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Lutz interview regarding Solstice, future halos

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GM's Lutz makes his mark with Solstice

Sports car may be start of a risk-taking strategy


September 1, 2005

BY MARK PHELAN
FREE PRESS AUTO CRITIC

http://www.freep.com/money/autonews/lutz1e_20050901.htm

After four years at General Motors Corp., Vice Chairman Bob Lutz gets what he asked for.

The 2006 Pontiac Solstice is Lutz's baby, and both Pontiac's future and his legacy ride in the little roadster.

GM hired Lutz in 2001 to inject style and passion into a humdrum lineup. He challenged the company's designers to create an exciting sub-$20,000 sports car as the first step.

The Solstice is that car. If it succeeds, Lutz's legend as one of the industry's great car guys is assured, and GM's future looks a bit brighter.

In a conversation with Free Press auto critic Mark Phelan, Lutz talked about his hopes for the Solstice and GM's future.

Is it reasonable to say the Solstice is the first car that was completely developed on your watch?

The Solstice and the (Chevrolet) HHR and (Hummer) H3 all are.

What does the Solstice say about where GM is compared to when you joined the company four years ago?


I think what the Solstice has is signalvalue inside and outside the company. Inside the company -- even though it's a relatively low-volume car -- it's a tremendous morale builder. I've gotten a lot of e-mails -- and so has (GM Chairman Rick Wagoner) -- from employees saying, "Boy, it feels good to have this company produce a clear-cut winner."

It gives our employees faith that yes, we can do it.

Taking intelligent risks on exciting new stuff is not only a legitimate strategy, it's the only strategy that will work over time. Playing it safe is going to lose in the long term, because everybody else is taking intelligent risks -- like Chrysler did with the 300.

Playing it safe is not an option.

Some vehicles have really moved the needle for brands -- the new Cadillacs, the Chrysler 300. Is the Solstice one of those cars that may force people to reevaluate a whole brand?

The Solstice is supposed to have shock value. Just like the Viper did for Chrysler. Cars like that are a different way of paying for advertising.

For the money it took us to do the Solstice -- roughly $230 million to $260 million -- we could have taken a corporate-image ad campaign saying "GM cares." It would have been here today, gone tomorrow, and done very little to change people's minds about GM.

People don't buy GM cars because we're nice people. They buy GM cars because they represent great value.

Doing something like a Solstice demonstrates that GM and only GM can do a car that's equivalent to a BMW Z4 or even a Porsche Boxster, only instead of charging $45,000, we charge $19,995.

It's an enormous bargain.

The Solstice is the icon of what's changing at GM.

Does each of GM's brands need a flag-in-the-ground car to define it like the Solstice does Pontiac?

Arguably yes. We've got all kinds of great ideas for things we can do with iconic Hummers without getting bigger and bigger.


Cadillac is a no-brainer. Someday we're going to do -- it's definitely in the product plan, but not kicked off yet -- we will do an ultra-luxury sedan involving an engine of more than eight cylinders and costing far more than any Cadillac has ever cost before, but not going into the $300,000 area. As Maybach has proved to our satisfaction, nobody buys those. There aren't enough un-intelligent billionaires around. The world is running out of stupid billionaires.

An iconic Chevrolet we have with the Corvette. We can probably go a step beyond Corvette and do the killer all-out performance car that embarrasses the $500,000 and million-dollar performance cars.

For Saturn, it will be the Sky roadster.

Buick we haven't quite figured out yet. We've got to come up with something there.

You know the (Buick) Velite concept -- we just have not identified the necessary capital and engineering resources for it yet.

Is the look, the first impression, the most important thing for a car?


Yes. The inner values of cars today are all close to identical. They all meet government crash regulations. Those are so high now that the difference between least safe and the most safe is (immaterial). The same with quality and durability.

Now the differential is how badly do I want the car? That's where, frankly, we've been a little weak.

I was amazed at how quickly the perception of Cadillac turned around when the brand got good vehicles.

Me too. (When) I was at Chrysler, I thought Cadillac was hopeless.

How long does it take you to repair people's perception of the other brands?

It takes time. We shouldn't tell ourselves the Cadillac brand image is fully rehabilitated. It's on an upward slope, but it is by no means where we want it to be. All we can say is it's hit the turning point about three years ago and has been on a gradual upturn.

As we measure Pontiac and Buick, they have stopped deteriorating. They have stopped sliding.

I'm confident that with cars like the (2006 Buick) Lucerne and the future Buick crossover, that Buick will turn, because they will have beautiful cars.

The Lucerne will make a much larger emotional connection with customers than the LaCrosse did.

Pontiac, I think the combination of the Solstice, G6 coupe and G6 hardtop convertible will make a difference.

I'm so pumped up about this place. I keep haranguing Rick and (GM Chief Financial Officer John Devine), asking, "When can we buy stock again?" I'd hock everything.

The bottom line is that this place has more capability than any American automaker, and probably more than any automaker in the world, except probably equal to Toyota.
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An iconic Chevrolet we have with the Corvette. We can probably go a step beyond Corvette and do the killer all-out performance car that embarrasses the $500,000 and million-dollar performance cars.


:D

Buick we haven't quite figured out yet. We've got to come up with something there.

You know the (Buick) Velite concept -- we just have not identified the necessary capital and engineering resources for it yet.


hmm... that has signs of potential for much more :booyah:
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[b]GM's Lutz makes his mark with Solstice


Cadillac is a no-brainer. Someday we're going to do -- it's definitely in the product plan, but not kicked off yet -- we will do an ultra-luxury sedan involving an engine of more than eight cylinders and costing far more than any Cadillac has ever cost before, but not going into the $300,000 area.


[post="7981"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]



wow wow wow wow are they really gonna? are they! are they! cuz if they do! wow! :rolleyes:
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wow wow wow wow are they really gonna? are they! are they! cuz if they do! wow! :rolleyes:

[post="8019"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]



Cough** Cein(ish)**Cough

i have been told that there is a 12 clyinder caddy in a facilty near powertrain in the tech center. looks like a practicle Cein and ford gtish sleek and fast when siiting still. thats all i no and all i will ever tell!
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Cough** Cein(ish)**Cough

i have been told that there is a 12 clyinder caddy in a facilty near powertrain in the tech center. looks like a practicle Cein and ford gtish sleek and fast when siiting still. thats all i no and all i will ever tell!

[post="8109"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


ok i cant take this, i gotta stop i just cant take it, my head is gonna EXPLODE no more hints I GOTTA SEE THESE cars u have no idea how bad i want to just go run a viking style raid on every gm facility right now until i find what im looking for
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Doing something like a Solstice demonstrates that GM and only GM can do a car that's equivalent to a BMW Z4 or even a Porsche Boxster, only instead of charging $45,000, we charge $19,995.

[post="7981"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


Um, wow. The Solstice will probably be a fine vehicle and the Z4 may have the same ugliness issues that all recent BMWs have, but I highly doubt that anyone, anywhere will say the Solstice is as good as a Z4 or a Boxster.
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how about a simple GOOD LOOKING mid-large sedan with a manual transmission option and 5/6 speed automatic std, front wheel drive, 240 horsepower overhead cam engine, decent sport tuned handling, four wheels ABS discs with trac control and stabilitrak standard, and multiple airbags standard with a better warranty. For under 25k. I heard nothing in Lutz' riff to address mainstream cars. Every G6 GTP manual I've researched at gmbuypower has been about 29 grand which is a big time rip off, espeically with a pushrod motor. The LaCrosse underwhelms vs other like priced products. The new Impala still has the old W body shortcomings. We haven't seen an all new competitive true midsize platform in far too many years (epsilon is not true midsize). The new 5.3v8 option is great but its tied to packages and is therefore too spendy. Hyundai has standard everything and huge warranty for less. GM needs some huge scores in the sedan market and nothing Lutz hints at makes me think anything else besides typical mediocre GM. Aura isn't going to do it. It lost its aggressive show car design and gained a pushrod motor. Yup, the honda and Toyo fans of the world will love that. I like the Lucerne, but look at how lame the base motor is. I hope GM doesn't get cuaght up into building so many image cars and leaving all their volume sellers to be dogmeat as usual, on 10 year product cycles. Edited by regfootball
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because everybody else is taking intelligent risks -- like Chrysler did with the 300.


What a dramatic reversal of what he said not 6 months ago.

Does each of GM's brands need a flag-in-the-ground car to define it like the Solstice does Pontiac?

Arguably yes.


I agree

BUT!

Not all of GM's divisions need a flagship ROADSTER or SPORTS CAR.

Plus, these "flagship" vehicles need GREAT volume cars to back them up, or the sales will never materialize.

Take Chevrolet for instance... The C6 Z06 is one helluva flagship car and it most certainly gets my heart racing enough to go into a Chevrolet dealership and shop for a coupe, but then when I realize I can't afford a C6 and am forced to look at the Monte Carlo as a completely unbiased or better yet import biased consumer as most people are these days, whether heavily or not. Then obviously I'm going to go get a more competitive offering from probably my safe haven or NORM, which would be Asia Inc.

Now, personally, I like the new Monte Carlo and I think it's pretty decently competitive. BUT, if I were to be coming from the other camp or didn't know of the extensive history of the car, or the specialties in it because I'm a GM fan, then I would probably do the natural thing and stick to my NORM (Those who have taken a basic Sociology class know what I'm talking about) and buy an asian car.

As Maybach has proved to our satisfaction, nobody buys those. There aren't enough un-intelligent billionaires around. The world is running out of stupid billionaires.


LMAO

Is the look, the first impression, the most important thing for a car?


Yes. The inner values of cars today are all close to identical. They all meet government crash regulations. Those are so high now that the difference between least safe and the most safe is (immaterial). The same with quality and durability.

Now the differential is how badly do I want the car? That's where, frankly, we've been a little weak.


I agree, but we cannot loose sight of the fact that domestic ARE suffering from image problems and reputation problems. Therefore, we ***MUST*** continue to focus on elevating EVERY aspect of the car.

GM cannot simply give the world a bunch of cars with pretty faces, then back that up with sub-par quality and engineering. That's a large part of the reason they're in crisis now.

GM cars HAVE to BETTER the competition in every signifcant way.

The bottom line is that this place has more capability than any American automaker, and probably more than any automaker in the world, except probably equal to Toyota.


Not cool.

By making that last remake Mr. Lutz shows doubt in GM's ability compared to Toyota's. This is bad for 2 reasons. 1) PRIDE- He is pretty much telling the press, Toyota and all the import sheep what they want to hear. and 2) He is fostering a sense of DOUBT throughout GM.

Never, ever doubt yourself. Especially in the face of your biggest enemy. Now, I'm not saying to live in denial and not believe that you cannot be defeated, I'm just saying DO NOT GIVE UP before the battle has been fought.
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Buick needs a Lacrosse (concept) like sedan... Something innovative, (suicide doors, 4-door convertible, cielo roof, hybrid etc.) beautiful and distinctly American in flavor. But here's the kicker. It needs a rock bottom knock out price like the Solstice. Not nessecerily the same price as the Solstice, but like the Solstice, lower than it's competition by far. Benchmark high; price low. In essence, Buick needs a miracle car like the Solstice is for Pontiac.
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"Where the heck did Le Sabre, Regal, Roadmaster, and Century go? . . . You know, all those cars that people liked and bought? . . . You killed them?" Buick is not a "car company" it's a marketing division. And the marketing heads there don't decide to "kill" cars. GM brass does. And LeSabre was not "killed", it was renamed Lucurne, and the Regal/Century were merged into one car name too. 92-96 Roadmaster never sold as well as some think, mostly to old ladies, and the "enthusiasts" online here bought them used years later.
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Not all of GM's divisions need a flagship ROADSTER or SPORTS CAR.

Plus, these "flagship" vehicles need GREAT volume cars to back them up, or the sales will never materialize.


*nods*

I agree.

Course, I'm also interested in why Phelan wrote that the Solstice will solidify Lutz's legendary status. Isn't he legendary already?

*shrugs*


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