By on April 30, 2010

[Editor’s Note: The following farewell message from GM Vice Chairman “Maximum” Bob Lutz was published today at GM’s Fastlane blog. In honor of Lutz’s larger-than life presence on the American auto scene, we are republishing his official goodbye in its entirety. Thanks for the memories, Bob!]

As I mark my last day at General Motors today, I want to say a special thank you and farewell to the loyal readers of FastLane.  This blog would not have been the success it has become without you, and I’m sure you’ll continue to read the many interesting posts about GM and its vehicles that will follow on these virtual pages.

I leave here today knowing full well that this company is on the right track, especially in terms of the products, which pave the path to success.

Several reasons exist for my unbridled optimism, but the vehicles stand out above all others. The old film mogul Louis Mayer once famously said, “There’s nothing wrong with Hollywood a few good movies wouldn’t fix.” The same philosophy applies to automotive companies; the best vehicles win.

No automotive company has ever turned itself around without great cars and trucks, so it was obvious to us that we needed to strengthen the product line in all segments, and, over the course of the past several years, I believe we have done exactly that.  Simply put, the cars, trucks and crossovers in GM’s lineup now, top to bottom, constitute the strongest roster it has offered in decades, if not ever.  And the ones in the pipeline in the near-term are even better.

Creative authority was returned to the hands of the designers at GM, and we’re now seeing results in vehicles like the Buick Lacrosse, Cadillac CTS and SRX, Chevrolet Malibu, Camaro and Equinox and the GMC Terrain.  All are doing well in the market, and are helping to revive the image of the four brands they represent.  Those four brands are more than holding their own in the marketplace, proving the naysayers wrong who said eliminating half our brands would cost us a lot of market share. March was the sixth month in a row that the four brands collectively delivered a year-over-year retail sales increase.

Furthermore, all the key metrics used to assess the health of a brand are moving in the right direction. Incentive spending is down.  We continue to close the gap vs. our competitors and make sales based on the wheels, not the deals.  Our average transaction prices are up.  Our residuals are up. And our inventories are way down, compared to where they were last year — some 340,000 units down.

And our quality continues to improve.  Chevrolet is now on par with Toyota and Honda in J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Survey, something I hope will improve even further when the next study comes out. We’ve had a 45 percent reduction in warranty claims since 2007 and a 75 percent reduction in recall costs in the same time frame.

In 2009, according to NHTSA data, GM’s percentage of vehicles recalled vs. the total number of vehicles on the road was just 3.1 percent. Four manufacturers have larger numbers, and the top three are into double-digits.

Beyond the improved vehicles and quality, the bottom line is looking better too.  This company, through the cleansing fires of Ch. 11, put itself in a position to succeed. Financially, our balance sheet is in the best shape it’s been in for quite some time.

We have an essentially debt-free balance sheet, and a new and more competitive labor situation. The “new” GM, in my view, is a powerhouse.  We have good variable margins, which we’ve always had, by the way, but which were overpowered by massive fixed costs.  At anything remotely resembling normal industry volumes, GM will be quite profitable.  I’m not saying when… but rest assured it will be soon.

And another big reason I predict success for GM is the confidence I have in the people, and the senior leadership.

GM has always had great talent.  It just didn’t always use it to its maximum potential.  The people here are truly the best and brightest — I’ve known that since the beginning.  Now the culture has turned 180 degrees since I returned here in 2001.  It’s more product-centric than ever, and the focus on designing, building and selling the best vehicles in the world is razor sharp.  This company is not set up to do a mediocre product anymore. Period.

I have faith that Ed Whitacre and his team know exactly what needs to be done to keep this company moving in the right direction.  Focus on the products, keep things simple, boil the fat of unnecessary process out of the system.  Tom Stephens, Mark Reuss and Ed Welburn have, like the CEO, an unwavering commitment to putting out one great vehicle after another.

The American jazz legend Charles Mingus once said, “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”

That describes the approach the leadership of the new GM is taking perfectly.  This business isn’t all that complicated.  Do the best product you can do, and if it looks better and drives better than the other guy’s, you win.

I only have about 47 years of experience on which to base this opinion, but I believe GM is poised to win.  Thank you very much for your terrific support.

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36 Comments on “Maximum Bob Signs Off...”

  • avatar

    From his farewell interview with Automotive News:

    “This business is easy. You do great cars for Pontiac, and they sell.”

    G8, anyone?

  • avatar

    I don’t do farewells, but, farewell.

  • avatar

    “I only have about 47 years of experience on which to base this opinion, but I believe GM is poised to win.”

    Funny… it’s the details of those 47 years why I suspect you’re just blowin’ smoke there, Bobbo.

    In any case, enjoy your pasture, you’ve earned the right to graze.

  • avatar

    one of the few people who get to f**k up a company that badly and stay employed there long enough to retire from it.

  • avatar

    So B&B should I change my avatar since Maximum Bob has retired? Or should I change it to a picture of Leslie Nielsen and tell everyone it’s Bob Lutz?

    Bye bye, Bob, you were always entertaining. :)

  • avatar

    “At anything remotely resembling normal industry volumes, GM will be quite profitable.”

    Volumes NOW may be the new “normal”.

  • avatar

    We won’t see the likes of Bob Lutz again soon. Lutz says what he thinks. It may be bullshit, but its his bullshit. Someone like Mark Fields (who I think knows what he’s doing) doesn’t open up his mouth without parsing every word he’s about to say. Lutz just lets it fly and doesn’t take himself too seriously. He’s openly said that 80% of his ideas are bad.

    In a way, Lutz’ bombast is a throwback to the old days, a character, like Billy Durant or Preston Tucker (though Tucker was the consummate outsider in the car biz and Lutz has been a high muckity muck insider for decades), or even P.T. Barnum.

  • avatar

    He may be gone from GM, but he’ll surface somewhere else within 1 year. Pundit on some cable channel, columnist in some trade mag, guest editorials on Buickman’s blog (kidding!)

    Maximum Bob can’t stay away for long.

  • avatar

    Kudos at least for getting GM’s emphasis back on interior/exterior design and overal quality.

  • avatar

    Anyone that wants GM to succeed is overjoyed at his departure. Good riddance.

    In their upper management I think Docherty is the last one that needs to be gone. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

    I would further add after reading some of the other responses if you think Lutz contributed anything that was of value to GM you need to familiarize yourself with exactly what his contributions were. Yes his niche market vehicles were nice but every one of them lost money. He didn’t design the Malibu it happened under his tenure. He was allegedly in charge of North American vehicle development and under his watch GM closed three divisions and sold a fourth not to mention the BK. His 2nd career at GM will probably become a business case study of what not to do to create profitability.

  • avatar

    “Financially, our balance sheet is in the best shape it’s been in for quite some time.”

    Well, duh. Go through bankruptcy. Get a $50 billion equity infusion. What balance sheet wouldn’t look good?

    Bob Lutz’s farewell nauseates me. GM (including Lutz) screwed up, big time. We taxpayers bailed them out. But nobody there acknowledges that. Why should they?

    The past foretells the future for GM. Five years from now (or less) their balance sheet will be a disaster again. But now that they are Government Motors, we’ll all make it right. To the shame of Bush, Obama and our other politicians turned businessmen.

  • avatar

    Gruezi Mitenand Dear Bob,

    Before you enter the parking lot, please take a second to look in the rear-view mirror…
    See no American brands there? Pretty normal: they are all ahead.
    This being said – GM surely has the determination and resources to succeed.

    Faithfully Yours / Me

    P.S.: okok guys – i’m being meanly provocative, but i couldn’t refrain from it…

  • avatar

    A businessman, Lutz was not. A product man, he was. It’s largely due to Mr. Lutz that we have a Corvette ZR1, a CTS-V, a good looking Malibu, and we had the G8. All these cars speak well for GM’s product development capabilities. Product needed to come first. Hopefully the gang coming behind him can apply some more business sense without killing the decency that they’ve found recently on the product and design side.

  • avatar

    good riddance.

    • 0 avatar

      Amen to that.

    • 0 avatar

      IMHO…Lutz was way past his prime and way outstayed his welcome. He could talk the talk with GM’s inept, inbred management which gave him job security regardless of job performance.

      On top of that is his ignorant rants and misconceptions of the modern consumer. Small car’s don’t sell…well the reality was that crappy small GM cars don’t sell. During his early years of employment Bob often championed the quality gap only as a perception. Any late about truths don’t excuse playing the company line.

      Also, not to mention that Bob also gave us a fair share of me-too and hobbled together also-rans to even out any of his “greatest hits” at GM.

  • avatar

    Brevity is not one of MB’s personality traits.

  • avatar

    good riddance to bad rubbish. all of the one-handed typists at GM inside news must be crying.

  • avatar

    Don’t worry Bob. I’m sure there’s some turds to shine in the old folks home.

  • avatar

    I love how he would roll around in a Cadillac ‘Slade with a cigar…like a big dinosaur from the past

  • avatar

    Love him or hate him. He was one of the most influential individuals in the auto industry overall (well beyond GM) of our lifetime. His product philosophy is ingrained in countless vehicles around the world. Look at the list of cars that came from his brain:

    * Dodge Viper
    * Ford Sierra
    * The original Ford Explorer, which defined the entire SUV category
    * Joint credit for the BMW 3-series
    * Saturn SKY/Pontiac Solstice
    * Pontiac G8
    * Epsilon platform Malibu
    * Cadillac CTS
    * Buick Enclave
    * Zeta platform Chevrolet Camaro
    * Epsilon II Buick LaCrosse
    * Current generation Chevrolet Equinox (which GM literally cannot build fast enough)

    It is kind of hard to call the baseline work done on the modern 3-series, the Dodge Viper, the Cadillac CTS, the Pontiac G8, the Buick Enclave, the Buick LaCrosse as pieces of crap. It is impossible to not acknowledge the Ford Sierra or the Ford Explorer as influential vehicles.

    • 0 avatar

      Ya also forgot about the El-Camino / G8 / Sport Truck / ST / Holden Commodore UTE, that GM decided not to bring here..

      They had a big ol honkin contest to find the name… they find one, then give the poor bastard a Pontiac Torrent / Equinox twin for his troubles…

      THAT.. is what ya give a GUY for his troubles with finding a new name?!

      Id give the damn thing back and get them to bring an Holden Commodore Ute to the U.S. Its such an insult otherwise.

  • avatar

    When you consider how far Hyundai came during Lutz’s tenure at GM and how GM continues to field a number of hum-drum vehicles despite some clear winners, it puts his actual effectiveness in perspective.

    Lutz is a great “car guy,” but needed an “adult” who could keep him in check and focus his considerable talents; the Rickster was the wrong guy to be Maxi Bob’s boss.

  • avatar

    And here I was hoping that I would read that old Maximum Boob finally admitted that he was part of what was wrong with the ‘D3 think’ that has ruined the American auto industry.

    Then he did the honourable thing and swallowed a gun. Preferably on YouTube.

    Sadly, he’s still breathin’…

  • avatar

    Please permit a contrary opinion. I am neither a GM nor an industry insider, just an interested observer. Does anybody remember the state of GM product before Lutz got there? Or what about the state of Chrysler’s pre-Lutz product before that? Think about the 90s Devilles, the Malibus, the Centurys and Cutlasses, the Grand Ams and all the rest. They were not even competitive. The Aztec and the Avalanche took gobs of money and turned it into really ugly cars that sold really poorly. GM never turned out a decent minivan. Or a decent SUV save the Suburban. The Camaro was the butt of mullet jokes and never outsold the Mustang.

    Lutz may not have designed the cars, and he may have needed adult supervision, and he certainly said what he thought, but he was a pretty good product guy. And judging from what GM looked like when he came, he may have been the ONLY pretty good product guy there.

    Lutz was the only breath of fresh air in the insular, clueless GM culture. He appears to have been the only guy able to see that GM was offering crap. He was the only guy who had been at other car companies and could see beyond the “GM Way”. If GM could have hired a bigger block of talented Chrysler guys who left the building after Daimler came in, maybe the culture would have changed more. But Lutz was it. It is undeniable that the product now is better than it was 10-15 years ago by a large margin. Does anybody seriously think that the GM lifers were behind this?

    My best data point is my mother’s 06 Lacrosse. It is not the best looking car out there, nor the best handler, but it is light years ahead of the previous platform. Say what you will about the car’s faults, it at least drives, sounds and FEELS like a well built, quality car. This car is not embarrassing, either to its owner, or to GM. Please remember that the ONLY people who used to say this about GM cars were longtime GM loyalists who had never spent time in a Honda Accord (or even a Chrysler minivan).

    Lutz did not singlehandedly save GM (and it is too soon to tell if it has actually been saved) and he was not very helpful in areas outside of product, but I don’t see anybody else out there who did more to change the culture in a way that made saving GM even possible.

  • avatar

    “good riddance to bad rubbish. all of the one-handed typists at GM inside news must be crying.”
    Similar to situation here when the beloved Robert left (was thrown out).

  • avatar

    I resemble that remark. I think.

    Maximum Bob was a disaster for GM. An unmitigated disaster. A product of the system, by the system and for the system. At best, you could say he didn’t create the system. At worst, just look at what Rabid Rick’s right-hand man did, and didn’t do.

    I guess we now know the answer to the question “Is your pension bankruptcy proof?”

  • avatar
    John Horner

    “Simply put, the cars, trucks and crossovers in GM’s lineup now, top to bottom, constitute the strongest roster it has offered in decades, if not ever. And the ones in the pipeline in the near-term are even better.”

    And once again we have evidence of GM’s problem, self-reference. Who cares if they are making the best vehicles GM has made? The real question is how they stack up against world-class competitors; not how they stack up against GM’s former products.

    By the best-in-class measure, GM is still an also ran. Sure the GM pickup truck line is competitive, but Ford is the benchmark in pickups, not GM. Where is GM’s response to the Transit Connect?

    Look at Europe: GM is getting killed across the board in Europe.

    Cadillac remains a pretender to the Standard of the World crown and never seems to manage having more than one decent selling product at a time.

    Chevrolet pitches the craptastic Aveo, the woefully uncompetitive Impala and North America’s worst smallish pickup truck (Colorado). Even the mighty Corvette gets by mostly on brand and price.

    Meanwhile, Buick is a complete joke in the home market and GMC remains a Chevrolet with a nose job.

    May the best car win you say? By and large the best cars are winning, and very few of them sport the GM Mark of Excellence. Lutz may or may not have moved the needle a bit, but GM remains a global also ran in most segments.

    P.S. The Volt is going to wind up being just the latest in a long line of GM money pits.

    • 0 avatar


      Then ya find out that one of the best “Buicks” is being rebadged as a DAEWOO.

      Its shit like that gives me no happy feelings about GM… tells me they are still up to their old tricks.

  • avatar

    good riddance to the idiot obviously half the people on this form have not had to work on the crap, or have never owned one of the newer gm vehicles for more than 3 years. I have owned many gm products over the last 20 years i have had a 92 Saturn sl, a 93 Saturn sl, a 91 Chevrolet camaro convertible, an 00 gmc safari van, and a 01 Saturn sc. the older 2 Saturn sl’s i believe were the best cars gm ever built no real maintenance other than oil changes and minor issues over the years i had about 360k miles on my 93 when it finally died and my 92 is still running with about 210k which i gave to my nephew. The camaro hasn’t giving me many problems over the years. But the 00 van has giving me numerous problems many of which should have been recalled by gm for major safety reasons, but were recalled on similar models but not the safari, don’t ask me how the got away with that crap anyway i have a van now that just suddenly decides to engage an abs event every once in a while when braking for no absolute reason even a low speeds which can be extremely hazardous when driving the only power door lock that works is the drivers side and the drivers side power window takes about 5 minutes to roll up. And from what I’ve heard from x Baltimore plant employees it is all the fault or faulty Mexican made wiring harness that management let these vans out the door with. The 01 Saturn was still about as good engine wise except for it would have an idling issue on cold days in the winter. but the interior quality went to crap with issues like a constantly leaking sunroof and finally a complete failure of the drive motor due to the crappy plastic they used to replace the rollers on the drive screws breaking. all as maximum bob tried to transform Saturn into a youth oriented car like Toyota’s scion with cars like the ion red line that they eventually recalled because of problems with it catching on fire. now I’m living on a base here in Germany though i am down to three cars my 06 Honda civic hybrid which gets beautiful gas millage and i haven’t had a single problem from yet. My 89 BENZ 300CE AMG which is built to survive a nuclear war and still can cruise easy at 120 on the autobahn once again even on a 20 year old car no issues at all. And finally my 02 Nissan skyline GT-R 34 V spec (Jap spec) which i would take up against anything. once again no issues other than regular maintenance. and not to mention all of the Opel’s I’ve seen here which if it was not for their ties to gm i would by in a second. and ones like the Opel speedster which was replaced by the Pontiac solstice aka speedster gt. But once again i am stuck with another piece of Government motors garbage. I’m here in the states on business and my travel agent setup my rental car and everything but behold what do i get stuck at at the rental car agency a friggen Chevy hhr i was even joking with my friends before i came that if they try to give me a gm i would refuse it so now im stuck with this cramped underpowered piece of shissa for the next week. Speaking of which didn’t maximum bob design the same pos in question. he ruined Chrysler in the 90’s he ruined gm in the 00’s i say good riddens and please don’t ruin Benz, Honda, or Nissan for me next.

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