Sometimes, you get the impression that Bob Lutz is the John McCain of General Motors. You know, says things “from the hip,” stuff that comes across as being revolutionary because people in his position aren’t supposed to talk that way. Stuff that, when you start thinking about it a bit more, makes no sense.
The latest comes from comments Lutz, product boss at GM, made to Wired magazine during the North American International Auto Show. According to Wired, Lutz said that the forthcoming Chevy Volt might not meet its target price of $30,000 and might, in fact, actually come in at $40,000. According to Wired, Lutz says the car’s not about sales, but prestige: “If it doesn’t work, it’s not fatal. But if it does work, it’ll be sensational.” Lutz portrayed the car as nothing technologically revolutionary – “[t]here is nothing magic about the technology” - and says that others will be doing the same three years after the Volt is introduced. “But there is no doubt you’d like to be able to leapfrog Toyota and come out with a car they aren’t ready to do.”
It brought to mind TopSpeed.com’s own questions to Lutz about the effect of price increases due to the new Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, which Lutz projects at between $5,000 and $6,000 per car, possibly more. Asked during NAIAS if that wouldn’t make people want to keep their older cars and, thereby, drive down demand for new cars, Lutz seemed unprepared to answer the question, struggled for a while, and then said that higher new car prices would just increase the prices for used cars, narrowing the margin between new and used. Even though the predicted CAFE-caused price increase amounts to raising the real cost of a new car by 20%, Lutz expressed no worry over the effect of that increase, either on the company’s fortunes or that of the overall economy.