Northstar

Autonews interviews Lutz

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I don't know if Autoweek will have this later in the week, but for now I won't post all of it - just the good stuff 8)

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Lutz: 'I would give myself a B+ or an A-'

Dave Guilford | Jamie LaReau | Automotive News / May 22, 2006

http://autonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?...B/60517019/1003

To say General Motors had a bad year last year is putting it mildly: It lost $10.57 billion.

But Vice Chairman Robert Lutz, 74, says attitudes inside GM are changing. He says a new culture led by a product renaissance will help the company complete its turnaround.

News Editor Dave Guilford and Staff Reporter Jamie LaReau sat down with Lutz on May 8 to talk about GM's financial health and product plans.

When you arrived in 2001, there was a sense that GM culture was too bureaucratic. Has it changed much -- or changed enough?

You could argue that no matter how fast a culture changes for the better, you're always impatient. When I got here, if I might criticize the past, product development was delegated at too low a level, especially design. There was insufficient senior management involvement with the product direction.

We tended to gravitate to always trying to find the scientific methods for everything, including measuring of customer taste and determining what kind of product we should do for one segment and putting a great deal of faith in quantitative analysis. What that leads you to is a sort of portfolio of balanced mediocrity -- nothing stands out and is exciting or surprising.

I really tried to make the product development process less of a retrospective analysis. I find that is such a defeatist strategy. It disregards the quality of execution. If your product is a blockbuster hit, it creates a segment. I have been trying to shift the balance, with the complete support of (CEO) Rick Wagoner.

You have been at GM going on five years. You came in as a change agent. How do you think you've fared?

I would give myself a B+ or an A-. It took me maybe 18 months to fully understand what was going on. When I came in, I was somewhat in awe of the orderliness and the systematic approach to everything.

After about two years, it dawned on me that what I was admiring as a system was in fact broken. That's when we really started focusing more on the globalization of product development to avoid the duplication among the regions.

I started unashamedly advocating products that there was no earthly substantiated need for in the analysis, like the Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Sky, Chevrolet HHR and Chevrolet Camaro. There's other stuff we have coming that is just a little bit outside of what that system would have generated.

There are at least three products, one of which will be shown as a concept at the Detroit show, that is what I call design-driven product planning. You'll also see a departure from the rational approach in that many of our vehicles in the future are going to be very similar in proportion to the GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook (crossovers), in that there will be a tremendous emphasis on the chassis. The look that we want is like a weightlifter in a tight T-shirt -- where the clothes look too small for the physique. You'll see a much stronger orientation toward the emotional side.

What is GM's culture like now? Is there a sense of urgency?

Absolutely. There's a difference between a sense of urgency and panic. Panic is not good, and we don't have any of that. There's a knowledge that the old ways won't work, and that we're in a new world.

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Hmm, could this concept be the Impala?

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I like his thinking. It supports my contention to keep the bean counters out of the design making process around product. You'll never made class-leading products with them in those positions.

Hopefully beyond coming up with some great products they're studying Toyota and preparing for their opportunity to go for the jugular. Everyone has weaknesses. GM's job is to figure out what Toyota's are and expose them for all to see.

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If it's something "different" maybe a 4-door Kappa for Pontiac.

Funny, toyota seems to be going the way of GM with the making of products that are over analyized and not designed with compassion.

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You'll also see a departure from the rational approach in that many of our vehicles in the future are going to be very similar in proportion to the GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook (crossovers), in that there will be a tremendous emphasis on the chassis. The look that we want is like a weightlifter in a tight T-shirt -- where the clothes look too small for the physique. You'll see a much stronger orientation toward the emotional side.

Amazing that it took GM this long to understand what tight proportioning, balanced design, and athletic really really mean. That's why all of thier cars look like they're stuck in the '80's.

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Amazing that it took GM this long to understand what tight proportioning, balanced design, and athletic really really mean. That's why all of thier cars look like they're stuck in the '80's.

Some still haven't come close to figuring it out...

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they are still paying roger smith a million $$$ a year pension so they have not yet gotten rid of the "cuture". he is the one who screwd GM up to the place were it has almost went under.

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If it's something "different" maybe a 4-door Kappa for Pontiac.

Funny, toyota seems to be going the way of GM with the making of products that are over analyized and not designed with compassion.

:yes: Yes, I quite agree. Saw my first 2007 Camry up close, and thought the styling very overwrought, overthought. But I'm just one person. :yes:

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:yes: Yes, I quite agree. Saw my first 2007 Camry up close, and thought the styling very overwrought, overthought. But I'm just one person. :yes:

And you haven't even seen the new Corolla yet.

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