By on March 1, 2013

Isn’t the Internet wonderful? Now industry types can trade barbs directly, without going through unreliable journalists.  Ed Whitacre still needed to write a book (or more like he had it written) to put down Bob Lutz, Dan Akerson et al.  Bob Lutz, however, has his own blog, hosted at Forbes, and boy does he take revenge on Whitacre:

“Ed’s most notable contribution to design was a comment I recall at a Cadillac styling session. Professing to know nothing about cars (true), he nevertheless opined that Cadillacs had the look of ‘old-fashioned Choo-choo trains’.”

As the ultimate put-down, Lutz says the CEO was ignored: “We digested that opaque bit of input and elected to stay with what we had.”

Lutz’s biggest beef is with Whitacre taking credit for GM’s alleged success:

“Ed Whitacre is a good leader and he made an incremental improvement to the organization. But to suggest that he is the architect of GM’s current success is a bit like crediting the rooster with making the sun come up.”


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26 Comments on “Grudge Match! Maximum Bob Socks It To Rattlesnake Killer Whitacre...”

  • avatar

    Maximum Bob is a caricature of what the media portends to be as a successful car guy. he failed miserably at GM, slept thru Annual Meetings, and proved to me just how right Lee was in not caring for the fella. meanwhile, Big Ed showed us why we should hire more Texas types like him and old Ross. not that his tenure was all that and then some, but I’ll take the lanky old inquisitor over the pompous pretender any day.

  • avatar

    Yes, he found relaxation in killing rattlers on his ranch and yes, he was an excellent leader at SBC/AT&T. Gubmint Motors is a “success”? Some would disagree.

  • avatar

    “Old fashioned choo-choo trains?” I think I’ll have myself a Moxie cola and a Pall Mall. What the hell year is it anyway?

    • 0 avatar

      Moxie is still manufactured and is still delicious (I’m a fan). It tastes like bark. People still drink it in New England.

      Can’t vouch for Pall Malls.

      I think Whitacre’s remark is a real stumper. Maybe he’s likening the chrome accents to the brass fixtures on old steam locomotives?

      • 0 avatar

        I think he was referring to the Vee shaped front end looking like a cow catcher. Pall Mall is still sold, and is the third most popular North American brand after Marlboro and Newport. I’m from New England and have tasted Moxie. The bark of which tree?

  • avatar

    See Bob’s Forbes biz blog get Ed mad

  • avatar

    Just one octagenarian slagging off a septuagenarian for sport and old geezer bragging rights. Oh the wars we fought, son!

    Lutz was lucky he didn’t piss off Akerson, a man of spite, after he was hired as a GM consultant a year after Akerson’s ascendancy to the throne. And thus we got the Cadillac XTS, a mobile enormous ameba.

    Not one of these three are worthy of much praise. They all think very well of themselves, much better than the record shows.

  • avatar

    The Choo-choo train reference is just Ed’s old-timey, yet entirely accurate, take on Cadillac’s massive cow-catcher/Billy Big-mouth grille.
    The real point of MaxBob’s comment is that in the culture of near unlimited Credit-taking Roosters that is GM management, he’s still the biggest bird in the barnyard.

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    Lutz wrote the truth. New products have a long gestation period. Those being sold today were indeed all developed pre-bankruptcy. Too bad they lost a year or two in product development. Some cool stuff is coming.
    The 2007 contractual creation of VEBA and elimination of Jobs Bank also saves new GM $8billion a year,also a huge pre-bankruptcy change.

    These are main contributors to the current profitability of all three Detroit carmakers. With half a century inside vantage, I can assure that Whitacre could have done little more than nudge the needle, if that.

  • avatar

    I do not get the railroad reference at all. I can’t think of any Cadillacs that reminded me of any train locomotives, steam, diesel, or electric. My understanding is that much of Cadillac’s styling in the 40s and 50s were supposed to have an aerospace theme,, with the ’48 tailfins being inspired by the Lockheed P-38 Lightning and the tailights on the later 50s ones looking like a rocket exhaust flame.

    It wouldn’t really have made sense to look to railroads anyway. That period was the dawn of the jet age, railroads were in decline, and people were very forward thinking, not nostalgic. Look how little was put into the preservation of steam engines as well as many early diesels.

  • avatar

    I agree with ED about the choo choo comparison. Cadillacs don’t look like other cars. To some that may be good; not to me. Reliability was always pretty much sub par. Incredible that people spend the kind of money on these Choo Choo’s and have to keep fixin them up. I guess some people live in some kind of time warp or parallel universe and never got the message. That Cadillacs are no longer prestigious but signs of dementia/Alzheimer’s type thinking. Oh well, if people want to waste their money on such cars that is their right. None of these guys deserve much credit IMO. They are all responsible to some degree in what GM has become. When personality/greed are what managers crave, there is not much hope for the company they work for. All employees, management and union, need to be put on profit sharing. That way if they don’t make money, they don’t get the big pay checks. This makes too much sense and that is why it won’t be applied. GM is really dead. It just hasn’t started stinking that much yet.

  • avatar
    Kevin Kluttz

    So GM is really calling the shit they put on the road a SUCCESS?

  • avatar

    I know to you TTAC guys he’ll always be “Maximum Bob” but I prefer to think of him as “What About Bob?”

  • avatar

    It’d be interesting to hear Lutz speak candidly about the current GM CEO.

    • 0 avatar

      You don’t insult (or tell the truth to) a guy with a gun. You wait until he’s gone or in handcuffs. Akerson will get “his” from Lutz and others when he’s out at GM, not before.

  • avatar

    GM’s US market share (data from was 46.5% in 1976. It has declined steadily ever since, reaching 21.9% in 2008 (avg loss of around 0.77% p.a.), and hit 17.9% in 2012 (avg loss 2008-2012 of 1% p.a.). New GM’s gross margin dropped to below 7% in 2012, and operating “income” was a $3.2 billion loss.

    This would be bad enough by itself. But considering that GM’s balance sheet was wiped clean of liabilities by Chapter 11 in 2009, and labour contracts substantially rewritten in the comapany’s favour, it is astonishing that the operating margins have deteriorated in this way.

    I have no emotional investment – pro or con – in any car company (have owned 11 cars since 1970, all but the first 2 were bought new and only once ever bought from the same maker twice in a row). From the numbers, GM’s results should have management in crisis mode. Is that the case, though, or are they sleeping their way into BK2 the same way they did into BK1?

    At the beginning of 2009, Chrysler was less than worthless – sliding market share, bad product portfolio and positioning, terrible quality reputation, for starters. What a change from what was often regarded as the best-managed car company in the world prior to acquisiton by Daimler Benz! GM, by contrast, had a stronger market posiition, better product offerings, and stronger dealer network. At the time, the market view was that Chrysler would die and GM could recover.

    Both were put through Chapter 11, Chrysler has staged a truly remarkable recovery (hats off to all in Italy and North America who made this happen). GM got a short-term financial benefit from Chapter 11, but has largely continued to decline.

    There is a great case study in this, but the numbers indicate that GM is heading inexorably towards BK2 unless it does something very different, very quickly.

    • 0 avatar

      “Chrysler has staged a truly remarkable recovery (hats off to all in Italy and North America who made this happen).”

      Chrysler has been boom-and-bust for pretty much its entire existence. I doubt Fiat is going to be the cure for that history.

      • 0 avatar

        “Chrysler has been boom-and-bust for pretty much its entire existence.”

        Certainly after Walter P. Chrysler died. Charles Hyde, a Wayne State Univ. professor who writes about automotive history, has a book about Chrysler called “Riding The Roller Coaster: A History of the Chrysler Corporation”.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      GM did manage to sell more cars than anyone else in the world last year and is making more than the old company ever did on substantially lower sales dollars, $7B net in North America alone. They need to fix Europe, which will take some time.

      • 0 avatar

        I thought Toyota was the global sales champ in 2012?

        Looking at GM’s financials, it is clear that the reported net profit in 2012 resulted from non-cash accounting adjustments. The company is a net user of cash, not a cash generator – a situation that cannot continue forever. And steadily losing market share is not going to help.

        • 0 avatar
          doctor olds

          @ect-Oops! I meant last year in sense of the year before the one just reported in January. In other words, 2011.

          The Company is certainly not a net cash user. They have generated plenty of cash from operations and are doing fine financially.

          They also gained share in February- 3 pt’s ahead of #2 Ford and enjoy very high transaction prices and plant utilization.

  • avatar

    I’d like to see Elon Musk get the same respect around here as Maximum Bob.

    Both are lightning rods, but Musk is called ‘arrogant’ while Lutz is merely ‘entertaining’.

    • 0 avatar

      My impression from watching the two men and asking them a question or two is that Lutz has more personal charisma than Musk. Ultimately Lutz is a salesman and he’s very good with the personal touch. He knows how to work autojournos. I don’t think Musk is quite as outgoing or ebullient. Both men have enormous egos, but I just can’t see Musk saying “I have ten ideas before lunch. Eight of them are bad.”

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