Ever critical and mawkish about the domestic auto industry, the “Truth About Cars” has posted a piece critical of GM’s Bob Lutz, based on an interview that Lutz gave to Automotive News, an industry trade publication.
But, this time, it looks as though the “Truth” got it right.
In the interview, Lutz did an astonishingly good imitation of Hillary Clinton talking about driver’s licenses. Except Lutz was talking about the Malibu. He absolutely refused to commit, trying to leave himself and GM an out on everything he was asked.
First, he acknowledged that Chevy was going to have a hard time taking on Toyota because that company has a reputation for quality automobiles that Chevrolet lacks. Lutz opined that Toyota’s quality wasn’t there anymore, but that it wouldn’t make a difference until customers perceptions changed.
Then he said the Malibu was “not a make or break car” and that GM expected it to do “moderately well.” What happened there? Did he take a look at sales figures for the Saturn Aura, or has he come to the conclusion that a $150 million ad budget backing the Malibu isn’t sufficient?
To top it off, Lutz hinted that Chevy would resort to incentives, if necessary. Admitting that incentives degrade the product and that GM needs to get away from them, Lutz also said that the current automotive market “environment is pretty difficult right now because I think we’re facing an increasingly weak market.”
Lutz even hedged on the Chevy Volt, suggesting that it might be delayed if the untried “batteries don’t live up to our expectations.”
Lutz isn’t an idiot and he certainly knows that anything he says to Automotive News will get wide and immediate dissemination. But his new-found lack of enthusiasm for products on which he has staked his reputation and GM’s future cannot be happy news for the stockholders.
One thing is for sure: lowering expectations is an old game, one which some view as a win-win ploy. If you downplay expectations and there is, instead, success – you get the credit. If, on the other hand, things don’t go so good – well, that was anticipated and you told ‘em so.
Still, if the early returns on the Malibu were hinting at a landslide, it’s hard to believe Lutz would be playing that game.