How GM cars got better

Just ordered Bob Lutz’s new book, “Car Guys v. Bean Counters”. Autoweek has a good write about it.

The interesting thing is how much it reminds me of Apple. Not the design, but the scenario. A company in trouble with a ton of horrible product hires a loose-cannon manager who comes in and changes almost nothing, but turns the company around.

Just as Ive was at Apple during the terrible slide downhill, it was Jobs that gave him the responsibility and tools to turn it around. Similar at GM:

At the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance that year, GM design chief Wayne Cherry invited Lutz to his suite and showed him photos of future cars: “It was a horror show.”

To Lutz’s surprise, Cherry said: “I don’t like any of these either. Most of them are really awful.”

The problem wasn’t that Cherry and his team couldn’t design. It was that GM’s vehicle line executives determined everything, including design, and their main goal wasn’t to create great cars but to meet all their cost targets and deadlines, in part to show that GM could develop cars just as fast as Toyota could.

It’s interesting to note that Ford hired J Mays from VW in 1997 with much less impact than GM keeping their chief designer and hiring a different manager.

Another notable quote for designers is this:

When he got into the GM brands, Lutz found silly pictures of “homes, furniture, watches, sunglasses, pens, pots and pans and (almost without fail) a golden retriever or two, all indicative of the mood, or soul, of the brand.”

“It was unmitigated hogwash.”


With this recession, the bean counters and best practices people are definitly in charge - how many out there agree?

Old Bob surely is a marketing god. Mostly so in self marketing.
One can learn a lot of him.
I’d like to hear some of the guys who worked for GM during the
last decade on the issue.


P.S.: I bought “Guts” and I’ll buy the new one, too. Hope the backside of
the envelope reads: “Need money for gas.”

Well I can tell you my dad has worked for GM for 30+ years now and he really likes Lutz. He works at the tech center in Warren Mi, so he has a first hand account of the upcoming design and engineering. Growing up our family used to complain about the boring design for GM cars, the endless plastic interiors w/ the same delphi radio head unit. I don’t remember him ever being as encouraged about GM (even when they were making boat loads of money in the early SUV days) as he is now from what he sees.

What’s really important for someone like Lutz is he can cut through the red tape. If design decisions have to go through a board room, you’re screwed. He takes a first hand account and makes a decision. I like this part of the article.

At Buick, GM’s experts had decided that to cater to the elderly, the cars would have no instrument panel but would instead be run by voice controls. Lutz drove a prototype with an engineer.
“At his urging, I asked for ‘more cold air.’ ‘No, no!’ he said. 'You have to scroll verbally! First say ‘climate control.’ When the car says ‘climate control,’ you say 'blower. When the car repeats 'blower,” you say ‘up one.’ Same with temperature.'"
The next morning, Lutz killed the system