Lutz Comes Back to The General

Here’s more evidence from From the Detroit News that Detroit is serious about the car guys.

General Motors said Friday its former head of product development, 79-year-old Bob Lutz, is on the company roster as a part-time special adviser. He had been informally advising GM executives since his retirement in 2010.

“I’ll basically be doing formally what I did informally for the past 16 months — general observation and advice to senior management … whoever wants the view of a highly experienced outsider as an aid in arriving at what, in all cases, will be their judgment,” said Lutz, a former GM chairman and legendary figure in the industry.

His return comes at a critical time for GM as the Detroit automaker tries to sustain momentum built on vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt and Buick Regal — cars developed under Lutz’s watch.

“The company is in great shape and is being extraordinarily well-led. I’ve seen the ‘post-Lutz’ products, and they’re great. But they value my opinion, and, as you know, I enjoy offering it,” Lutz said.

Analysts like Jeremy Anwyl, CEO of the automotive website Edmunds.com, praised the move.

“This is a good thing for GM. Even with his depth of experience, Bob can always be counted on as a source offresh ideas,” Anwyl said.

Read the full article for more information.

  

GM’s Bob Lutz to retire in May

Longtime auto executive Bob Lutz is going to hang’em up on May 1st. Of course Mr. Lutz 78 had a great line to describe how he feels at this time.

There is something that gets old about getting up at 4:30 in the morning,” Lutz said today in Switzerland after the Geneva auto show. “At some point you have to do something new.”

From AutoNews.com:

DETROIT — Bob Lutz, the General Motors Co. product development leader who postponed retirement last year to help steer the automaker out of bankruptcy, plans to call it quits May 1.

Lutz, 78, has been a vice chairman and senior adviser to CEO Ed Whitacre since December, after a plan for Lutz to lead GM’s revival through marketing unraveled within six months.

“There is something that gets old about getting up at 4:30 in the morning,” Lutz said today in Switzerland after the Geneva auto show. “At some point you have to do something new.”

Read the full article here.

  

The “new GM” is here

2010-chevy-camaro-3

The new General Motors Company has emerged from bankruptcy, and CEO Fritz Henderson is making plenty of changes.

Fritz Henderson’s remarks this morning on General Motors’ speedy exit from Chapter 11 bankruptcy were a pretty sweeping condemnation of the old GM’s culture and structure.

His decision to sweep away entire layers of regional management, and eliminate the entire group running the North American business and taking charge himself, suggest there was a lot of redundancy.

Of course, the fact that GM is selling its Opel operations in Europe and will only retain a minority stake makes a coherent global structure more difficult. But Mr Henderson is making the best of a bad job by giving Nick Reilly the job of running international operations from Shanghai.

The theme of reducing the amount of time spent talking and prevaricating in meetings is common to GM and Ford, where Alan Mulally has made much of his effort to speed up decision-making.

Henderson also announced a new partnership with eBay to sell cars by auction online. Nobody seems to know precisely how this will work, but the symbolism is clear – GM will be innovative in the future with respect to all aspects of the car business.

Bob Lutz has also decided to stay on and postponed his retirement.

In addition to hailing the closure of the deal, chief executive Fritz Henderson outlined several changes to GM’s management, including the “un-retirement” of vice chairman Bob Lutz to oversee most creative work at the company, including global design, advertising and communications.

Lutz is a great car guy, so this is a good thing, but I wonder about putting him in charge of marketing. GM’s marketing in the past has been horrible. They wasted huge dollars on old-school sponsorships, and the have not been a leader online. GM has stated that it is more committed to online advertising, but it remains to be seen how much an old-school guy like Lutz understands new media.

  

Saturn may bite the dust

saturn-sky-2009

The GM restructuring plan is now expected to be rather bold, and many are predicting that the Saturn brand will not survive.

“I haven’t heard about what is in General Motors’ plan in detail, but it looks like it will be more maximum than minimum. In other words, it will be quite aggressive, and I don’t know whether this will include plant closings or elimination of brands,” said David Cole, head of the Institute for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Meanwhile, Bob Lutz, who is slated to retire as GM’s vice president of product development, told the Automotive News that Saturn likely would not survive the restructuring plan.

“My personal favorite would be to see Saturn survive and prosper. But frankly, the reality is that that is probably not going to be the outcome,” Mr. Lutz said. Neither he, nor other GM officials could be reached for comment on Saturn’s future.

“We spent a huge bundle of money in giving Saturn an absolutely no-excuses product lineup, top to bottom. They had a better and fresher lineup than any GM division, and the sales just never materialized. So we have to act on that. It’s our duty,” Mr. Lutz told Automotive News.

Working against the idea of axing Saturn is the enormous amount of money that would have to be spent to settle with dealers and the potential lawsuits from them that would probably follow. That happened with Oldsmobile.

Rob Cochran of No. 1 Cochran in Monroeville and Robinson said he held out hope that Saturn would continue as a brand.

“I know that Saturn is … exploring a lot of options. The dealers met last month in New Orleans and there were three or four options on the table,” Mr. Cochran said. “We are waiting to see what those alternatives are.”

He added, “Mr. Lutz is famous — or depending on your viewpoint, infamous — for just winging it. He’s a great product person, but a challenge from a PR standpoint.”

Saab is expected to survive, as the Swedish government will likely invest billions to make sure Saab and Volvo remain viable, though details are not yet clear.

  

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