“A truly great piece of engineering”—Bob Lutz on the 2020 Corvette Stingray (Image: Chevrolet)
“The automobile industry is probably the world’s most complex business. Because it encompasses the show business aspects of Hollywood—emotion, beliefs, images—all these intangibles that very few people could deal with. Then there is the high finance part of the business—you’re never dealing with a couple of million, you’re always dealing with $1.2 billion for a new truck program. There is financing to be done. Restructuring of debt. Etc. Etc. So you need financial experts. Then you need experts in absolutely peak manufacturing technology and engineering. It is the only business in the world that encompasses all three. The aviation business—not selling to consumers so you can forget the whole showbusiness aspect. The other two are there. Hollywood has the emotion, etc. and the financing, but little or nothing in terms of technology. So the automobile business is the only one where senior management needs to be well balanced in all three of those areas. What generally happens in most automobile companies is they’ll hire brilliant engineers and brilliant manufacturing people and out of the Wharton School of Finance or Harvard B school hire MBAs with good GPAs. Nowhere is an effort made to find some right brain individuals who have an intuitive understanding of the business, can identify with the consumer and have a sound imagination and a creative spark that says ‘Hey, why don’t we try this?’ and ‘Hey, we can leapfrog those guys if we try such-and-such.’ And that was my contribution, which was almost unique.”
So says Bob Lutz—auto industry icon, whose resume includes more executive positions at more OEMs than any other person in automotive history—on this edition of “Autoline After Hours.”
He may characterize his contribution to companies, like GM, from which he retired as vice chairman in 2010, as “almost unique,” but there is no question that as an industry leader he’s been absolutely unique—to modify an adjective that requires no modification. He’s like that.
On this edition of “Autoline After Hours” Lutz spend an hour-plus talking with “Autoline’s” John McElroy, Frank Marcus of Motor Trend and me about a variety of automotive subjects, ranging from management and the industry (e.g., the long quote above) to the 2020 Corvette Stingray; from Elon Musk (to whom Lutz gives respect for Elon’s early realization— and “creative imagination”—that electric vehicles would initially be a high-end purchase rather than something that would be readily attainable by environmentalists of modest means) to the travails of Cadillac (“they’re fighting negative momentum”).
Realize that although he is now 87, Bob Lutz is still materially engaged in the auto industry, both as a consultant and as a board member of advanced technology companies, and his observations are no less sharp and trenchant today than they were when he was routinely referred to as “Maximum Bob.”
One of the things that he would point out, he was “often wrong but never in doubt.”
And on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” there is no doubt that Bob Lutz is fully on his game.
You can see it all here.
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It’s the fifth generation of a vehicle that has been increasing in sales year after year since its introduction in 1997.
Chinese electric-car startup Nio Inc. is forming a manufacturing joint venture with Beijing E-Town International Investment and Development Co., which is investing 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) in the business.