Bob Lutz sits down for Autoline Detroit – Click above to watch video after the jump

Autoline Detroit recently played host to Bob Lutz, and, as is always the case, the former General Motors vice chairman dished out some great commentary. Lutz was promoting his new book Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business, and talk quickly turned to his role as it related to product development and high-level decision making at GM. While on the topic of brand management, Lutz revealed a few rather interesting tidbits about his former employer:
  • All Chevrolet vehicles were required to have five-spoke aluminum wheels and a chrome band up front, as part of the Bowtie brand's overall image.
  • Pontiac was required to utilize "see-through" headrests, despite the fact that they cost more to produce while offering no consumer value.
  • All Buicks required a sweep spear in the exterior design language.
  • Cadillac considered building a 550-horsepower supercharged Escalade.
  • Saturn was working on a seven-passenger Vue.
  • Many of the non-car person GM board members preferred to drive imports.
  • Proportion and shape didn't matter as long as all the brand-image boxes were checked.
Lutz provides an interesting look at the type of decision making that forced GM into a position of bankruptcy. The automaker was being run solely by folks focused on techniques and ideals that don't work in the industry. We don't want to give away the entire interview, but it's worth watching all 26 minutes. Click past the jump to see for yourself.

Also, judging solely by the above screenshot, we'll cast a vote for Robert De Niro to play Lutz in the inevitable movie about this period in General Motors' history.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 78 Comments
      KAG
      • 3 Years Ago
      "Many of the non-car person GM board members preferred to drive imports" And I wonder why they lost all those brands.
      AMG THIS
      • 3 Years Ago
      Notice Peter didnt say anything? But is most likely going to lash out in the comfort of his hiding place, which is behind his home computer. Delo...do us all a favor and just hang it up.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        AMG THIS
        • 3 Years Ago
        Competing with yourself is right in your book? OK lets build the Cavalier and Sunfire...same car, same price..but we have to spend 10 Million on EACH car to market them. OR..lets build ONE REALLY GOOD ONE and market that! Are you a GM MBA? Sounds like it with that stupid mentality. "If YOU don't compete with yourself, then you leave it to your competitor to do it for you" LMMFAO....
          • 3 Years Ago
          @AMG THIS
          [blocked]
          ACSRHS
          • 3 Years Ago
          @AMG THIS
          Maybe I took his comment the wrong way, but I thought he meant by competing with yourself, you need to build cars by actually improving your product line each time around, not keep building bad cars. But what you said is absolutely correct.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @AMG THIS
          [blocked]
      Kent
      • 3 Years Ago
      I don't mind the chrome band on the Chevy grille, although having a body-colored band edged with chrome also works. But I don't get the 5-spoke wheel. As for Pontiac, I don't get the see-through headrests. Whereas my Malibu has a fully-padded headrest that is very comfortable, the headrest in my wife's Aztek isn't. I sort of like the sweepspear on Buicks. It was typical to have either a crease in the body or side moldings that showed the styling cue, until GM went to slap-sided, cookie-cutter styling with the first downsizing of length and weight in the late 1970s with new CAFE standards.
      gork
      • 3 Years Ago
      "Proportion and shape didn't matter as long as all the brand-image boxes were checked." Aha! Now we know why the Pontiac Aztek was created!
      Vineeth Vazhayil
      • 3 Years Ago
      Loved the interview. I see this happen in several corporations, just that Mr. Lutz decided to speak openly about it. Hope his stint has pushed GM in the right direction.
        POV
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Vineeth Vazhayil
        It's refreshing to hear someone be so open about it. Usually there are repercussions but I gave this honey badger don't give a **** since he's retired. :)
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        Chase
        • 3 Years Ago
        Uh dude, you are barking up the wrong tree. Among other things, Lutz is the guy who is responsible for the Volt existing. He's not a right wing extremist.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Chase
          [blocked]
        m
        • 3 Years Ago
        All that ranting about how stupid US citizens are, and you never even addressed the point. Dependence on foreign oil causes problems. We get it. But you didn't even speak to the fact that CAFE is a purely idiotic way "fix" the problem. Forcing companies to build cars that people don't want is just penalizing those companies. People will find a way to buy what they want. If you want to actually change what people are driving, you have to change what the people want. The way to make consumers WANT to burn less fuel is so obvious and straightforward that our lawmakers should be embarrassed to have ever thought up CAFE. Tax the fuel. If fuel becomes prohibitively expensive due to taxes, consumers will find ways to burn less of it. No new and unnecessary laws end up on the books. There's no need for new regulation or enforcement. Automakers aren't forced to build crap that people don't want and won't buy. You say Lutz is "ignorant and obtuse" for not liking CAFE... And what should we call you for not only supporting such a foolish system but bashing those that point out its weaknesses?
          • 3 Years Ago
          @m
          [blocked]
        MLuddyJr
        • 3 Years Ago
        I'm not voting you down because of your environmental opinion, I'm voting you down because your rant completely misses the point of what Lutz was saying. GM failed because they lost the plot. They focused on numbers and irrelevant metrics while ignoring the fact that they produced low-quality vehicles that didn't excite anyone. Fleet-based CAFE standards were a contributing factor by putting GM (and the rest of the domestic automakers) at a disadvantage to their foreign competitors which already specialized in smaller vehicles. You also seem to be unaware that the Japanese (Toyota, Honda, Nissan, etc.) are increasingly building full-size trucks and SUVs. Do these 'huge heavy clumsy' Japanese vehicles display 'american football player level of stupid'? Is 'red state' Lutz to blame for these cars too? One last point- The Chevy Volt. While not perfect, it is arguably the closest thing on the planet for a real-world mass-market electric vehicle. Bob Lutz deserves credit for creating it and bringing it to market. How do you reconcile this with your portrayal of Lutz as a 'violently ignorant' on environmental issues?
        DontTrustPoliticians
        • 3 Years Ago
        > USA has a cultural sickness of praising primitive brutes over potent sophistication and that is starting to catch up with you. I call this condition "High School Syndrome". Unfortunately we have too many people in power in the public AND private sector who may have graduated high school years ago (or not), but still engage in high-school-like behavior (bullying, cliques, etc...) instead of acting like the adults they claim to be.
      stclair5211
      • 3 Years Ago
      p.s. - Peak oil is a lie and so is global warming. It's about control, power and greed.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        ToniCipriani
        • 3 Years Ago
        Aztek wasn't his idea, but the dude before him (forgot his name. Lutz brought us cars like G8 and the Solstice.
        • 3 Years Ago
        [blocked]
      keepareaclean
      • 3 Years Ago
      lutz, "head of product development", demonstrates once agin why he was ineffective, over-the-hill, and part of the problem. this guy's legend FAR outweighs his effectiveness. "head of product development", indeed...
        Kent
        • 3 Years Ago
        @keepareaclean
        Look at the current generation Malibu, and look at the prior generation Malibu. The current generation is a nice looking car. The prior generation is bland bordering on ugly. Whe deserves the credit for the current Malibu? Lutz. The first generation CTS was a nice car. The current CTS is absolutely gorgeous. Who deserves the credit. Lutz. Remember that Lutz figured out that GM cars were bland and ugly, because engineers were telling designers to keep it simply, so assembly was easy. Lutz told the engineers that they were supposed to take the design and figure out how to assemble it in a cost-effective manner. And who was the driving force behind the Soltice, the best looking Pontiac since the non-Holden GTOs? Lutz.
      inntheory
      • 3 Years Ago
      It reads like a post-mortem done by an accomplice. if not the murderer himself. Sorry Bob but the bloody footprints lead to your door. I would give him some level of credit if these insightful eureka moments came somewhere back when he started as CEO when they had enormous cash surpluses and options. Now it just reads like the average big 3 exec playing the CYA game and trying to save face.
        Smitty_Smithenson
        • 3 Years Ago
        @inntheory
        You do realize that Bob Lutz is responsible for the culture change inside GM, right? That he got GM back on track and building quality, design-driven, fun cars again?
        Sugaki
        • 3 Years Ago
        @inntheory
        You're completely lost. He was never CEO of the big 3... before bashing maybe you should actually know what you're talking about.
      Hazdaz
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'll have to watch the video later, but from the write up, Lutz proves once again that he actually "gets it". Designing a great-looking car isn't about making sure a bunch of checkboxes are filled - its about the total package. Pretty much everything on the list is proof positive of an insular corporate society that designs and builds cars through committees, not through talented designers and engineers. Once again, GM management proves that they drove the company into the ground, and yet the simple-minded folks out there will always take the easy scapegoat and blame it on the factory workers.
        darkness
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Hazdaz
        I take that blame everytime I'm out at the store or gas station in work unis.
    • Load More Comments