By on February 3, 2011

When GM’s head of North American operations, Mark Reuss, was giving The Detroit Bureau some choice quotes about GM’s newfound commitment to excellence, it may not have occurred to him that Mercedes had recently laid claim to the very cliche-laden territory he found himself on. To wit:

Reuss insists the new GM philosophy is to “be the best, or we’re not going to do it,”

Yes, Daimler may have to answer to some higher power for the insipid video above, but at least its lack of imagination has pedigree: the line “The Best Or Nothing” killed for Gottlieb Daimler back in the “good old days” of the early 20th Century. Reuss’s lyrical inspiration, on the other hand, is a corporate process. To be fair, the “knothole” as it is known, is a Lutzian legend of a mythical corporate process, aimed at

The perpetuation of excellence and the destruction of mediocrity.

Which sound like mighty fine goals for our fine public investment. So let’s give Reuss a pass for stomping into Mercedes’ marketing-cliche territory, and ask: what is this amazing “knothole” and why doesn’t every automaker have one?

Unfortunately, details about what exactly a “knothole” is are hard to come by. TDB gives us two paragraphs

The Knothole Process was inspired by former GM “car czar” Bob Lutz, who spent his decade with the giant maker struggling to refocus its product development operations. One of the steps Lutz took was to bring in a handful of former automotive journalists, such as one-time Motor Trend Editor Jack Keebler, to give the company a less biased view of how General Motors products compare to key competitors.

With the Knothole Process, the evaluation process is a little more formalized though, Reuss suggests, it is anything but rigid. “Experts in every field of the car development process” take part in the evaluation process, which takes place at several key points during the path between concept and production.

So, they’re not giving the execs ringers to drive anymore… that sounds like progress (if you buy the whole “secret weapon” angle). But what are we getting here that we wouldn’t get from any quality-oriented ad from any other manufacturer? Less timely products, apparently.

The Knothole Process has already resulted in a number of GM products being delayed or killed off entirely, Reuss revealed. It was the primary reason why the launch of the U.S. version of the Chevrolet Cruze was delayed – though GM’s bankruptcy also was a factor, said Reuss – and led to the maker deciding not to sell the Chevy Orlando crossover in the North American market.

At least two other products have been scrubbed because they failed to pass muster, Reuss hinted, declining to name the models. Others have also been delayed.

But wouldn’t the Cruze have had a better chance at getting a toehold in the US market if it arrived with the global launch in 2009?

In its original form, said Reuss, Cruze “wasn’t something anybody would be proud of.”

To be fair to Reuss, TDB’s Paul Eisenstein probably left off his words “except, of course, our beloved Korean partners and the thousands of people around the world who bought the pre-Knothole Cruze before it arrived in the US” from the end of his Cruze comment. And hopefully, Eisenstein left out Reuss’s words of regret at having foisted a car that “wasn’t something anybody would be proud of” on his Australian friends, when he launched the Holden Cruze Down Under in 2009, saying

It is a world class small car that has the perfect blend of both style and substance, all from the base model to the top of the range.

Well was it, or wasn’t it… mate? Less than a year ago, Reuss was bashing the Cobalt in order to hype the Cruze, and now he’s resorting to bashing the global Cruze to make the US version look good? If Reuss is serious about not allowing mediocrity “slip back in” at GM, we as taxpayers should support him… but he needs to be more careful about his credibility.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

19 Comments on “Quote Of The Day: Das Beste Oder Nichts Edition...”

  • avatar

    Proud to be part of the family.

  • avatar

    At least the target is moving rather than stagnate.

  • avatar

    It’s difficult to argue with 125 years of success.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    is a Lutzian legend of a mythical corporate process, aimed at
    The perpetuation of excellence and the destruction of mediocrity.

    The First Letter of Lutz to the Tribe of Pontiac…

  • avatar

    Wow, kinda surprised Niedermeyer hasn’t found a way to pin the blame for this on Obama (yet).

    I mean, if the administration had just let GM fail, which TTAC beats on like a dead horse, and had shown the “integrity” and foresight to just throw thousands of loyal GM employees into an unemployment nightmare as the libertarian Gods intended…we wouldn’t have to suffer such inarticulate pronouncements as Ruess’…

    but then again, what would TTAC have to post about then? Pretty much nothing, I guess…and by the same standards, TTAC could and should fail to exist then…wait a minute, so TTAC should THANK the administration for supplying at least 50% of the material/ for the rants that get posted on the site?…well, I’m not holding my breath for that ‘thank you’ to go out, but guess I’ll still try to enjoy the site from time to time…

    • 0 avatar

      Rule #1 when you attack an opponent: Get his name right.

    • 0 avatar

      Dennis, you must read TTAC very selectively if you think that “at least 50%” of the material posted at TTAC is “bailout related.” GM and Chrysler have the most dramatic histories/narratives in the biz, so it’s hard not to cover them… surely we should keep covering these companies? Also, though I try to keep my personal “big picture” political views out of TTAC, your perception that I fundamentally hate the Obama administration is way off.
      TTAC criticizes in spirit of Socrates, not Glenn Beck. We start conversations, we don’t end them. If we all share facts and perspectives and we will collectively draw closer to the truth. If we lash out and get angry, the truth usually suffers.

  • avatar

    @sfdennis1: I think the obsession with GM/Obama is not with TTAC, but with you.

    GM provides a steady stream of easy fodder for criticism.  It inability to ever produce a successful small car is supposedly changing with the Cruze, but as 1/3 owners in GM, the taxpayers have a right to know whether GM really believes its own hype.  This article merely points out the inconsistencies of the message about the Cruze.

    Rather than attacking the messenger, how would you explain or defend GM’s apparent lack of confidence about its own product?

    • 0 avatar

      I totally agree that GM is often it’s own worst enemy, and have ragged on GM myself on several occassions, but I can hardly remember the last time that TTAC has posted ANYTHING that portrays GM or the current administration in a positive light…that’s quite a bias, I’d say.

      Hey…free country, freedom of opinion, free speech = all great things. But when a site posts about 90% criticism on a certain topic, it can and should be able to hear some dissenting voices of opinion, or it’s little more than a forum for propaganda…so, in this good ‘ole USA, I’ll agree when I agree, and speak my mind when I don’t.

  • avatar
    Sam P

    “If there were no “saved” GM, and no Obama to bash, would/could TTAC exist in it’s current form?”
    Absolutely. Sajeev and Steve would continue to give car purchasing advice in their Piston Slap columns, while the B&B’s advice below the fold would go like this:
    Q: I want a used sports car or sport sedan for $25k. I want it to break 14 seconds in the quarter and have very good handling.
    Sajeev: Get a Panther with an LS-X swap and a 6-speed manual gearbox transplant.
    Steve: Get a Panther with a Coyote 5.0 V8 swap.
    Typical member of the B&B: Buy a new Nissan Versa automatic! 0.9% financing!

  • avatar
    Detroit Todd


    Very well said.  The only thing I would add is that I don’t think it’s the goverment loans to GM and Chrysler, in and of themselves, that is provoking such a backlash from some of the Ayn Rand-worshipping columnists here.  What has them really butthurt is the fact that the decision to save GM and Chrysler has been a glowing success, by any measure. 

  • avatar

    An analogy between GM and Mercedes ay? He might be on to something though, most AMG Mercedes are little more than overpriced musclecars. Two days ago I saw an W211 E55…Images of the Corvette came to mind (In Europe, a Corvette is doomed to look tacky, except maybe on the Nordschleife).

  • avatar

    Edward – you omitted a fundamental point about Cruze launching in the US.  The US engineering team was responsible for developing a new Cruze variant with a 1.4-liter turbo engine, now known here as the Cruze Eco @ class-leading 42mpg on the highway with manual transmission.  References to the Australian Cruze launch doesn’t count – there was no 1.4T launched there or anywhere else.  (As an Aussie transplant in the US, I was involved in both launches for GM btw!)

    • 0 avatar

      Jason: does that mean Americans who buy the Cruze with the same 1.8 liter base engine that’s available in Australia aren’t getting “something anybody would be proud of”?
      I get your point… I’ve read plenty of criticisms of the Cruze’s base 1.8 liter, but Mark didn’t say “we needed time to ready a new engine,” he said the pre-US Cruze was “not something anybody would be proud of.” That’s a big difference, especially if that 1.8 is the base engine here in the US.
      I guess I’m just struggling to understand if pride is an engine option or if Mark overstated the problems with the global Cruze or what.

    • 0 avatar

      Ed – I posted because you skipped past the 1.4T’s existence to make an incorrect assertion on a second-hand use of a quote.  No emotion, just help with facts.  The variants are not just powertrain differences and the 1.8 is doing really well for Chevy, here and overseas. 

    • 0 avatar

      …And if you believe that, Jason has a brand-new Daewoo Cruze to sell you!
      The FACTS: GMNA felt they needed time to make a mediocre car a bit more palatable for US tastes. While the extra time (arguably) resulted in a better car, it also put GM nearly three woeful years behind the competition, at the precise time most are preparing to launch brand-new or heavily-revised models.

  • avatar

    I just grow tired of the constant talk by automaker executives.  I don’t care how you try to spin it.  A good product is good and a bad product is bad.  I don’t want excuses or explanations why I should overlook a certain issue or believe in your product.  Design and manufacture a good product that meets expectations.  It seems like most auto execs (Bob Lutz especially) spend a majority of their time defending their product or process and talking about the next big thing where they should be leading their teams to make the best product and processes.  I want a lot less talk and a lot more action.

    All this knothole and secret weapon talk out of GM seems to be put out to appease those angry about the bailout.  Why bother?  If they are that angry about the loans, no amount of talking is going to convince them to buy your product.  Continue rolling out products that are better than what they replace, become profitable (in that order!), and even the diehard bailout bashers will only avoid you out of pride.  I.E. Prove them wrong.  Action, not talking, does this.

    • 0 avatar

      A lot of wisdom in this post.  I too am tired of being apologized to when I take my car in and they mess up the repair.   Or when something is wrong with my car and they can’t/don’t fix it.
      Produce the best possible car competitively priced.  Continually refine and improve it and build a great reputation for said model.  Take care of your customers.  The constant hail Mary new models and marketing hype has me tired and gives a manufacturer (GM is not the only company guilty of such tactics) little or no credibility.
      Prove me wrong and I might come back and look at a GM car sometime in my lifetime.

  • avatar
    Mike Kelley

    It wasn’t a fluke that Obama had to bail out GM and Chrysler to keep their unions afloat.  Consumer Reports listed reliability by manufacturer in their April, 2010 issue.  Honda was first, followed by Toyota, Mitsubishi, Hyundai, Porsche, Subaru, Nissan, Mazda, Ford, Volvo, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW.  Dead last were, you guessed it, GM and Chrysler in that order.

Read all comments

Recent Comments

  • jkross22: Jeff, can I kindly request a user review? Would love to hear one of ‘us’ chime in with their...
  • Oberkanone: I’d pay $10,000 for the little trucklet.
  • Oberkanone: Fiber Reinforced Panels?
  • Mike A: Do you know anything about demand and supply and the supply chain issues. The price increases are in part due...
  • Imagefont: I rented a Wrangler Unlimited for a week, my wife and I (plus the dog) went to Santa Fe and put just shy...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber