Quote Of The Day: Maximum Retirement Edition

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

With news of Bob Lutz’s planned May 1 retirement leaking to the web, the auto journalism world is falling all over itself to get his reaction. When the Chicago Tribune caught up with the man of Maximum, they asked him to describe his work at GM and compare himself to (get this) either King Midas or Jesus Christ. You know, for the purposes of journalistic inquiry. Lutz’s reply avoided the self-flattering comparisons, and revealed some of the dynamics that led him to retire:

It’s gotten a little scary. Everything has been so good since I got here [at GM] that I’ve been thinking there really is no place to go but down because not all of my ideas will succeed. No one bats 1.000. It’s been so nice that it’s been a bit disconcerting. I try to establish a climate of irreverence as well as fun. I want to talk, but I want to listen. I want people to disagree and talk me out of things, too. But I’ve gotten no resistance from anyone to anything I want to do here.

Either you get no resistance because people completely agree and think what you propose is excellent or because they fear you and are afraid to speak up. I don’t want an environment of fear. I don’t want people to put their judgment on hold and simply do what I want, which is what they did with [Lee] Iacocca [former chairman of Chrysler whom Lutz worked alongside]. To not question me is dangerous. I don’t want to see that happen. I don’t want people to be intimidated by me, and I don’t want people to simply say, `Let Lutz do it.’

My role here is to modify a system to ensure sustainable success that doesn’t depend on my presence and continues to operate after my departure,”

The idea that Lutz is leaving in part because nobody challenges his decision-making is a fascinating insight into the inner workings of GM. Especially considering that he clearly had some misgivings about killing Pontiac. When asked by Automotive News [sub] about his role in GM’s brandicide and whether he thought killing Pontiac was a mistake, he replied:

No. While I loved Pontiac, I think Pontiac was on the cusp of finding an identity, which is the identity of a moderate, priced-high performance brand focusing primarily on rear-wheel-drive vehicles. We were on the cusp of really getting that going, and a new demographic was starting to buy the G8, real performance car fans. So to me, it was genuinely unfortunate that we had to drop it.”

We knew we had to drop four brands. Two were easy: Saab and Hummer. Saturn was a little more difficult, but we were still able to do it because it really never made any money. And, Pontiac was No. 4. I think a number of us felt a deep attachment to the Pontiac brand, and I still do. I have Solstices that I intend to keep forever.

So really, why did Lutz decide to leave?There is something that gets old about getting up at 4:30 in the morning. At some point you have to do something new.

Even yesterday walking the show — and maybe it was because many of the design concepts were so depressing — that I really thought: ‘How much longer do I want to keep doing the same thing?’

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • DweezilSFV DweezilSFV on Mar 05, 2010

    "Pontiac was on the cusp of finding an identity" ?????????? Put down the crack pipe Bob. If that was true in any way shape or form there would have been no Torrent,Montana,G5,G3 or pimped by Pontiac Toyota Vibe. Time will remember the G6 as a half baked entry that was allowed to rot like all of GM's passenger cars from the period.Pontiac plowed under it's great names and squandered it's image over the years, Lutz finished digging the grave and dumping the body in. Bunghole. How clueless can you be?

  • Pleiter Pleiter on Mar 05, 2010

    Uhmmm......if you are an executive and you knowingly throw a few zingers out there, to get some reaction, and nothing happens, shouldn't that tell you something about your organization ? It would put me in an absolute Bug-Hunt to see what the heck I sign up for.

  • Picard234 So this release amounts to 2.7 hours of gasoline consumption in the US. You won't even see a penny. The administration is draining the reserves for political optics, nothing more.
  • ToolGuy If that nice young man really wants to help this hardworking American, he can have his people deliver the gasoline directly to my fuel tank. Thanks in advance.[42 million gallons divided by 233 million licensed drivers in the U.S. makes 'my' share almost two 12-ounce soda cans. This is huge, thanks for the effort lol.]
  • The Oracle Farley proves once again he is WAY in over his head.
  • Theflyersfan Gas prices went up $1.00/gal today at the three stations I just passed to get home. Was there a war? No? Could it be oil company greed? Perhaps.
  • Slavuta Actually, this is probably not as bad as student loan ordeal