• Aug 19, 2009
Bob Lutz. His name alone is enough spark heated discussions amongst us four-wheel loving types. But aside from being "Maximum" and getting GM to construct the Lutz 'Ring and using little more than personal chutzpah to push projects like GM's ill-fated Kappa platform through the General's special brand of extra-thick red tape, have you ever stopped and thought about the jet fightin', cigar chompin' uber car dude's credentials? If you guessed engineer or designer you would be wrong. Turns out that Lutz is little more than a (much) glorified marketer. Says Bob, "I had been practicing medicine without a license."
But he's a really good marketing guy. Lutz was instrumental in not only reviving the ailing BMW brand, but successfully introducing the Roundel to Americans in the 1970s. In fact, he saved the Roundel – BMW wanted to ditch the logo but Lutz said, "Nein." In 1971, BMW CEO Eberhard von Kuenheim lured a 39-year-old sales and marketing exec named Lutz away from Opel. See, after WW2, BMW had tried producing big luxury cars like the 503 and 504 (and the super fly 507), but soon learned that no one in Europe had any money. Then it turned to bubbly Isettas that were neat but hardly mass market stuff. Lutz's job was not only to revive the moribund brand, but get some traction in the plum U.S. market with good products like the 700, the 2002 and the guibo-laden Bavaria.

Since BMW was the underdog, Lutz went with an underdog ad agency called Ammirati & Puris after being impressed by their Fiat ads. Ammirati & Puris came up with the tag line, "The Ultimate Driving Machine," and Lutz had the good sense to green light the campaign. In the early 1970s, Baby Boomers were out of college, making money and ready to start spending that money, especially on premium products. And it's hard to argue with a tag line like "Ultimate Driving Machine," especially for people whose fathers owned sloppy Buicks for the last two decades. Lutz's gamble paid off, as no yuppy worth their salt in the 1980s drove anything less than a 320i. Now, the question becomes: does Lutz have enough left in the tank at 77-years-old to pull a similar stunt for General Motors as the recently bankrupt automaker's chief marketer? We shall wait and we shall see.

[Source: Automotive News - Sub. Req'd | Photo: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 23 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      The difference is that BMW had the products to back up their claim. GM just killed their only sporty brand. One that had two original and solid offerings (G8 and the Solstice).

      Good luck Bob! Here's a couple free taglines:
      Buick: Like a shot of Novocaine for your foot.
      Chevy: Because you can't afford a Honda
      GMC: When a split grill just won't do.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "GM just killed their only sporty brand."

        How about CTS-V, Corvette, Camaro, Cobalt SS? GM sells more sporty cars than anyone. There is no reason for a dedicated sportscar division.

        "two original and solid offerings (G8 and the Solstice)."

        and completely unprofitable, unfortunately.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Agreed.

        I think if Lutz was able to really have his way with GM 4-5 years ago, the average consumer would think GM's brands were individual companies with focused designs and unquestionable execution in quality. The "new" General Motors Company may have been named, "General Motors Auto Group"; and the name GM would be quickly forgotten b/c the new marketing would be focused on only mentioning the brands: Cadillac, Buick, GMC, and Chevy in their OWN separate ads globally.

        It would have been clear that Cadillac is (again) the luxury standard of the industry (albeit for the "mainstream" luxury class of vehicles), but it would be OK --- and completely acceptable --- if Cadillac had 1 or 2 loaded high-end halo models that topped $100k. Chevy would be a socially acceptable alternative to anything badged "Toyota" or "Scion". GMC would only be producing "commercial grade" products and nothing for the casual consumer --- GMC would be the industrial products department for GM and nothing else. Nothing commercial grade would be branded Chevy. And Buick would only offer special edition models in the US; it would be exclusively sold in the Asian & European markets.


        ....but I just may be dreaming a bit much....
        • 5 Years Ago
        Pontiac may have not been profitable, but I'd sure like to see Bob's 'business case' for the moribund Buick line. Sure, GM sells a lot of Buicks in China. So let China have them. Australia has Holden; Korea has Daewoo; Britain has Vauxhall; and Europe has Opel. Global cars...just different names for each region.

        There is no solid business case for continuance of the Buick product line. As a stand alone brand, Buick (excluding China sales) is far less profitable than Pontiac ever was. Just like GMC to Chevrolet trucks...there is no difference; just added costs. Buicks have been relegated to 'poor man's Cadillacs', or overpriced Chevrolet LS models. One world class Chevrolet Impala LS would sell 10 times the volume of a comparable Buick Lucerne.

        When GM was cutting all the overhead eaters, it should have axed everything but Cadillac and Chevrolet. Now, that is lean and mean!

        Toyota/Lexus knows the score in this category, but GM lags behind because it still persists in hanging onto its old anchors.

        Buick should only produce either the Velite or the Bengal as a niche product in America to keep the brand alive. China could still have the full range of Buick offerings which would just be rebadged Chevys.
        Pontiac should only produce the GTO as a niche product.
        GMC should merge with Chevrolet and slap their grills on Chevy Silverados in the 2500 and 3500 series.
        This plan eliminates the 1200 plus Buick-Pontiac-GMC dealerships in one swift guillotine act. Not enough blood and guts has been spilled yet.
        GM redundancies would finally be history.
        Organizational, manufacturing and advertising costs would be brought under tight control.

        Is Lutz up to the task? I hope so, but I fear he is still clinging to the old ways and nothing much is changing. GM has got to take more decisive action and much faster than it did in the past.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Gotta agree with the Dude. There are not a lot of attractive cars in the GM stable and a lot of overlap. Bob may still have his keen intellect, but the cars he is pushing don't carry much appeal.

        The BMW 2002 was an absolute revolution. The original sports sedan. It brought something to driving that was never available before. Chevy has the Volt which very well may revolutionize automobile engineering as we know it, and i hope it does. But something needs to be done about much of the line up and the marketing for that line-up.
        • 5 Years Ago
        BWAHAHAHA what a bunch of tripe! So the matrix and G3 and Aztek and G5 and G6 and and and and is all super sports machines!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Let's also include the great marketing triumph that was another one of Maximum Yutz's babies and creations: Merkur. He blundered through this. It was his idea and his execution.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Does anyone know why this is on Autoblog today? Is it Lutz's birthday? Slow news cycle? A Lutz fan decide we need more Lutz?

      Basically, what I'm asking is, who cares?! The article isn't even accurate. If you read the entire article, it says Lutz hired an ad agency that penned "Ultimate Driving Machine". Lutz's resume might saved BMW by making good marketing decisions, but "Ultimate Driving Machine should not ... oh, never mind, who cares!!
        katatonics
        • 5 Years Ago
        greenchile505: Autoblog obsessively covers the automotive industry in all aspects. A little source called Automotive News wrote this article, and in Autoblog's obsession for covering all things cars to its loyal readers, it posted it on here...like every other article and piece of news it does.

        So go to Automotive News and complain about its pointlessness if your thoughts persist.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I think it makes a lot of sense to publish this information. How many people that bash GM and Bob Lutz actually know anything about his background? Or...anything at all? Maybe it will help some people realize that he's a very good thing for GM and keeping him around is great news for the future of the company.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I could be wrong but I've always seen Bob Lutz as a real car guy in a sea of bean counters. He fights the good fight for our side (car enthusiasts). He may not always win out in the end and everyone makes mistakes, but his heart is in the right place.

      That's my take anyway. I hope he sticks around a while longer.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I'm with you there. If you look at the cars that he's brought to production, any enthusiast has to appreciate his contribution to GM
      • 5 Years Ago
      "Take a look at him now"
      • 5 Years Ago
      Give me a break, so it's the tagline that saved bmw ? Consumer are so dumb, if you tell them it's the 'Ultimate Driving Machine' they will buy it and not because the car is better ? Marketing worth nothing, build a good product at a good price and buyers will follow. Remember 'have you driven a ford lately'? Some people buy that tagline and brought one, and have not buy another ford since.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Others went to their nearest Ford showroom, discovered there was no model called the Lately, and remain confused to this day.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "Marketing worth nothing"

        As an engineer, I would like to think that. However, that comment couldn't be further from the truth.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You couldn't be more wrong. Marketing is an essential part of selling anything. To have a successful marketing offer (in the sense of marketing as a process of obtaining needs and wants through an exchange of products and value) you need a strong product, appropriate pricing, methods of distribution, as well as promotion. Without one of these the process falls apart. Marketing is important.
      Lar7789789
      • 5 Years Ago
      I give him the thumbs down
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Lar7789789
        I'm with you. The guy talks too much. He was part of the failure called GM. Yet he maintains his job........
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm seriously hoping I haven't seen his work at GM marketing yet, because the viral stuff's already out and - yeah, 230 worked after they said what it was, but prior to that? Nobody knew, nobody cared, and the way it was designed wouldn't make you care anyway or give you the will to do some research/spread it around. 230-WTF videos on Youtube were so few and ALMOST sounded like the work of the marketing team itself, anyhow - I'm more worried about that "GMunderground" crap I've been seeing for the last couple of days. It's ridiculous, it's out of style, taste - I could go on, it's basically like that COLLEGE KIDS IN AVEOS thing but with even less production values and 50 times lamer. There's nothing worth sharing about it, and it's not appreciable either.

      But as always with Lutz you always have to wait like 4 years before you see the end result of his work. >_>
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