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Fastlane: I'm Not Ambivalent About Ambivalence

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By Bob Lutz

GM Vice Chairman

I need to clear up something that appeared over the weekend in one of America’s major remaining newspapers, The Washington Post. In a very long, very prominent front-page article about General Motors and the Chevrolet Volt, the Post reporter painted a picture of me and GM that I can only describe as incredibly inaccurate.

The reporter said that we are “ambivalent” about the Volt, largely because it flies in the face of what he perceives me to be all about, namely speed, horsepower and burning rubber - and fossil fuels. In fact, he neatly expanded this ambivalence angle to describe GM, and Detroit as a whole, as the auto industry faces a new future.

Look, I know how it works. A reporter has a great idea for a story, with a terrific angle, and, even if the facts indicate otherwise, he can’t help but try to shoehorn the story into the angle. It’s just too good an idea!

Unfortunately for The Washington Post, the angle in this case was a preconceived notion that simply isn’t true. And they should know better - all they needed to do was walk down the hall and ask their very fine automotive writer Warren Brown for the truth. (Incidentally, Warren’s piece buried in the very same June 7 issue of the Post, “GM Likely To Have the Last Laugh at Critics,” was filled with truth and the type of keen insights on which he has built a career.)

Let me say this clearly: There is no ambivalence on my part - or on the part of anyone at GM - toward the Chevy Volt. None. Zero.

How many times since the concept car’s debut in 2007 have I said (and been widely quoted as saying) that this is the most exciting program I have worked on in my entire career? I meant it every time I said it - anyone in the press who’s spent any time at all covering the auto industry knows I don’t do “lip service.”

The battery technology we’re developing and will develop at the new battery lab we just opened this week is as thrilling as anything I’ve ever been involved with - and more important.

The Volt can literally change the face of automotive transportation as we know it. Who would be ambivalent about that? This is a chance for GM to make history. Not the kind of history we’ve made this month, but the kind we’ve been making for the better part of 100 years. It’s a chance for us to take the “new GM” and prove it again deserves a place of leadership in this industry, while ushering in a new era of electrically powered driving and helping to reduce dependence on petroleum.

But the reporter and editors at The Post don’t see it that way. They prefer to color GM execs as ambivalent about this revolutionary new vehicle because it would mean the end of the type of vehicle they and their colleagues in the press insist GM is all about, the gas guzzler. Trucks, SUVs and muscle cars.

They would have you believe that GM and the other American auto companies are the only manufacturers on the planet that have ever built any SUVs. They would have you believe that we are secretly bemoaning the coming of the Volt because it means the end of cars like the Camaro and the Corvette, cars they don’t think any Americans want to drive anyway. Evidently they don’t think we can use technology to offer a full range of cars and trucks people want to drive and still meet the CAFE requirements we have already agreed to meet. They are wrong.

The Post article went so far as to denigrate the fuel economy of those two “muscle cars,” which is totally unfair. The base Corvette gets 26 mph on the highway - that’s with a V8 engine making more than 430 hp! Even just a few years ago, that would’ve been unheard of. The Camaro with a V6 gets nearly 30 mpg.

Again, I think it’s clear to anyone paying attention that I’m not at all ambivalent about this because the Volt, and the onset of smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles (of which GM has many now and more in the pipeline) will not mean the end of performance cars. As I’ve said, just because the grocery store expands its offering of organically grown vegetables doesn’t mean it shuts down the meat counter.

So, let me reassure everyone again, particularly fans of the Volt, there is no ambivalence about this vehicle. I’m not even ambivalent about doing any more interviews with The Post or others. It may be in vain at times, but I do enjoy trying to straighten these people out.

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*THREE CHEERS FOR BOB LUTZ!!! GO GET 'EM BOB!!!*

Damn I am going to miss this man. He's the greatest!

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Nice response Mr. Lutz.

And Bob, it's properly called The Washington Compost for a reason. ;)

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*THREE CHEERS FOR BOB LUTZ!!! GO GET 'EM BOB!!!*

Damn I am going to miss this man. He's the greatest!

We need thousands like him.

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This is why blogs are +1 now and Newspapers are - eleventy billion. Hear the story from the horses mouth!

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