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Bob Lutz - Is he making the grade?

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  • wale_bate1wale_bate1 Posts: 1,986
    Ahhh, got it.

    No, they've been careful to give it the thorough treatment...
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,187
    I think the jury's still out on this one, and it depends on how one interprets the question. There's no doubt that Mr. Lutz was dealt a very difficult hand, in terms of GM's long decline, resources, contractual agreements, and current predicament. On that basis, and on product and marketing, he may be doing about as well as anyone can reasonably be expected to do. I think it will take a little more time, although not much more, to know for sure.

    While recent sales numbers are disappointing, I say it's still too early to say whether Mr. Lutz will have done enough to reverse GM's fortunes. I very much hope he succeeds, for multiple reasons.
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    Well lets see he promised the:

    Cadillac CTS - Yuck.

    Cadillac STS - Yuck.

    Chevy Malibu - Yuck.

    Cadillac XLR - different, but lackluster in the segment.

    Chevy Cobalt - Impressive considering what it is replacing, which was a junk-rattle trap of the highest order.

    Buick LaCrosse - This is whats supposed to be an American Lexus - not! Its a sound-proofed Grand Prix. Dud.

    Pontiac G6 - Decent, me like, but Lutz is on something if he think this thing can compete with a BMW. Is he nuts?

    Saturn Ion - Who the hell approved this car?

    Saab - His whole idea about Saab sucks. He and GM should be ashamed of themselves. This is probably the biggest "wrong" going on in the automobile industry right now.

    There there are the bright spots, Corvette, Solstice, Sky, Aura. Signs of hope.

    I like the Chevy SSR no matter what anyone says about so there!

    Lutz, imo is a hit and miss affair so far.

    The GTO was a brillant idea poorly executed. A 35K car with no Nav,heated seats, dead pedal, or sunroof option, combined with a ridiculous trunk was bound to be a dud. 500hp can't fix it.

    My problem with Lutz is his mouth and GM's period. They're always promising or boasting about something and then when it comes time to prove it, they choke. Lutz went on and on about the XLR and how it would be so much better than the SL, but it turned out just to be just the opposite. He is quoted (in CAR Magazine) as saying that the new Saablazer 9-7 will "blow the doors off the BMW X5" when it comes to handling? Foolish man, you wish. The G6 a BMW competitor, on which planet? These new Cadillacs are selling, well at least the CTS is but they're ugly and plain as hell to me, and the STS is the one he ordered "revised" upon him seeing it for the first time. I wonder what it looked like before!

    Now this isn't all bad. Saturn is poised to become something of a star if they can get the Sky and Aura to market with a 1-2 punch. Bring on the Opels and dump the current pitiful look that Saturn has. Who the hell approved a car like the Ion? The Corvette remains GM's best car by far, and the neew Z06 is simply untouchable for the money. I think I like the direction Buick is going - true American (not BMW chasing) luxury, and they're going back to rwd and V8s. Yippie! Lincoln should very afraid of a renewed Buick, especially a rwd V8 one.

    M
  • davem2001davem2001 Posts: 564
    Well, styling is all subjective - I'd take the STS's looks over a BMW 5 series' looks any day...

    I agree, part of the problem is "over promising and under-delivering" - they promise the moon but then you see cars like the ION or the G6 or the LaCrosse and realize they were built to a price point, not to be the best in class.

    Like you said, some brights spots: the Corvette, Cadillac in general, Saturn seems to have some decent cars in the pipeline, maybe Buick, we'll have to see how their new RWD cars look....
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,187
    "...and realize they were built to a price point, not to be the best in class."

    I've been reading this argument, and I have the following two thoughts:

    First, I think the argument isn't very relevant because aren't all cars, GM's and those of competing makes alike, built to price points? It seems to me that since only exotic cars can virtually disregard price points, and all other brands share this constraint, this isn't a logical argument.

    Second, I've got to think that GM tries to design and build cars that are best in class, with "class" being synonymous with "price point" for purposes of this discussion. Would it make any sense for GM not to try to be "best in class", given the problems associated with the erosion of their market share. There's enough risk in this business when you try your hardest to build the best cars, let alone if you should set out to build mediocre ones.
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    The CTS was not his doing. I don't think that he had much input to the XLR either. His impact on the G6 was somewhat limited too. However, the LaCrosse and Cobalt were influenced to a great extent by him. I think that his comments on turning Buick into GM's Lexus have been misunderstood. I don't pretend to know what he was thinking, but I don't think a $60,000 Buick (the equivalent of the "real" Lexus LS model) would sell....

    The GTO was Lutz's idea, and it is not selling well. I think that it is a much better car than the original, I owned a 69 model, but who wants an overpowered coupe these days? There is certainly a small market for this type of car, but I think it is very limited. I have some doubts about the Solstice too, although this may do much better, since it will get decent fuel economy.

    I think that the LaCrosse and Cobalt show improvment in GM's fit and finish, and this is what Lutz was hired to do. I think that he has had a positive impact. GM does have a distorted view of what their cars competition really is. The LaCrosse is supposed to compete with the Accord and Camry. Since the LaCrosse is V6 only, one assumes that it is the V6 Camry that one compares with. The LaCrosse is priced much higher though. LaCrosse prices are more like the Avalon, but does not have the features that the Avalon has.
  • davem2001davem2001 Posts: 564
    I know all cars are built to a price point - I guess my point is - why does a $22K G6 have an old pushrod engine, 4-speed auto, and a cheap feeling interior, compared to a $22K Accord or Camry? The G6 not 'best in class'.

    It seems to me that - if supplier X makes a 'best in class' part that costs $50 and supplier Z makes a 'good enough' part that costs $45, GM will go with supplier Z every time...

    I am reading that this is changing somewhat, that in developing the Cobalt, they spent the extra money up-front to try to have a better car, so that they wouldn't have to pay a ton of incentives on the back end in order to sell the car.
  • davem2001davem2001 Posts: 564
    Couple things -

    The GTO - that was sort of a 'time to market' problem - they wanted to get the car over here ASAP, so they didn't have time for a major redesign...also, they wanted it to be a 'modern' GT and not a 'retro' car...

    In 20-20 hindsight, maybe they should have waited until they were ready with a better looking car...

    Buick - I agree, I don't think he's saying Buick will have a $60K car to go head-to-head with a LS430...I think what he means is Buick will go down the path of smooth, quiet, plush riding cars, while Cadillac will go in a "Euro" direction.
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    The G6 engine is not "old", it is a re-engineered V6 and is much better than the old 3.4 V6. Some 3.5's will have VVT in the 2006 model year.

    Buick is making better cars, the LaCrosse is said to be a vast improvment over the Century/Regal models. Cadillac seems to be headed in the "sports sedan" direction. Oldsmobile went "euro" and now they are gone.
  • wale_bate1wale_bate1 Posts: 1,986
    The Buick remark is a long term one overall. In the short term, I think they're targeting the ES330 buyer directly, as my contention is that Buick is exactly where the bulk of the ES330 buyers came from. I said "bulk" so don't any of the nudniks pop up with "I had a Camaro" or somesuch nonsense! [-P And frankly, I see the connection quite clearly, and fully believe GM capable of hitting the mark.

    If, OTOH, you take Buick's latest TV spot with the "slotcar" Lacrosses, it would appear they want you to think of Buick as a "performance in comfort" brand. That, dear readers, I will not buy. Not even for a dollar...
  • davem2001davem2001 Posts: 564
    It's still an old design - maybe it will have VVT in 2006 but it doesn't now... I'm pretty sure it's cast iron, not aluminum.
    A comparable Camry or Accord engine would be all aluminum, have DOHC, VVT and a 5 speed auto instead of the 4-speed auto...

    The thing is, GM already has a better engine in-house, the 3.6L DOHC that they use in the Buick Rendezvous and showed in the Saturn Aura - but again, the pushrod engine is cheaper...

    I'm not necessarily bashing Lutz or GM - I think they've done a great job with Cadillac - I just think the G6 falls short.
  • wale_bate1wale_bate1 Posts: 1,986
    I agree on the G6, Dave.

    This is a car they should have brought to market five years ago. At that time, it could easily have been a class leader, and on the leading edge of the market. Now it's little more than a mid-pack alternative in the segment. With rebates there is an argument to purchase one, but that's the exact opposite GM needs to evoke.

    I think the Caddy work has been exemplary, but it still needs to go much further with the same level of zeal. If they rest on their laurels with Caddy for even one second, the building perception of finally becoming a world contender again will vanish like tears in a rainstorm...
  • lemkolemko Posts: 15,144
    Well lets see he promised the:

    Cadillac CTS - Yes!!!

    Cadillac CTS-V YES!!!

    Cadillac STS - YES!!!

    Cadillac STS-V - YES!!! in red 72-pt boldface type underlined and italicized.

    Chevy Malibu - Eh.

    Cadillac XLR - AWESOME!!!

    Chevy Cobalt - Impressive considering what it is replacing, which was a junk-rattle trap of the highest order.

    Buick LaCrosse - may not look like a Lexus but is sure built like one! A quantum leap over the awful Century.

    Pontiac G6 - Decent. A vastly improved Grand Am.
    Can't compete with BMW because it isn't remotely as ugly or troublesome as a Bimmer.

    Saturn Ion - Not my kind of car, but the new grille makes it look quite nice.

    Saab - Saab trucks, Saabarus, and MaliSaabus are stupid, but Saab would've died a long time ago if not for GM.

    Agree, there there are other bright spots like Corvette, Solstice, Sky, Aura.

    I also like the Chevy SSR. They should apply SSR styling to ALL their trucks. I've always loved the 1947-early 1955 Chevy trucks.
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    It does have a cast iron block. I am not sure why that is bad. The real issue is noise, vibration and harshness. I think the 3.5 is improved over the 3.4. I don't know how it compares with the 3.6, which is good, but not inline 6 smooth.
  • logic1logic1 Posts: 2,433
    criticism is, on the one hand you have people saying GM is in for it, because it is too truck dependant now when everyone wants to economize.

    But then many of the same turn around and blast the 3.5 litre as outdated.

    Yet the 3.5 has best in class mpgs.
  • turboshadowturboshadow Posts: 349
    ..that in time, the 3.5 and its derivatives will be placed on the same pedestal as the 3800. I think that's a good thing, others may not.

    Turboshadow
  • davem2001davem2001 Posts: 564
    Well, I would expect an aluminum block to be lighter, for one thing...

    The engines that go into Cadillacs are pretty much state-of-the-art - all aluminum, DOHC, VVT, etc...

    I'm just not a big fan of pushrod engines, generally... I like an engine that doesn't run out of breathe above 4500rpm...

    Granted, the average buyer of a "family" car probably wouldn't know the difference, but I prefer the character of a DOHC rev-happy engine.
  • logic1logic1 Posts: 2,433
    But the point is that if people are selling their SUVs in favor of family cars for fuel economy. A careful SUV driver probably gets as good as mileage as the person revving their V6 like mad.

    The 3.5 V6 in the Malibu and G6 gets 4 cyl. like mpgs. If economy is what the market is looking for, it is the better choice.
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    Aluminum is lighter, but not by much. However, OHC's do better at very high speeds, partly due to having double the number of valves. This really is not the place to debate the pushrod vs ohc argument. But the 3.5 V6 produces 220 lb-ft of torque compared to the 3.6 LaCrosse V6 which has 225 lb-ft. Not much difference. The difference in horsepower is due partly to the fact the the 3.6 peaks at 6000 RPM's vs the 3.5 peaking at 5400 RPM's. The rest of the difference is that the 3.5 has about 200 lb-ft of torque at the peak horsepower while the 3.6 has 210 lb-ft left at 6000.

    I happen to own one of the Caddy V8's, but it is tuned for lowend torque, rather than the high speed power. I can get 29 MPG on the highway.

    But this forum is about Lutz, who is not an engine man, but rather a car person, more interested in the style as a whole, not the bits and pieces.
  • hammen2hammen2 Posts: 1,313
    GM carries a burden of on average $1500 per car more than the transplants to cover employee/retiree health care. Is there any wonder they're sticking with older, tried-but-true engines like the 3.4L in the Equinox/Torrent, and the 3.8 in the LaCrosse/Lucerne/Grand Prix/et. al.?

    I'm not justifying it, but GM management probably feels that they have to cut corners somewhere. Doing it in the interior is no longer acceptable, so the cuts come in decontenting and under the hood...

    --Robert
  • dtownfbdtownfb Posts: 2,915
    If this is the case, the situation won't get better anytime soon.

    To be honest, I'm not sure anyone could do a good job with GM right now. Some of their decisions are really making things difficult for LUtz. Two good examples are the SAturn division and eliminating Olds. It took them 10 years to add a second car to the Saturn lineup. Now they have 4 cars and 3 of them are lowly rated. Why would I buy a Saturn when there are better cars (both within GM and out) available at the same price? The new Aura makes no sense to me because there core lineup of cars is so bad. Not unless they expect to sell over 100k of them. It makes no finacial sense. Plus Saturn has completely lost its corporate image. To me its just another division of GM. The only thing left is the sales expereince. That's like choosing which dentist is going to pull that impacted wisdom tooth.

    Killing Olds with its best vehicle lineup was a terrible decision. Perfect example of not being to see the forest for the trees. Of course they did keep alive the Intrigue by renaming it the Buick Lacrosse. (Message to Lutz: Let's get a few on the road first before we start comparing it to a Lexus). I know this was a fincancial decisicion but they will face tougher ones than this in the very near future.

    Because of decisions like this, I don't think Lutz can succeed. They've launch some decent vehicles over the past year but no one is biting, not unless you offer $4000 rebate. The problem is no one will buy a GM product without rebates anymore. By offering all these rebates, GM (along with Ford) has convinvce the public that their vehicles are not worth the MSRP nor they are not as good as the imports. Simply put if you have to supposingly equivalent items and one is priced significantly lower than the other, you assume that is more cheaply made not necessarily that it is a better value. They should bite the bullet and eliminate the rebates but lower the MSRP by $3000. At least your cars would be priced closer to what they are worth.

    Lutz is fighting these issues when he was bought on to develop cars. His cars are not being well received by the buying public. I'm not sure he is capable of getting GM back on track. But I'm also not convinced he is the problem. HE's the public figure for GM but the ground work was in place before he arrived. I don't think you can point the finger at him. It's a much bigger issue.
  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    The fact that GM places so much emphasis on Bob Lutz is part of its problem. Anyone familiar with large bureaucracies - whether corporate or government - knows the difficulty of changing their "culture."

    The only way one person can really change a corporate culture is if that person has complete control, and can fire staff and install his or her own people, as Iacocca did at Chrysler.

    Lutz is fighting a culture that has accepted "good enough" for years and is still satisified with building vehicles for loyal GM customers. Further complicating the picture are crushing legacy costs and a dealer body that demands badge-engineered versions of a platform even if it hurts divisional images in the long run. I'm beginning to think that the only thing that will really change GM's culture is bankruptcy, or the immediate threat of it.
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    I know you're a ignore-the-obvious GM supporter, but to say the LaCrosse is built like a Lexus? This is too much even for the most devoted GM folk. The LaCrosse has the same cheap plastic filled interior as any other GM car, and it isn't even close to a ES330. Not even.

    I would rather Saab die than to rebadge a Chevys and Subarus as Saabs. Its disgusting.

    Styling aside you really think a G6 competes with a BMW?

    M
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    It seems to me that I'm reading the same excuses, like there is no market for Coupes yet the Mustang has been a success for years.

    I agree with the poster that said it will take more than Lutz to change GM because they've half- done cars for so many years. It is very troubling to read that GM doesn't shoot for best in class. You can believe that Toyota, Honda and Nissan do. They can't change if they actually think this way.

    M
  • mondmond Posts: 79
    GM can be turned around if they give someone the power to do so. Frankly, I know what to do. I'm not sure Lutz knows what to do, because he seems to make statements to please the GM board. That is certainly the wrong thing to do because it makes him suspect in the eyes of knowledgeable people. Given the condition of GM, their front man should never appear suspect.
  • mariner7mariner7 Posts: 509
    Lutz is a tremendous car guy. But reading his interviews and features aabout him, I got the feeling he wants to be liked. The result: he didn't rock the boat too much, and now it's sinking!

    As others said, GM needs to give absolute control to someone like Iaccocca, who's a car guy and a touch SOB, likes to get in your face, is a my way or the hiway guy.

    GM board, full of money guys, will never give absolute control to anyone, even if a young Ioccocca or JChrist appears in front of them, because they're afraid of losing control.

    But if they do, my only nominee is Carlos Ghosn of Renault/Nissan.
  • davem2001davem2001 Posts: 564
    Yeah, I agree - Lutz doesn't really have total power or control at GM - he's the top 'car guy' but he ultimately reports back to a 'bean-counter'.

    There seems to be a lack of accountability - for just one example, has anyone at GM been fired over the Fiat fiasco which is costing GM something like $2 to $4 Billion?? Hasn't pretty much the same management been in place while the market share continues to fall?

    I agree, they really need a total shake-up - someone like a modern day Iacocca - maybe Carlos Ghosn if he can be lured away from Nissan
  • davem2001davem2001 Posts: 564
    The problem is no one will buy a GM product without rebates anymore. By offering all these rebates, GM (along with Ford) has convinvce the public that their vehicles are not worth the MSRP nor they are not as good as the imports.... They should bite the bullet and eliminate the rebates but lower the MSRP by $3000.

    I agree with that - I know the domestic 'Big 3' basically created this monster, going back to the 1980s, but they would be better off "weaning" the public off the big rebates, low finance deals...

    I read an article lately and it had a quote from a Ford exec that I thought was very true - he said something like - "cash on the hood cheapens the brand".

    They (domestics) would be better off in the long run if they just cut MSRP by 10% but then eliminated or at least cut way back on all the $4000 rebates and the zero financing and the "PLEASE buy this car, we'll PAY YOU to take it" type stuff...
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    In 2003 GM said that they "spent" $1400 per vehicle on health care. Obviously that would be higher in 2004, but even so, the imports either spend nothing on health care (because their employees are covered by a national health care system) or your numbers are off.
  • davem2001davem2001 Posts: 564
    Technically, I don't think that is 100% true, either, becuase I would assume that all the U.S. employees at the "transplant" factories of Honda, Toyota, Mazda, Mercedes, etc... are covered by some type of employer provided health care...

    Although, it is true, I'm sure GM's expenses are higher, and GM has a bunch of retirees that the "transplants" don't have yet since they are too new.
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