your pay is capped?” Gotta love those consultants. And it seems pretty clear that this decision was based on “the prospect of making serious money.” According to the DetN:

Kruse said he decided to leave after Vice President Joe Biden’s announcement Aug. 5 that Michigan and Detroit’s Big Three automaker’s would receive more than $1.3 billion of $2.4 billion in federal grants to support the next generation of batteries and electric vehicles.

And here I was thinking the only reason to work on electric cars was saving the environment, reducing dependence on foreign oil and making the world a better place. Huh.

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16 Comments on “Volt Birth Watch 167: The Midwife Bails...”


  • avatar
    Lokkii

    Hmmm – Been there, done that (on my much humbler scale).

    Here’s the way I read this:

    You were chosen to lead a project that never really had much chance for great sucess; OK that comes with the territory in any management career. You do your best to make the thing happen.

    However, the project suddenly gets a lot of publicity, and some senior management KLutz gets in front of a camera and starts making impossible promises for the project, and publicly gives an impossible timeline. Since God et al has spoken the words, the propaganda line becomes the truth.

    Oh, and by the way, since there’s trouble elsewhere, some of your team is transfered out (or retires).

    Eventually it finally becomes clear to Senior Leadership that the goals you never agreed to and the timeline you never agreed to won’t be met, and the project may well fail altogether… remember it was always risky.

    Now you’re getting screamed at in the boardroom; the fact that you’ve been working 20-hour days 7-days a week means nothing of course.

    One Sunday morning, when you’re late going to the office, your wife quietly says, “This is killing you, and you know that you’re never going to get promoted again anyhow after this is done – you should retire. I don’t mind”.

    You do the math. The numbers are OK. Then you realize that there’s lots of demand out there for exactly what you know…. but from small companies without the built-in/dug-in bureaucracy. Loyalty to the mother-company you’ve worked for for all these years? Yeah, you’ve been getting a lot of loyalty from them lately for cleaning their Agean stables…. you’re going to be the scapegoat for their failure.

    So, instead you become a press release (see above) and God Bless, good luck, and goodbye to them.

  • avatar
    Autosavant

    Excellent Interpretation, Loki.

  • avatar

    So, how much is GM allowed to pay consultants?

  • avatar
    TexN

    Michael Karesh,
    EXACTLY! Plus instead of one revenue stream (GM paycheck), he gets additional revenue streams from Ford, Chrysler, development companies, etc., etc. Smart move by a smart man.
    Tex

  • avatar
    Quadrifoglio

    Lokkii, either we know each other or my biography is not as unique as I’d thought.

  • avatar
    Logans_Run

    Bob’s a good guy. I hope he does well.

  • avatar
    Autosavant

    What is a consulant?

    Especially, what is a high level management consultant, like those hired by GM VPs?

    Let me try an example:

    GM’s so-called “Product VP” , million-dollar-a year village idiot Mark LaMoron asks his highly-paid high-level consultant,

    “What time is it?”

    The consultant replies: “May I borrow your watch, Mark?”

    upon Management approval, the consultant looks at the stupid watch and tells LaMoron,

    “It’s 2:00 PM, MArk”

    End of Story.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    And here I was thinking the only reason to work on electric cars was saving the environment, reducing dependence on foreign oil and making the world a better place. Huh.

    Not that you didn’t have your tongue firmly planted in your cheek, but still…

    The best solution set for the mass market is pneumatic hybrids. According to my sources at Navy Research Labs and DARPA, a pneumatic hybrid YuSuburbaHoe was successfully executed over 10 years ago. Off the shelf tech (in 1997! Imagine where what can be done now…) and cheap. Really cheap.

    A Swiss dude (who’s name escapes me) has demo’ed the same concept, in public this time, early this year.

    ALL the electric hybrid car crap is about:
    A: Government money
    B: Demonstrating engineering prowess
    C: Current market chic
    D: Ignorant management
    E: Some combo platter of the above

    Pneumatic hybrids yield about 80% of the efficiency of electric hybrids. At 25% of the cost of an electric hybrid.

    Greg

  • avatar
    HarveyBirdman

    The link to the story on Donoghue’s departure from Tesla, which mentions how he left Chrysler in the lurch on the redesign of the Sebring when he went to Tesla. Now we see from the news this week that the Sebring/Avenger redesign canceled and the cars are going to be left pretty much as-is for several years. It makes me wonder if Donoghue saw the writing on the wall and knew the project was a dead end.

    So, the question becomes whether Kruse saw the Volt headed to a dead end as well. That doesn’t seem to be a given, since there are a number of other reasons for him to bail, as outlined by Ed and Loki. But I’m going to be looking for any major changes in the Volt development plan in the next several months (as distinguished from the constant “managing of expectations” which seems to be a perpetual feature of the project).

  • avatar
    FloorIt

    GM’s success depends on whether consumers will buy any of their cars, not just the Volt.

    Didn’t GM just restore white collar workers salaries back to pre-bailout levels?

  • avatar
    gslippy

    “GM’s bailout, which at this point is a gamble that rides on the success or failure of the Volt”

    I would dispute that statement, per FloorIt‘s comment above. Even wild success of the Volt (which has never been projected even by GM) can’t save the rest of the corporation.

    However, failure of the Volt will certainly shorten the time to GM’s next bankruptcy.

  • avatar
    Autosavant

    Here is an idea to sell the stupid Volt: GM should pay its “golden boys” retards in upper managements in VOLTS, one or more each, not million $ bonuses.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Pneumatic hybrids yield about 80% of the efficiency of electric hybrids. At 25% of the cost of an electric hybrid.

    Pneumatic hybrids are also so large that they cannot be fit into a passenger car and barely into a full-size pickup truck and, because of their very nature, are not likely to shrink anytime soon. Meanwhile, batteries and motor-generators are improving significantly each year.

    Details, details…

  • avatar
    statik

    Some of those reasons may be why he wanted to leave…but he left ultimately because he already has another ‘player’ interested in his services, and with them, he can be his own boss/work on his terms…and make a lot more money.

    /nobody quits on principles (we’d like to think that happens)…they quit because they have somewhere better to be

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    Pneumatic hybrids are also so large that they cannot be fit into a passenger car and barely into a full-size pickup truck and, because of their very nature, are not likely to shrink anytime soon. Meanwhile, batteries and motor-generators are improving significantly each year.

    Details, details…

    As small straight pneumatic vehicles have already been scaled and demonstrated, and as the integration of pneumatic with the ICE has been successfully been executed (see the Swiss gent I referenced earlier), please elaborate.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090131113216.htm

    The only technical issue that I have seen is that too many people are invested in electric hybrids to move to the simpler tech.

  • avatar
    CamaroKid

    nobody quits on principles (we’d like to think that happens)…they quit because they have somewhere better to be

    Actually most people quit because they think their boss is an idiot

    Eventually it finally becomes clear to Senior Leadership that the goals you never agreed to and the timeline you never agreed to won’t be met, and the project may well fail altogether… remember it was always risky.

    Now you’re getting screamed at in the boardroom; the fact that you’ve been working 20-hour days 7-days a week means nothing of course.

    One Sunday morning, when you’re late going to the office, your wife quietly says, “This is killing you, and you know that you’re never going to get promoted again anyhow after this is done – you should retire. I don’t mind”.

    That assessment is probably bang on…This guy was a GM lifer… He had been there for 30 something years… He has seen the good and the bad and he stayed for more… Now he is leaving all of his friends and ALL of his life’s work.. you don’t do that over even a 50% salary cut… That was just restored… especially when the project that you have labored over for the last 4 or 5 years is almost ready to launch… It is ready to launch… Right?

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