Old Man Lutz Weighs in on Donald Trump, Tesla Motors, and the State of the U.S. Auto Industry
If you’re unfamiliar with Bob Lutz, it’s likely that you’re a recent addition to the world of automotive enthusiasm. Allow me to be the first to welcome you. The rest of us have been following Lutz’s career shift from extremely outspoken auto executive to extremely outspoken car blogger for years. Now 85, he hasn’t become any less critical of the industry after entering his “retirement,” nor has his advanced age done much to soften his frank rhetoric.
Love or hate him, Lutz’s time spent jumping between the Big Three has provided him with unique insights — and he always has plenty to say on the current state of the American automotive industry. His most recent revelations circle around the unsustainable nature of Tesla and his growing distaste for president Trump, despite his having voted for him.
Speaking with Bobby at his home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, The Los Angeles Times probed him on electric cars and what his former EV advocacy allows him to discern about the future of Elon Musk’s Tesla.
“I don’t know why it is that otherwise intelligent people can’t see what’s going on there. They lose money on every car, they have a constant cash drain, and yet everybody talks as if this is the most miraculous automobile company of all time,” Lutz said.
He continued by expressing how Tesla’s distinctive product could easily be mimicked by other automakers. Most manufacturers already have competitive electric vehicles already in development or on the road, something Lutz was careful to point out. But he doesn’t see all-electric vehicles as a viable option for any company’s chief product. Tesla’s autonomous features are its ace-in-the-hole, but the practical application of those features is still years away.
“Raising capital is not going to help, because fundamentally the business equation on electric cars is wrong. They cost more to build than what the public is willing to pay. That’s the bottom line.”
While Lutz does concede that Tesla offers a gorgeous and intriguing option in the Model S, the rest of its lineup won’t be enough to carry it onward — especially since he doesn’t foresee EV demand improving at the same rate some of the more optimistic market research speculates.
When General Motors stopped running consumer trials of the mass-produced EV1 electric car in the late 1990s, Lutz famously said, in an interview with Charlie Rose, that the vehicle cost over $250,000 to produce and was being leased for only $300 per month. Afterward, he began pushing for the Chevrolet Volt as an all-electric but admitted that there were notable advantages to hybridization.
Lutz says he remains a proponent of electric cars but doesn’t have a lot of faith in the mainstream market. He especially doesn’t believe consumers will flock to EVs while fuel remains affordable. “I’m a longtime proponent of federal taxation on motor fuels, and the time to do it is now, when gas prices are low,” he said. “You put 25 cents on and there’s a big hue and cry, but by the time the midterm elections roll around it’s forgotten. I’d dedicate the 25 cents a gallon to infrastructure.”
Bob actually seemed fixated on the dire need to improve America’s infrastructure throughout the interview, something the president often cited in his own campaign promises. However, with some overlap on decreasing corporate taxes and rolling back regulations, that’s about the extent of what the two men agree on. Despite voting for him, Lutz had plenty of negative things to say about Donald Trump.
“If I had any influence over him, which I don’t, I would strongly encourage him to stop that, especially the angry tweets. Let’s face it, it’s juvenile. What is he, 71 or 72? You’d think he’d have developed a thicker skin.”
He went on to say that he feels the president is approaching the North American Free Trade Agreement entirely wrong. “The problem isn’t Mexico. Mexico, automotively, is to a large extent a two-way street. We export a lot. And our Mexican plants take our components and ship them all over the world,” Lutz explained. “Mexico was part of the salvation of the American auto industry against the Japanese. If he wants to look at unfair trade, he should look at Europe. They essentially ship tax-free vehicles to the United States [without reciprocation].”
[Image: General Motors]
Whatnext on Apr 02, 2017
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