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Bob Lutz isn't all right

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Bob Lutz isn't all right

February 12, 2010 - 4:36 pm ET

Mark Rechtin is West Coast Editor of Automotive News

Marine Corps chest thrust out, chin jutting forward, Bob Lutz livened up the Q&A at his speech to the J.D. Power International Automotive Roundtable by biting the hand that feeds him.

He is sick of “good enough” being the quality mantra at GM. And it's his mission to get rid of that sort of thinking. Fondly recalling his Swiss upbringing and years spent in Europe, Lutz used this opportunity to savage mediocrity-impaired Americans.

This wasn't some 78-year-old curmudgeon ranting about the good old days. This was the roar of a lion meant to wake up the cubs.

I won't use quote marks, because it's a paraphrasing and a summary of a much longer diatribe. Take a deep breath, and feel free to let fly with your best, gravely Bob Lutz impersonation …

Compared to Japan and Europe, everything here (in America) is a little ‘It's allll riiiiight.' But you go to Switzerland, and there's no rust on the train platforms. The stop signs aren't crooked. Everything is galvanized and anodized. But you look at our facilities and they are a mess. Maybe it comes from our British ancestors, where it's, ‘Ooh, eet's awwright. Eet's chahming.' We are too tolerant of imperfection. I got to GM and looked at the interiors and said, ‘Look at this mess. Look at this ugly plastic.' And they'd say to me, ‘The instruments work. They show the right speed.' But it has got to be beyond function. There has to be an aesthetic joy. If there's a 12-millimeter door gap, but the door still opens, they were saying, ‘What's your problem?' The flushness, the crispness was missing. I am worse than a Swiss high school teacher who gives you an ‘F' if your margin wasn't quite straight. We need that European-Japanese drive for perfection. Almost-good-enough isn't good enough. If senior management only looks at cost, you will get these substandard-looking automobiles.

Ahem.

Bean counters, consider yourself warned. Bob is on the warpath.

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/article/20100212/BLOG06/100219955/1379#ixzz0fRoRQSUD

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Good.

Makes me better knowing my visor won't fall off.unsure.gif

These are the simple things I will be looking for in my next Compact.

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Not saying that tight door panel tolerances aren't a good thing, but the Japanese and Germans provided those tolerances by sacrificing elsewhere. For VW/Audi it's electrical gremlins, for BMW and Benz it's maddening maintenance routines, for Toyota it's engineering mediocrity in places you can't see, for Honda/Acura it's sacrificing style, ride, and NHV....

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Not saying that tight door panel tolerances aren't a good thing, but the Japanese and Germans provided those tolerances by sacrificing elsewhere. For VW/Audi it's electrical gremlins, for BMW and Benz it's maddening maintenance routines, for Toyota it's engineering mediocrity in places you can't see, for Honda/Acura it's sacrificing style, ride, and NHV....

Well, considering what's going on right now, I expect much more out of GM now.

I'd never thought I say it, but Ford is a good example of getting it right. (or pretty close)

The bar has been set.

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What the hell is Bob talking about? Maybe he's gone senile.

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What the hell is Bob talking about? Maybe he's gone senile.

Was that sarcasm? I sure hope so.

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He has lifted the bar a bit already. Anyone notice the post Lutz arrival panel gaps, better interiors and wheel to fender fit on all the new cars that came hence.

He has had a harness on him that prevented all he has wanted to do and a limited budget to do it. Like I have been saying the next 5 years are going to be fun.

I just hope he puts in place the staff and system that holds to this years after he is gone.

Bob this makes up for the ill timed and often misunderstood pay comment.

Edited by hyperv6
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He has lifted the bar a bit already. Anyone notice the post Lutz arrival panel gaps, better interiors and wheel to fender fit on all the new cars that came hence.

He has had a harness on him that prevented all he has wanted to do and a limited budget to do it. Like I have been saying the next 5 years are going to be fun.

I just hope he puts in place the staff and system that holds to this years after he is gone.

Bob this makes up for the ill timed and often misunderstood pay comment.

True.

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Not saying that tight door panel tolerances aren't a good thing, but the Japanese and Germans provided those tolerances by sacrificing elsewhere. For VW/Audi it's electrical gremlins, for BMW and Benz it's maddening maintenance routines, for Toyota it's engineering mediocrity in places you can't see, for Honda/Acura it's sacrificing style, ride, and NHV....

Really? How do you know it isn't one of the dozens of other ways that the Germans and the Japanese exceed GM that has caused those issues? And what has GM dropped the ball on in order to not have fugly interiors?

Actually, if your logic holds, it must be a very bad idea to buy a GM vehicle now as they certainly appear to be improving in so many "superficial" ways (e.g. interior and exterior), which must mean they are failing in all kinds of other important ways as a result.

I believe all you did there was list some weaknesses of other automakers and attempt to draw an association where none likely exists.

Quality usually yields a net savings to the automaker, not a cost as you state. I suspect GM is reaping only rewards for their improved interiors/exteriors.

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There really are not many if any perfect cars out there today. The market is competitive and the profit margins are shrinking. Each company has only so much money and they have to choose and pick where they can save without precieved lack of Quality.

GM was way behind in debt and had to cust cost on iteriors and the like. Lets face it they had to weigh the cost of the smell of the leather in the Camaro. Yes it is engineered in and cost money. Was it something a Camaro buyer would miss? That was stated from one of the Camaro planners to me.

The fact is the simple things like panel fit do not cost anything. Lutz stated himself when he went in to the design center he asked why GM could not do tight panels like the rest of the industry. The reply he got was we can just no one told us too.

Thinks like Lutz is pointing out are the details. It cost little to put up a stop sign straight and pick up litter. These little things add up into a better impression of what the thing place or item is. Just changing the feel of the interior plastic may not make it more expensive but it can make it feel more expensive.

Adding just a little chome around the side windows can take a car like a Cruze and make it look more expensive. Just look at the many new options or features it will offer. You will may pay a little more but you will get more value in the car with these items.

That was something Chevy was built on and lost around 1980. Just look at the 1957 Belaire. It offered features that once one could only get on a Cadillac and then they found a ways to offer the same or similar items to the people who could not buy the more expensive car.

Price and value will win out in the end and the little details are what bring value to the price.

Hyundia and Ford are working this now while Toyota and Honda are offering not much more and just raising the price.

Money will be tight for a few more years at the least and price and value are key. They may hate Wal Mart but look where they shop. They get more for their dollar.

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