• Feb 3, 2011
It took many years to learn of former General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz's "secret weapons," but the cat is out of the bag. We recently learned that those secret weapons were a quartet of auto journalists that were put on the payroll to assist GM in the product development process, and now they serve as inspiration for what's known as the 'knothole'.

In a recent interview with The Detroit Bureau, GM North America's Mark Reuss talked about this system, which drives The General's product development process. The Bureau gave Reuss the credit for creating the process, though Lutz and his band of super journos no doubt served as motivation. But the Knothole isn't just some process implemented to validate what management wants to be true. On the contrary, Reuss says products have been delayed or killed when the knothole finds them unworthy. For example, have you ever wondered why GM decided not to sell the Orlando here in the United States? Knothole. It's also why the Cruze didn't arrive Stateside when the Europeans got it. Reuss claims there were two other unmentioned models that got the ax, while others were delayed until they were ready for prime time.

So, what's the goal of the knothole? Reuss correctly points out that if a GM vehicle is merely competitive, there is no way Toyota or Honda owners will break brand loyalty. But if GM makes vehicles that are better than the competition in every way, die-hards loyalists could eventually head into GM showrooms.

[Source: The Detroit Bureau]


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  • 57 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      Secret weapons for what? Bankruptcy?

      I like expository journalism, but why are you hyping these people? US sales fell every single year the "secret weapons" were consulting on US products. The secret weapons participated in (if not fueled) GM's sprint to bankruptcy.

      I'm sure the idea of journalist consultation is a romantic concept for people in the auto media, but from a shareholder standpoint, it was a violation of the company's fiduciary responsibilities. I might not have invested if I had known Lutz was taking orders from journos. These knotheads should be outed along with the executives and the UAW bosses who ultimately passed their failure to the taxpayer.
        • 3 Years Ago
        OTOH, Toyota has been chasing the #1 volume title for a while. Not sure that volume for volume's sake gives a good result.
        • 3 Years Ago
        you obviously do not understand the time it takes to engineer and design a car from scratch.

        When these people were brought on board, they were working on what is JUST NOW coming out, not the turds that led them into bankruptcy.

        • 3 Years Ago
        Sales is just one measure of success.

        GM has chased the idea of more and more sales for a long time and it left them with the product lineup they have today.

        Maybe they started looking at something besides the sales figures. Is that wrong?
      • 3 Years Ago
      Is this like Cornholed?
        • 3 Years Ago
        Good call GM, the Orlando is dorky looking.
        • 3 Years Ago
        It's really about paying off 4 auto journalists to write favorably about GM cars. Some people would call it a bribe. Others call it pay-ola. Lutz is quit clever in masquerading them as "consultants" on GM payroll.
        • 3 Years Ago
        exactly the same in this case...
      • 3 Years Ago
      What kind of auto journalist advised delaying the Cruze so they can keep the Cobalt around longer?
        • 3 Years Ago
        Exactly, just making the Cruze better than the Cobalt wasn't good enough.
        • 3 Years Ago
        The type of journalist that recognizes the advantage of delaying the next vehicle to improve it over the current product offering and the competition's offerings.

        Releasing a new product that feels no better than the product it replaces would do more damage to the brand as a whole than letting a mediocre product languish on the market another year and then releasing a new model that feels distinctly better than the old. This was their intention. Time will tell if it was successful or not.
      • 3 Years Ago
      In the American General Motors, they have knott-holes. Here in Autoblog comments, we have a55-holes.
      • 3 Years Ago
      That's curious, I can't see those new Chevrolets as strongers competitors for Toyota, Hyundai and Honda, even for the Civic with its new 2012' bumbum...

      The Opel - Buick team should design Chevrolets. Get Chevrolets ugly to differ than Buicks is not a good idea, its full of knotholes.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I don't see how this worked for the Cruze, its out what a little more then 1 month before the new Elantra, and a couple before the Corolla and Civic. I mean why would you spend a fortune on a old platform (3 years old already) Cruze, when they can get a new Elantra with more options and better fuel economy for significantly less.
      • 3 Years Ago
      What a dumb idea. Bring the Orlando here to compete with the Mazda5 and the new Ford Max. Just do it. This is simple it takes ideas like "Knothole" not to bring them into the American market. What!! Get rid of this team and the head of Chevrolet. Bring the Cruz hatchback and station wagon as well.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Steve, they delayed the Cruze because at the time they reviewed it, it wasn't good enough. Delaying a mediocre product so that they can make it better is a good thing.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I don't see the Mazda 5 selling in large numbers now and the Ford C-Max will only bifurcate an already small demographic. GM needs to resist the temptation of consistently churning out niche vehicles and concentrate every resource they have on honing every aspect of their existing mainstream vehicles. And maybe do refreshes more often. That's what will win back the Toyota and Honda defectors not continuing to display inferior build quality across 12 models instead of 9.

        Sounds like they're on the right track so the Secret Weapons were correct in "knotholing" those types of projects. I sure hope they continue.
        • 3 Years Ago
        If the quality was bad in Europe, doesn't that automatically mean this process failed?
        • 3 Years Ago
        Steve, they shouldn't have launched it in Europe either.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I'm thinking the same thing, and hoping that it's not really cancelled for the US, but just delayed until it doesn't suck.

        I want an Orlando with a flexfuel Voltec system drivetrain. If I replaced my current 2 family vehicles with one of those, and a pure EV, I could have all of the freedom I want without buying foreign oil ever again.
        • 3 Years Ago
        If the quality was bad why was it launched in Europe?
      • 3 Years Ago
      Who in the autoblog staff is a member of the gang? Come on and step up.
      • 3 Years Ago
      After seeing some of the junk they've managed to bring here anyway, I'd say they aren't "knotholing" enough as it is.

      One thing I'd love to know is how they all managed to agree that some corny name like Cruze was a good idea?
      • 3 Years Ago
      "Knothole"

      When your own development team can't get the job done. lol.
        • 3 Years Ago
        That's what it makes me think too.

        I still can't trust this company to make the best decisions but at least now they see they can't either. For what that's worth.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Ok that is no where as nice as the concept... no thank you GM.
      • 3 Years Ago
      The Orlando may not come, but what about the GMC Granite.
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