The videos above and below the fold are parts 1 and 2 of a 50-minute speech by GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz after receiving an award at the Western Automotive Journalists' meeting. Even with no voice, jet lagged and after a drink at dinner, Bob had lots of interesting things to say. Is anyone surprised? He says, for example, that GM's CEOs took their eyes off the car business for the last 15 years, that Toyota will have egg on its face for criticizing the Volt and GM is making a $2,500 car in China. At the AutoChannel's website, they have more videos of Bob taking questions where his responses include calling the Union of Concerned Scientists a joke group and saying that if he were president he would support ethanol. Let's go through these comments, starting with assessment of the last 15 years of GM.
Bob says the "new" GM has no resemblance to the GM he knew in the sixties when he worked there or the "incredibly ponderous, multi-divisional, multi-departmental, incredibly intertwined, interlinked, almost unmanagable" GM of the seventies and eighties. Jack Smith and Rick Wagoner (GM's CEOs for the last 15 years) had to "take their eyes off the car business for a while" to struggle to clean up GM to make it lean, accountable, global and as nimble as any small, auto company ... ah, I really hope that was not slam at the late Roger Smith who served as CEO through the 80's.
In the last few minutes of the above video, after saying GM just needed a little consideration in the market place because they have improved while Toyota has not, Bob says the criticisms of the Volt by Toyota's Okamoto will be proven wrong next Easter. I will let Bob speak for himself (after the break):
[Source: YouTube, AutoChannel]
By the time the Easter Bunny delivers his or her first egg shipments we hope to have demonstrated initial prototype drives that demonstrate the feasibility of the 40 or 50 miles on pure electric drive. That sets up an interesting confrontation between ourselves and the other large automotive manufacturer because at the Tokyo show Mr. Okamoto, who is the head of R&D and technology at Toyota, conducted a press briefing during which time he showed lovely power point charts much like this one demonstrating that General Motors was completely wacky, that this wasn't going to work, it was a public relations exercise. Only we at Toyota truly know what battery technology is all about and as the world most credible car company, we hereby declare this whole thing to be non-sense and General Motors is going to fail miserably [see related post here]. Well, lets wait for the Easter Bunny and see who's right. Somebody is going to have egg on their face and I personally don't like that. So, somehow I don't think it's going to be us but watch that with interest because around Easter time somebody is going to lose credibility.
In the Q&A, Bob was very positive on ethanol saying the source of criticisms were the $350M per year campaign from American Petroleum Institute. "If we have to produce like a 100 percent of vehicles to run on E85, we will do that," Bob says and adds that if he was running things (Bob Lutz for President?) ethanol and flex fuel is the smart place to put the money. Bob says the Union of Concerned Scientists is a "joke group," basically an "advocacy group," and almost none of them have a degree in science. On CAFE legislation, Bob says that CAFE failed because the oil companies are in favor of it.
Bob says when GM asked Japanese battery companies to make a battery for the Volt, they got a reply of "no desire to quote." Bob says the U.S. government should recognize that we are in a technology war and give U.S. carmakers more help. In case you've been living in a cave for the last 20 years, Bob had some scary numbers on the growth in China and he literally says that "the Chinese automobile industry, in another 5 or 6 years, is going to be scary." Don't worry, because they are ripping apart Hondas to learn how they reduce weight and they are making a $2,500 car. Then, Bob jokes, they are going to sell them for $3,000 so they can make some money.
This speech is a perfect of example of why the press loves Bob Lutz.