Tag: bob lutz

By on September 20, 2011

Ed’s outstanding editorial largely disproved ten widely believed myths about Bob Lutz based on their candid interview. But my favorite Lutz myth apparently didn’t pop up in their wide-ranging discussion: that Lutz believes in designing cars from the gut, and opposes testing potential designs with representative car buyers in clinics.

You’ll often read that boring, even bad designs are the way they are because of clinics. Clinics have been blamed for the Edsel, the Aztek, and myriad other car design failures over the past half-century. Touted as the superior alternative: the golden gut, with Lutz as poster boy. The reality from Lutz’s new book, Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: the Battle for the Soul of American Business: he has found clinics to be an excellent indicator of a design’s future potential and firmly believes in their use.

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By on September 7, 2011

The theme that’s emerged most clearly from my interview with Bob Lutz was, somewhat counterintuitively, compromise. Every vehicle that’s developed and built is the product of nearly countless compromises, on everything from performance to efficiency, and from weight and materials to cost. The question isn’t so much if you compromise when developing a new car, but how you compromise… as was demonstrated in our last Lutzian anecdote. And even during my interview, as the conversation bounced from GM to Chrysler, from mass-market products to niche halo cars, I was thrilled that this issue kept coming up. Why? Because this theme played perfectly into the question that was at the top of my list of prepared questions. After all, there has been a mystery haunting GM followers for some time now… a mystery that I’d never seen a journalist ever ask about. And there I was, sitting with one of the few people who was even capable of fully answering it. So I just waited for a pause, opened my mouth and asked:

Why do GM cars weigh more than other cars?

I had no idea what kind of answer to expect… but I definitely wasn’t expecting the answer I got.

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By on September 7, 2011

Bob Lutz admitted in his book Guts that he “possesses a certain duality of mind,” and he ain’t kidding. After all, how could someone spend a career in an industry built on “the industrial logic of scale” (to borrow a phrase from Sergio Marchionne) while trying to connect new vehicles with the lust centers of the human brain without developing a certain amount of creative schizophrenia? But, as anyone who has ever driven a Pontiac Solstice knows, sometimes compromises are made between the conflicting pulls of lust and practicality… and when those compromises must be made, Lutz tends to err on the side of lust. I confronted him about this tendency in our recent conversation, and rather than accept the criticism, he doubled down on his premise that lust-worthy design is more important than practicality. And he illustrated his point by telling the tale of a long-forgotten concept and its troubled path to production.

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By on August 24, 2011

If things seem a little slow around here today, it’s because I’m in the Detroit area, away from the productive calm of my office sanctuary. I’m in town for quite an exciting event: tomorrow, I’ll be conducting an extended interview with the industry’s most infamous executive, “Maximum” Bob Lutz. And though I can’t extend an invite to Lutz Farm to TTAC’s Best & Brightest, I can offer the next-best thing: an exclusive post-interview debrief. If you’re going to be in the Detroit area tomorrow, hit the jump for more details. If you can’t make it to Motown, but you have a burning question for Mr Lutz that didn’t make it into the relevant thread, go ahead and leave it in the comments here. (Read More…)

By on June 29, 2011

With a new Viper being readied for a 2012 auto show debut ahead of a 2013 launch, Automotive News [sub]’s Rick Kranz has discovered something of an issue in the development process: suppliers don’t want in.

Ralph Gilles, who heads Chrysler Group’s design organization and SRT, the automaker’s performance group, says many suppliers said “thanks, but no thanks” when the automaker knocked on their doors.

“It has been tough to get low-volume suppliers,” Gilles says. “We have had a few hiccups here and there as we get suppliers. That type of fringe business has really dwindled. A lot of people are looking for big accounts now, but now that is behind us.”

Kranz blames low volume (2,103 units in its best year, 392 units last year) and supplier consolidation for the “hiccups.” But as it so happens, this has been a recurring problem for the Viper since day one…

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By on June 24, 2011

Typically we try to accompany our book reviews here at TTAC with an author livechat, giving you, our readers, a firsthand opportunity to engage influential thinkers in TTAC’s trademark frank, open discussion of the most important automotive issues of the day. Today, however, is something of an exception. As I noted in my review of Car Guys vs Bean Counters: The Battle For The Soul Of American Business, Bob Lutz’s call-out of myself led to an opportunity for me to exchange words with the former GM “car czar,” which in turn led to his graciously agreeing to meet me for a face-to-face interview. Because Lutz is in the middle of a book launch media blitz (not to mention my own fairly well-laden to-do list), that will have to happen later this summer… but I assure you, it will be worth the wait. Meanwhile, I thought that we should at least honor the spirit of our author livechats by giving you the opportunity to submit your own burning questions for “Maximum Bob.” I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to get answers to all of them, but I’ll certainly do my best to make sure that the most germane queries at least get an airing. After all, if I’m going to tangle with one of the more formidable figures in the auto industry, I’ll need the full weight of TTAC’s inquisitiveness and savvy at my disposal.

By on June 24, 2011

I can’t say that I was completely surprised when, about two thirds of the way through Bob Lutz’s new book Car Guys vs Bean Counters, I caught a sideswipe at myself and The Truth About Cars, which the retired Vice-Chairman of GM describes as

a Web site that often offers anything but.

After all, TTAC and “Maximum Bob” have long been sparring partners, and were indirectly debating the fate and fortunes of General Motors well before I ever started writing about cars. What was surprising was that this passing shot at TTAC’s credibility would actually help bring us, two presumptive arch-enemies in the world of automotive ideas, to a better understanding of each other. The exchange that a single paragraph prompted taught me that, against all odds, Bob and I share a fundamental character trait: we are at our best when we’ve been goaded into action by a no-holds-barred call-out. In celebration of this shared value, let’s take off the gloves and give Car Guys the unflinching look it deserves.

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By on May 20, 2011

The auto media has been receiving its advance copies of Bob Lutz’s forthcoming book “Car Guys versus Bean Counters” over the last few weeks, and have been leaking some of the more provocative statements and conclusions from it. I too requested a book and tore through it over the past week, enjoying Lutz’s direct voice and keen insights into his time at General Motors… as well as the attention-grabbing, politically-charged statements that the rest of the media seems so fixated upon. The bad news is that I won’t be able to write a full review until we get closer to its mid-June launch date, but the good news is that our forbearance has been rewarded: despite sideswiping yours truly in one passage, a brief but rewarding email conversation has generated more mutual respect, and Mr Lutz has agreed (in principle) to a TTAC interview to accompany our review at the time of the book’s release. Sometimes observing an embargo is worth it.

But fear not: just because the promise of an interview with one of the most influential figures in the industry has us delaying our review for another month or so, we’ve got more Lutz-related material with which to build up to what I expect to be a watershed interview for TTAC. Next week I’ll be publishing a review of Mr Maximum’s previous book “Guts,” and to kick of the coming months of Lutzmania, we’ve got a very special contest that is sure to stump even TTAC’s most well-versed Best and Brightest.

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By on November 20, 2010

We all knew that Bob Lutz wasn’t going to spend his retirement circulating between the golf course and the early bird special, and when Lotus rolled out the most ambitious re-boot of any car company since GM, we should have known Lutz would end up involved somehow. After all, Lotus’s CEO Dany Bahar has bragged at length about making Lotus the “Real Madrid” (think Miami Heat) of  the sports car industry… and if there’s one high-profile prima donna in the car industry, it’s Mr Robert Anthony Lutz.
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By on October 4, 2010

I first used this gem of a picture about a year ago. It certainly captures the essence of the man better than any other. I somehow stumbled upon it in an obscure site, and since then, it’s made the rounds on the web. But the story behind the picture was left to speculation, beyond knowing that it happened on an Opel test track. I helped a German site (oldtimer-markt.de) find the source of the photo, and in exchange, I got the story, from Florian Schwaab of oldtimer-markt, who wrote the following: (Read More…)

By on June 28, 2010

Our aim is to raise the Lotus brand equity back to its rightful place as it existed in the 1970s when it competed with the likes of Ferrari, Porsche or Aston Martin. Maintaining the unique Lotus DNA is crucial, but with more relevance, greater efficiency and even more sustainability than we have had in the past.

Lotus’s owner, the Malaysian automaker Proton, is getting tired of steady losses, and is giving the legendary British marque five years to become competitive with the top-rung of European sportscar houses. That means more volume (from 2,500 to 8k annual units in five years), more marketing and (almost certainly) less of the stripped-down enthusiast utilitarianism that keeps the brand so beloved by hardcore handling fans. Oh yes, and Lotus is reportedly getting one more thing that every brand overhaul needs: a little Maximum Bob Lutz.
By on June 14, 2010

Doubtless somewhat shocked and surprised about GM Chairman/CEO/Non-Car-Guy Ed Whitacre’s decision to take over product planning responsibilities, Automotive News [sub] did some digging into the decision, and offers a full report. According to AN’s GM sources, the decision comes down to one fundamental goal: holding lower-tier executives accountable for decision making. By reducing executive reviews of forthcoming vehicles by one third, or about four times per development cycle, lower-level executives and engineers will have more freedom to make decisions, and will spend more time developing and less time preparing data for executive reviews. And lest you think this decision doesn’t merit your attention, consider this: though GM’s bureaucracy had created incredibly long lead times, most automakers hold about ten executive reviews per new product. By cutting to four, GM is taking something of a step into the unknown.

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By on May 7, 2010

Bob Lutz may have left GM, but TTAC’s not through with the man of Maximum just yet. One quote in particular, from an “exit interview” with gm-volt.com, exemplifies the kind of candor that seems likely to disappear from GM along with Lutz. Possibly for good reasons. Well, good PR reasons, anyway. After all, with Lutz unable to deny that GM will lose money and/or battle sticker shock with its forthcoming Volt EREV, he’s the kind of guy who will tell the unspeakable truth instead of playing coy like a good PR man. To wit:

How do we get the cost down without in any way diminishing the value of the car in the eyes of the customer? By just doing some more elegant engineering than we did the first time around where we inadvertently did some belt and suspenders stuff because we wanted to move fast. Now as we look back at the car we say ‘gee I wish we’d done his different,’ …’ gee I wish we’d done that different’ because this is a very expensive solution and we could have done that for a lot less money.

That faint sound you just heard was Ed Whitacre expelling fillet of rattlesnake out his nose after reading that little nugget. Meanwhile, you’ve heard it from the horse’s mouth: the Mk.1 Volt will be expensive, unprofitable, and unpolished. Or, to use a PR term, “belt and suspenders.”

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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.

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By on April 28, 2010

Former EV-1 driver and “science guy” Bill Nye hams it up while promoting GM’s Volt Extended Range Electric Vehicle. And actually, according to a recent gm-volt.com interview with Bob Lutz, GM now prefers that you refer to the Volt as “an electric vehicle with range extension.” Huh? Sounds like they’re gonna need a science guy to break this one down…

(Read More…)

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