Forbes Magazine and their auto columnist, Jerry Flint, bill it as a special interview with General Motors vice-chairman Robert Lutz,
But it is just the same old, same old.
Except it’s worse.
Some excerpts of Flint’s fawning report:
“Lutz makes the point that GM has missed markets in the past because it could not envision enough U.S. volume. With a global view — some sales in North America, some in Europe, some in Asia—there is enough potential volume to win approval for proposed new models.”
The United States is the largest automobile market in the world. Who does Lutz think he’s kidding?
It’s because the United States is not a large enough market that GM has been developing the zeta platform in Australia? The newest Saturns are retreaded Opels?
Bob even says the next Buick LaCrosse will be a “mind-boggler.” Bull. It’ll be the Chinese LaCrosse and that’s a version of the Saturn Aura and Chevy Malibu.
And – Bob – where the hell is the Malibu? The dealers don’t have them. A $150 million ad budget for a car that you can’t ignore?
But that you can’t find, either.
Lutz tells the ever willing to believe Flint, "Everything we’re doing is to meet this new standard of [being the] absolute winner in its class in exterior design and interior design. When we put the vehicles against the competition in the clinics, they must win by a wide margin on exterior appeal as well as reach."
Like the invisible Malibu? The car that looks just like the Saturn Aura that looks like the Volkswagen that looks like the Audi?
According to Flint’s report of Lutz’s comments: "It’s become harder and harder to create a product, unless you can sell it globally. You can’t just badge engineer [i.e., create cars for different divisions with only slight cosmetic differences, like a different grille or taillights] anymore. The public wont let you do it." Lutz is probably right about this, but some of the new Saturn models are nearly identical to their Opel counterparts in Europe. Still, Europe is an ocean away, so customers don’t readily compare these cars.
The heck with the Atlantic ocean.
The Malibu is the Saturn Aura and the Saturn Aura stole the front of the car from Honda.
Tell me where in all of this there is the slightest element of originality.
But it gets worse.
According to Flint, “Foremost on Bob Lutz’ agenda: what to do about the next-generation Chevy Impala sedan, GM’s highest-volume car.”
Goodness, the Impala is “GM’s highest-volume car.” That is only because it dumps it on any rental fleet it can find. What would be the highest volume GM car sold at retail to real people?”
It appears that neither Flint nor GM know, nor think it important to know.
But, Flint has more:
“The company had been working on a plan to make the next Impala a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, because rear drive offers some advantages in performance and handling, but this usually comes at the expense of efficiency in packaging and fuel economy. ‘My personal preference is large, rear-wheel-drive cars,’ says Lutz. ‘My business preference is doing what is right for the shareholder and the public, in light of upcoming regulation on fuel economy. If there’s a mile or two difference in fuel economy, you go for the one with the better economy. That’s where the internal debate [on the Impala] is now—no firm decision at this point, but my guess is that we will come down on the side of the front-drive car.’
Huh? Lutz is the man who is supposed to be in charge of product. He has been telling the press for a year that the rear-drive Impala was dead. If he didn’t see the CAFE law changes coming, he’s a moron – his own company supported them.
If Lutz is to be taken at face value, then his company should fire him.
But, there’s always an excuse:
“We asked Lutz what he thought about the idea that, with an improving reputation and potential price increases for the foreigners because of the dollar decline, GM could gain market share. ‘Those items give us a good playing field,’ he said. The problem: ‘If we have a weak market and high fuel prices, people may buy more cars instead of trucks. Our mix is nearly 70% trucks, so if trucks tank fast enough, that takes our share down. We also may do less in the way of incentives for our profitability, and make further corrections [by reducing sales] in the daily rental or fleet market.’ Lutz adds, however, ‘If you look to our position against the competition, we’re in the best space we’ve been in years. So you could well be right about our market share.’
Hold on second.
Did he just say that the company’s “mix is nearly 70% trucks” and that “if” trunks “tank” fast enough, it would be a problem for GM?
He sure did.
Not only that, he said this: “If we have a weak market and high fuel prices, people may buy more cars instead of trucks.”