Dec 07

Lutz: GM’s Focus on Electrification is Unstoppable

 
Who's in the driver's Seat?

Who's in the driver's seat?

[ad#post_ad]When former GM CEO Fritz Henderson was ousted last week it came as a surprise to many.  Ed Whitacre, the former CEO of AT&T who had himself been installed as GM’s Chairman of the Board was responsible for Henderson’s dismissal and put himself in charge.  While GM searches for a new external CEO, Whitacre has indicated he may stay in the role for as long as a year. GM executive pay caps installed as a result of government ownership would limit attracting new talent.

Whitacre also made some other rapid shifts in executive management including moving vice chairman Bob Lutz from marketing back to product development.  Lutz will remain vice chariman and along with the other vice chairman Tom Stephens will advise Whitacre.

Whitacre is known to be a stern taskmaster and is shaking up the company to remove some of its inbred mentality to avoid repeating some of the same mistakes of the past.

But Whitacre’s seizing of the wheel raises some questions from those of us interested in the Volt and GM’s shift to electrification.

At his recent keynote address Bob Lutz said “We have significantly expanded our commitment to electrically-driven vehicles at GM, and are now in the midst of an extraordinary transformation.”

“GM is moving from a company that, for 100 years, has been based on mechanically driven automobiles, to one that will eventually be focused on electrically driven vehicles,” he said. “This is a big deal.”

I subsequently had the chance to ask Mr. Lutz if Mr. Whitacre was also committed to electrification of the automobile.

“He will not try to run the programs,” Lutz told GM-Volt.com. “He (by his own admission) knows almost nothing about the business.”

“Nobody will diminish our focus on electrification,” declared Lutz.

This entry was posted on Monday, December 7th, 2009 at 7:43 am and is filed under Financial. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

COMMENTS: 92


  1. 1
    Genfixer

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (8:01 am)

    Thats a relief!


  2. 2
    Dan Petit

     

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (8:02 am)

    Clear technical thinking, planning, and execution are what matters most at all levels of involvement by everyone at GM. Where “sternness maintains focus” to block distractions or delays, or anything else that could compromise electrification, what remains is having exactly the right executive dynamics to be assured to be in place for GM and us future patrons. Some aggressiveness toward production expansion would be of interest here also.


  3. 3
    Neil

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (8:05 am)

    It may not be a good thing for Lutz to say the CEO knows nothing about the business. For him but also for customer confidence in GM. I’ve been in business long enough to know that if the leader of an organization doesn’t understand the business trouble may be looming ahead. What I would take as a positive sign is if the new CEO attracts talent, installs them in the right places, and lets them do their job.


  4. 4
    nuclearboy

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (8:08 am)

    “He knows almost nothing about the business.”

    What a great quote.


  5. 5
    Jim I

     

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (8:10 am)

    The proof is in the delivery……

    If the Volt is delivered for sale next November, and other models become available in late 2012 or 2013, then everyone will see the corporate commitment……

    It is kind of strange that there has been no word on why Fritz was sent packing.


  6. 6
    BillR

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (8:16 am)

    “He knows almost nothing about the business.”

    This sums it up pretty well.

    GM hasn’t got a problem with not recognizing they need new product. Their problem was that they recognized it too late.

    Now they are totally revamping their product line to offer a more diverse line up (small cars as well as trucks and SUV’s) and also making big strides in improving the qualilty of their vehicles.

    The Camaro, Equinox, Enclave, CTS, etc. were all put in motion long before Whitacre and the bailout.

    Yet they oust Wagoner and Henderson for doing a poor job.

    I’ve seen this many times in the past. Although nothing major has changed at GM (major programs will continue as usual, including the Volt), when GM emerges successful in a few years, the Government will take the credit due to the “managerial changes” that they implemented.

    Pure BS.


  7. 7
    Kevin R

     

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (8:17 am)

    My concern would be if the interim CEO micro manages this new direction that GM is taking; one of electrification. That is where all auto manufacturers need to go.


  8. 8
    joe

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (8:21 am)

    Electrically powered vehicles are the future. For many technically oriented people, that observation is quite obvious. The advantages are very significant!!


  9. 9
    Dave K.

     

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (8:21 am)

    First time I’ve seen Bob in a carotenoid joule color tie. Good news on the electrification. Wonder what month a test drive will be offered? July, with pre orders starting in September? The Volt will sell out before Christmas.

    =D~


  10. 10
    Nelson

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (8:23 am)

    (click to show comment)


  11. 11
    Dan Petit

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (8:28 am)

    If Bob says “its unstoppable”, it is unstoppable.

    (off to work). Have a great day everyone!


  12. 12
    JohnK

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (8:30 am)

    Guys, calm down. This is good news. Don’t take it out of context. We need to stay focused on our goal of getting the Volt and similar products into our hands and into the consciousness of the public. The engineering and thought that went into the Volt so far has to continue to grow into the business plan and into finances (so that production gets cheaper and that other products can be financed). And yes, gen 2 and following generations have to come to fruition.
    Volt was just on local news again – gathering of political figures at Hamtramck plant later today.


  13. 13
    joe

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (8:33 am)

    BillR: “He knows almost nothing about the business.”This sums it up pretty well.GM hasn’t got a problem with not recognizing they need new product.Their problem was that they recognized it too late.Now they are totally revamping their product line to offer a more diverse line up ( as well as and SUV’s) and also making big strides in improving the qualilty of their vehicles.The Camaro, , Enclave, CTS, etc. were all put in motion long before Whitacre and the bailout.Yet they oust Wagoner and Henderson for doing a poor job.I’ve seen this many times in the past.Although nothing major has changed at GM (major programs will continue as usual, including the Volt), when GM emerges successful in a few years, the Government will take the credit due to the “managerial changes” that they implemented.Pure BS.  

    *********************************************

    You got a very good point. But, while sitting behind a computer we don’t know all the details. although what your saying could be very true. I certainly would not like to lose my job when I’m doing a great job. Somehow though, I think GM was moving too slow in some areas.
    Sad, but politics usually comes into play for these situations.


  14. 14
    JeffB

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (8:39 am)

    “GM is moving from a company that, for 100 years, has been based on mechanically driven automobiles, to one that will eventually be focused on electrically driven vehicles,” he said. “This is a big deal.”
    ——————————————————————————-

    Well, it is a BIG statement if nothing else. Just how long will this move take? Sounds more like a “feel good” PR statement with only 1-2 vehicles in the pipeline to give it some truth.


  15. 15
    Rashiid Amul

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (8:43 am)

    I sincerely hope Mr. Lutz didn’t get himself in trouble with that comment.
    Even if he is speaking the truth, Whitacre may be offended.

    I do wish that Mr. Lutz would be a patriotic slant to the Volt when he speaks of electrification of the automobile. It might stir up some emotions and galvanize the population.

    As someone commented a couple of days ago, I think demand for this car will outstrip production.


  16. 16
    Van

     

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (8:46 am)

    CEO’s as a class are not the brightest bunch, they tend to be arrogant, power hungry blow-hards, who do not mind hurting those who serve them. It is obvious that the management teams at several other car companies are beating GM into the ground. Therefore, it is obvious that there are plenty of external people capable of turning GM around IMHO. There is a reason, if you flip though the pages of the lastest CU Buyers Guide annual book, that GM made cars tend to have black dots year after year in the reliability column. And there is a reason the rear seat foot room and head room are insufficient in many sedans (drive folks to SUV’s??) and the reasons dictate that GM management has failed the market.


  17. 17
    Randy

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (8:46 am)

    How about they try converting some of their Big Gas guzzlers. WE need a 30-35 MPG Pickup truck more than another Eco-Box compact car but hey its better than doing nothing.


  18. 18
    RB

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (8:54 am)

    I subsequently had the chance to ask Mr. Lutz if Mr. Whitacre was also committed to electrification of the automobile.

    “He will not try to run the programs,” Lutz told GM-Volt.com. “He knows almost nothing about the business.”

    “Nobody will diminish our focus on electrification,” declared Lutz.

    –> Amazing comments, and a notable caption under the picture.


  19. 19
    Guy Incognito

     

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (9:07 am)

    Quote Bob Lutz:
    “He [Whitacre] will not try to run the programs,” … “He knows almost nothing about the business.”

    Its good to know that the head man at the wheel at GM knows almost nothing about the business.


  20. 20
    Jason M. Hendler

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (9:18 am)

    Whitacre’s strength at this moment is that he IS an outsider without the Detroit automotive paradigms. He is creating a paradigm shift for GM, and Lutz can help facilitate that, given his ability to design / develop the vehicles that people want, while embracing the most viable forms of alternative fuel / propulsion vehicles.


  21. 21
    Geronimo

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (9:18 am)

    While GM searches for a new external CEO, Whitacre has indicated he may stay in the role for as long as a year.

    “He will not try to run the programs,” Lutz told GM-Volt.com. “He knows almost nothing about the business.”

    Seriously, I’d rather see Frank Weber as CEO of GM.

    I read this book comparing the U.S. and Japanese approaches to the auto business, about 20 years ago:
    http://www.amazon.com/Reckoning-David-Halberstam/dp/0688048382 918462e89da0430dd1ff2110.L._SL500_AA240_.jpg

    Although it specifically compares Ford to Nissan, it is a wide ranging, deeply insightful book. It pretty much predicted where Detroit was heading. I remember that it showed the US approach to business, where a CEO is taught in business school that running a potato chip business is essentially the same as running a computer chip business, leads to all kinds of boneheaded decisions. In Japan, car companies are run by car guys, who work their way up in the business. In the US, car companies are run by finance guys, that try to maximize profits that quarter, that year.
    Guess who won.

    The former CEO of AT&T running GM does not sound like a good idea to me.
    Oh gee, he is “a stern taskmaster and is shaking up the company”.
    Outstanding.


  22. 22
    kdawg

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (9:21 am)

    Apparantly Ford is also unstoppable. I’m working on a project now that will be used for the electric Focus. I hear that Ford is going to electrify the European version of the Focus vs. the US one. Good to know that they are still serious and progressing.


  23. 23
    Guy Incognito

     

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (9:26 am)

    If GM’s focus is indeed on electrification, when will we see this mentioned in the popular advertising?


  24. 24
    Jackson

     

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (9:29 am)

    Perhaps even now Bob is getting some feedback from Ed over that “knows nothing about the business” comment.

    We’ve already seen some evidence that Bob Lutz may not be unstoppable; let’s hope we don’t see more. If he’s right about Ed, what will happen to electrification once the vision is removed?

    Watch that mouth, Bob; there’s more at stake than your career.


  25. 25
    Jack

     

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (9:43 am)

    Oh come on. This is the same hype we heard prior to the launch of the EV1 which was supposed to lead GM into the 21st century with new products and technologies. Let’s see what happens when the price of oil starts to fall just prior to the PHEV and EV introductions, next year. The rhetoric and situations are similar to the mid-1980s and late-1990s. I hope the technology can sustain itself this time.


  26. 26
    dagwood55

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (9:47 am)

    Lutz: “He (Whitacre) knows almost nothing about the business.”

    Good. People who have no ego don’t get to be CEO, as Whitacre was at AT&T. I can’t imagine this won’t sting Whitacre considerably.

    This should spell the end of Lutz. Without him, GM can focus on products that might make money.


  27. 27
    zipdrive

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (9:48 am)

    Now this is what America is all about! Ingenuity.

    We are not followers. We are the leaders!


  28. 28
    Rashiid Amul

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (9:49 am)

    Jack: Oh come on.This is the same hype we heard prior to the launch of the EV1 which was supposed to lead GM into the 21st century with new products and technologies.Let’s see what happens when the price of oil starts to fall just prior to the PHEV and EV introductions, next year.The rhetoric and situations are similar to the mid-1980s and late-1990s.I hope the technology can sustain itself this time.  

    It will sustain itself when the price dramatically drops and the technology is across all vehicle lines.
    At that point, it won’t matter what the price of oil is.


  29. 29
    el cid

     

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (9:53 am)

    To Gironimo @ 21 above:

    That looks like a good book. Also see this article, which explains at least some of what happened to our auto industry:

    http://www.uwsa.com/issues/trade/japanyes.html


  30. 30
    Van

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (10:04 am)

    Guy Incognito: If GM’s focus is indeed on electrification, when will we see this mentioned in the popular advertising?  

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but you need to advertise the vehicles you have in the showroom, not that you will have cars like others have in their showrooms now. Tends to drive folks out of your showrooms and into the showrooms of Toyota and Ford.


  31. 31
    CDAVIS

     

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (10:09 am)

    ______________________________________________________
    Ed Whitcare himself said:
    “I don’t know anything about cars…A business is a business, and I think I can learn about cars. I’m not that old, and I think the business principles are the same.”

    Quote Source / Bloomerg:
    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=a.quj9vK5PhI

    Time will tell if it that is a good or bad thing…
    ______________________________________________________


  32. 32
    Dr. Ibringdoh

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (10:12 am)

    So, if Mr. Whitacre “knows almost nothing about the business,” why has he installed himself as CEO? How can one run a company that one knows “almost nothing about”?

    Who will be running GM, and making the crucial decisions relative to electric (and conventional) automobiles?

    Respectfully,

    Dr. Ibringdoh


  33. 33
    Neil

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (10:19 am)

    As a further thought, we’ve seen how AT&T (while a big company) is not exactly known for innovation. If Verizon had taken the iPhone when first offered AT&T would be nothing. I’m not sure if we want to see AT&T’s type of “success” applied to GM.


  34. 34
    Herm

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (10:22 am)

    There is over 1.5 centuries of experience sitting in that Cruze :)


  35. 35
    CorvetteGuy

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (10:24 am)

    nuclearboy: “He knows almost nothing about the business.”What a great quote.  

    Holy Crap!
    We’ve seen what happens when ‘car people’ run GM.
    Now it’s being run by a guy who knows a lot about cellphones.
    I can’t wait for next month’s NGMCO IPO.
    Can you say “financial train wreck”?


  36. 36
    Herm

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (10:28 am)

    Geronimo: The former CEO of AT&T running GM does not sound like a good idea to me.
    Oh gee, he is “a stern taskmaster and is shaking up the company”.
    Outstanding.  

    He can delegate the car stuff.. his job is the fundamentals of any business, maximize returns to the investor. I am sure he has all kinds of tools at his disposal to do this.

    1. retain customers, get new ones
    2. assign responsibilities among the underlings
    3. break up the good old boy GM network and hire/fire the proper people.


  37. 37
    Jean-Charles Jacquemin

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (10:54 am)

    Jim I: The proof is in the delivery……If the Volt is delivered for sale next November, and other models become available in late 2012 or 2013, then everyone will see the corporate commitment……It is kind of strange that there has been no word on why Fritz was sent packing.  

    Hi Jim have you had a look on jalopnik.com ? look here :
    http://jalopnik.com/5416549/daughter-of-resigned-gm-ceo-attacks-new-gm-ceo-on-facebook
    Well, perhaps this is a clue,

    Ragards,

    JC

    NPNS


  38. 38
    Herm

     

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (10:56 am)

    Jim I: It is kind of strange that there has been no word on why Fritz was sent packing. 

    There must be consequences for failure at the level of management.


  39. 39
    CDAVIS

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (11:25 am)

    ______________________________________________________
    Video of Chevy Volt Test Drive (transition to gas engine):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5p5ud1SZkqw

    Found the video here:
    http://www.eanet.com/kodama/ev-chronicles/other/volt/impressions.htm
    ______________________________________________________


  40. 40
    Loboc

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (11:27 am)

    I don’t see a downside here.

    Whitacre admitted he knows nothing about the car business which means that Lutz is only saying what his boss already stated. It’s not a dis.

    Having a CEO that knows manufacturing (like from AT&T for example) and global marketing (like from AT&T for example) is a good thing. Breaking up the old guard that has failed for 30 years is a good thing.

    I hope Whitacre hires a global CEO.


  41. 41
    Geronimo

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (11:35 am)

    Herm:
    He can delegate the car stuff.. his job is the fundamentals of any business, maximize returns to the investor.I am sure he has all kinds of tools at his disposal to do this.1. retain customers, get new ones
    2. assign responsibilities among the underlings
    3. break up the good old boy GM network and hire/fire the proper people.  

    Suuuuure, business is business. Fundamentals. Maximize profits.
    A potato chip is just like a computer chip.
    A Pepsi guy could run Apple Computer just fine.
    No need to actually know anything about your products – just delegate, run the numbers, shake things up.
    Get the right people advising you. No problem.

    Did I mention how things turned out for American auto makers after 1986 ?

    Oh wait, it’s not a “level playing field”.
    “We did nothing wrong”.
    “Couldn’t have seen that coming.”

    At what point do American business schools admit they were wrong ? Is “economics” really an ideology ?


  42. 42
    JohnK

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (11:35 am)

    WSJ is reporting on the politicians that are gathered at the Hamtramck plant (near downtown Detroit), where the Volt will be made. “GM to invest another $336 Million in Michigan for Volt Plant”: http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20091207-707736.html


  43. 43
    Blind Guy

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (11:43 am)

    In my humble opinion, GM does not have the luxury of time so I think they need too:
    1. Continue with their bread & butter Products, Pushing quality, mpg and price.
    2. Ramp up erev asap with High quality.
    3. Reach highest possible sales volume with erev before tax credit expires so production cost is lower by then and people will still be able to afford the erev.
    4. As soon as battery capacity permits, phase to bev and apply to other models.
    5. When possible, Move as many parts production under GM with American workers so you can build them for less and have them when you need them.
    6. GOOD LUCK


  44. 44
    Dave K.

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (11:44 am)

    CDAVIS: A business is a business

    Thank you CDAVIS. I am a boss who knows little specifics about the product being produced. I believe in fair treatment of my employees and leading by example. My crew was able to nearly double production and then follow it up with another 20%. I talk directly with the company president about my crew. I personally ask for wage increases for them. The president reviewed the production numbers and granted raises for all including a hefty one for myself.

    What counts is what’s beating inside a person’s chest. Having the heart for the job and the will to move forward. Both Bob Lutz and Mr. Whitacre have a deep understanding of this reality. This comes from enduring many a war and plain long term experience.

    God bless both these men and best wishes for the team in 2010.

    =D~


  45. 45
    Unni

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (11:54 am)

    “He will not try to run the programs,” Lutz told GM-Volt.com. “He (by his own admission) knows almost nothing about the business.”

    I think he ment opposite ” Whitacre knows only about business but not technology or programs.But he knows how to become a winner. He uses all the weapons and volt/electrification is one of them. He focuses on Business where Bob on cars and technology.

    Now Bob can’t confess like they missed the hybrid wave or product failure .


  46. 46
    Streetlight

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (11:55 am)

    Whether he realizes it or not Whitacre is fully accountable for throwing the pilot out of the plane. Surely he never dreamed he’d faced the negative response by the financial community and Congress caused by his palace coup. At bottom, FH did absolutely nothing wrong. His leadership was just fine. The notion of ‘changing GM’s outdated culture’ is maybe not all but at least partly bulljoy. Don’t give me that stuff GM can’t find a high grade CEO because of bailout salary caps. There is hardly any more sought executive position at any salary. Be that as it may what’s done is done. Now Whitacre for better or for worse has the reins. As we wish him the very best; lest he be reminded GM’s unions while standing equal to management are also substantial owners.


  47. 47
    MuddyRoverRob

     

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (12:01 pm)

    CDAVIS: ______________________________________________________Video of Test Drive (transition to gas ):http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5p5ud1SZkqwFound the video here:http://www.eanet.com/kodama/ev-chronicles/other/volt/impressions.htm______________________________________________________  (Quote)

    Thanks for that link!

    The person in the backseat not realizing the engine started is a pretty good indicator of where development is at this point!

    Well done team!


  48. 48
    DonC

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (12:01 pm)

    BillR: I’ve seen this many times in the past. Although nothing major has changed at GM (major programs will continue as usual, including the Volt), when GM emerges successful in a few years, the Government will take the credit due to the “managerial changes” that they implemented.

    Yes management changes are usually overrated. We want to think getting “the right guy” is a magic bullet but rarely is this the case. You are exactly right that what happens is that business is down, so someone new is hired, business naturally reverts back to trend line, and new management is considered brilliant. Works in reverse as well — the guy is hired away from a business that was above trend line, business goes back to trend when he leaves, and the conclusion was that he was the key to success. In business it’s far better to be lucky than good.

    On the other hand, everyone who has looked at the issue in any depth has concluded that GM was run poorly and that the culture was terrible. Case in point would be that deadlines became more important than car quality. A related point would be that while Detroit embraced great techniques like the andon chord on the factory floor, they never applied the concept behind it to the rest of their business. Among other things, this meant that once decisions were made engineers could not, without risking their jobs, point out flaws in those decisions. If you doubt this, Mark Reuss, the new president of GM North America, has essentially said as much.

    Would Firtz Henderson have changed this? Hard to say. Doubtless he wanted to and knew he had to, but it’s very difficult for an internal management group to change the culture. Usually you need people from the outside to change the culture.


  49. 49
    DonC

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (12:09 pm)

    Dan Petit: If Bob says “its unstoppable”, it is unstoppable.

    You get a +1 for keeping the faith.


  50. 50
    Rashiid Amul

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (12:22 pm)

    Dave K.:
    Thank you CDAVIS. I am a boss who knows little specifics about the product being produced.I believe in fair treatment of my employees and leading by example. My crew was able to nearly double production and then follow it up with another 20%. I talk directly with the company president about my crew. I personally ask for wage increases for them. The president reviewed the production numbers and granted raises for all including a hefty one for myself.What counts is what’s beating inside a person’s chest. Having the heart for the job and the will to move forward.

    Nicely said.
    I work for a company that made records profits this year. Yet, they are laying people off and giving the rest the lowest bonus ever. They make some people work 12 hour days, 6 days a week and they are told they should be happy about that. No one gets overtime pay here. I am a boss also. I go to bat for my people. But upper management doesn’t care. Where they used to see employees as an asset, we are now liabilities. This all started when they brought in new people to run the company. No raises, very poor bonuses, no upward mobility, and record profits. Screw the loyal employees, but give big raises to upper management. Perfect. Just perfect. I’m glad you treat your people with respect. You will get better productivity from them.


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    Noel Park

     

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (12:23 pm)

    Dan Petit: Some aggressiveness toward production expansion would be of interest here also.

    Amen.

    BTW, you mentioned the idea of advertising on NPR the other day. Here in LA there has been a short “underwriting” promo about the Volt on KPCC at the beginning of the 7:00 AM hour each day recently, including this AM. I think of you every time I hear it. I agree with you that it is a smart idea. And how much could it cost?


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    Noel Park

     

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (12:25 pm)

    nuclearboy: “He knows almost nothing about the business.”

    Bob Lutz. LOL.


  53. 53
    alex_md

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (12:29 pm)

    joe: Electrically powered vehicles are the future. For many technically oriented people, that observation is quite obvious. The advantages are very significant!!  (Quote)

    Yes, it is clear. It is also painfully clear that now is not the time yet. The batteries and the infrastructure are still in their infancy. Like with everything we own that is electric the battery is the weakest link. They suck in my laptop, they suck in my droid phone, they suck (no pan intended) in my vaccum cleaner. The Li is not the answer, we need a new chemistry with the energy density increased by factor 10.
    PS. Sure you can make in work even now, the practicality and cost is a big “if”. Just imagine how many difficult enigeneering has been done to afford 30-40 mile EV range in the volt. It is probably more difficult then to build a coal powered plane


  54. 54
    Rashiid Amul

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (12:42 pm)

    alex_md:
    Yes, it is clear. It is also painfully clear that now is not the time yet. The batteries and the infrastructure are still in their infancy. Like with everything we own that is electric the battery is the weakest link. They suck in my laptop, they suck in my droid phone, they suck (no pan intended) in my vaccum cleaner. The Li is not the answer, we need a new chemistry with the energy density increased by factor 10.
    PS. Sure you can make in work even now, the practicality and cost is a big “if”. Just imagine how many difficult enigeneering has been done to afford 30-40 mile EV range in the volt. It is probably more difficult then to build a coal powered plane  

    I agree that it is in its infancy. But I think the real reason why it is not the time yet is the cost. It is so expensive. I don’t know one person who would not buy an EREV if they cost under $20K.


  55. 55
    alex_md

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (12:44 pm)

    How many people will not charge their volts?

    I was just thinking what will happen to the overall fuel economy is some people don’t charge their volt every night. Some of them will forget, some will not care, since it feels almost the same in CS mode according to the reports. By now we know that even with the superior aerodynamics the volt drivetrain is less efficient in the CS mode then current hybrids and far less efficient then modern diesels.
    Would be interesting to hand out 100 volt to a group of “regular” people, not the EV enthusiasts and have the over 100 people drive Ford Fiesta Diesel and then after 6 months compare the fuel used. I am not convinced that the Volt fleet will come out on top, just because people dont pay attention to think as long as they keep working. I am sure there will be people who will find excuses to not charge their volt weeks at a time (“my power cord broke, did not have to replace it” etc)


  56. 56
    alex_md

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (12:50 pm)

    Rashiid Amul: I agree that it is in its infancy. But I think the real reason why it is not the time yet is the cost. It is so expensive. I don’t know one person who would not buy an EREV if they cost under $20K.  (Quote)

    For under 20K I will buy just about anything new, as long as it works. In my woods here temperatures routinely stay at -20-30 weeks at a time, so by the time the battery is conditioned I am already at work :) , unless it uses grid power for warming it up, in that case it may have a significant impact on overall power consumption.


  57. 57
    Texas

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (12:56 pm)

    I think the concept of electrification takes time to sink in for many people. After they think about it, debate about it, fight about it things get more clear.

    Eventually you get to that point where you say, “Oh! That’s where things have to go. It’s so obvious now.”

    Let’s hope the new brass gets it like Mr. Lutz does. Again, it will take time so hopefully no big decisions are made by people that didn’t put the time in to understand this once-in-a-Century transportation transition.

    Dear GM, When in doubt, just make sure the Volt is done right and comes out on time. Keep the R&D fully funded for the electrification projects (at the very least, Voltec Gen II) and if you must, kill any half-assed weak hybrid projects.

    Good luck! We are all counting on you to keep the torch lit and moving toward the finish line.


  58. 58
    coffeetime

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (12:59 pm)

    nuclearboy: “He knows almost nothing about the business.”What a great quote.  

    You could probably say that for Ford’s Alan Mulally. Lots of people in the music and cell phone businesses probably said that about Steve Jobs. It’s not always bad to have a capable outsider look at the challenge from a different vantage point.


  59. 59
    LRGVProVolt

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (1:01 pm)

    #32

    Dr. Ibringdoh: Who will be running GM, and making the crucial decisions relative to electric (and conventional) automobiles?

    Why do you think he keep two advisers instead of sending them out to pasture?

    Happy trails to you ’til we meet again.


  60. 60
    LauraM

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (1:09 pm)

    Nelson: To the members of the OPEC Nations, thems fighten words. Get ready to be bought out or sabotaged. Maybe they’ll try to infiltrate the work force and throw a monkey wrench during production manufacturing. I know many ex-line workers would be will to accept cash from an OPEC party to go back to work for GM and put a kibosh on the Volt. Only time will tell. I Hope GM has CIA or FBI employee screening methods

    Actually, Saudi Arabia has already asked to be compensated for their “losses.” Just when I thought I’d heard everything….

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/14/business/energy-environment/14oil.html


  61. 61
    LauraM

     

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (1:31 pm)

    coffeetime: You could probably say that for Ford’s Alan Mulally. Lots of people in the music and cell phone businesses probably said that about Steve Jobs. It’s not always bad to have a capable outsider look at the challenge from a different vantage point.

    Alan Mulally was an engineer from Boeing. He had heavy manufacturing experience. He’d studied Toyota’s lean manufacturing techniques in Japan to apply it at Boeing. And he already had experience successfully restructuring a company.

    There is a huge difference between him and, say Zarella, the Bauch and Lomb executive who ran GM and did a really bad job. Remember the Pontaic Aztec? That was his idea.

    There was an article in the Detroit news about how difficult it will be for GM to find someone like Mulally. There aren’t too many available. And, how, even if they find someone, it will be almost impossible to get them to come. It’s not like Mulally leapt at the opportunity.

    http://www.detnews.com/article/20091206/AUTO01/912060312/1148/Experts-say-GM-needs-another-Mulally/Mulally-easily-met-Ford-s-list-of-qualifications

    http://www.detnews.com/article/20091206/AUTO01/912060307/1148/Experts-say-GM-needs-another-Mulally


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    LazP

     

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (1:33 pm)

    Do not underestimate Mr. Whitacre. He took a so so SBC (Baby Bell) and practically reconstituted the Old AT&T and even got the name of the old AT&T back. The current AT&T consist of most of the Baby Bells including AT&T wireless, Southern Bell, Southwest Bell, Ameritech
    Singular Wireless and AT&T with the notable exception of Verizon and a few others. I any one worries about Mr.Lutz’ statement about Whitacre. Whitacre himself stated that he knows nothing about the Auto business. This is one helluva agressive CEO.


  63. 63
    Neil

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (1:33 pm)

    coffeetime:
    You could probably say that for Ford’s Alan Mulally.Lots of people in the music and cell phone businesses probably said that about Steve Jobs.It’s not always bad to have a capable outsider look at the challenge from a different vantage point.  

    From all that I’ve read of Jobs he studied the industry and situation thoroughly before going into it. I would imagine that was true for other successful CEOs crossing industries. If this new CEO wants to be successful here he will want to study the industry thoroughly. If he stays not knowing anything then I’ll really be concerned about the future direction of GM.


  64. 64
    CaptJackSparrow

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (1:38 pm)

    LauraM: Actually, Saudi Arabia has already asked to be compensated for their “losses.” Just when I thought I’d heard everything….

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/14/business/energy-environment/14oil.html

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!!!

    That’s like the crack dealers saying they will need financial compensation because the ATF/FBI/NARC Agency will be cracking down on their trafficing!


  65. 65
    nasaman

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (2:03 pm)

    I attended a talk by NASA Administrator James Beggs during the years of the earliest Shuttle launches, 1981-85. Beggs made a strong argument that anyone in a management position should always spend most of his/her time when making a decision digging for all the FACTS ….and that the decision should then “make itself”. IOW, he said, “when all of the technical factors or business factors or accounting factors are known, even a high school student should be able to make the right decision”. I’ve always adhered closely to this advice and it’s rewarded me generously throughout my career.

    So I’m always concerned when I hear anyone, including Ed Whitacre, emphasize “hurrying”. NASA Administrator Dan Goldin’s “faster, better, cheaper” edict threatened and almost ruined our nation’s space program. However, there’s nothing wrong with doing things faster (and cheaper) as long as everyone involved is willing to “burn the midnight oil” to uncover & stay in touch with all the facts to make things happen “faster” without sacrificing product quality or cost!

    Important decisions made in haste by “shooting from the hip (or the lip)” at ANY level of management within GM will threaten its ultimate demise!


  66. 66
    SteveK9

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (2:15 pm)

    Herm:
    There must be consequences for failure at the level of management.  

    Not if you’re a banker.


  67. 67
    CorvetteGuy

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (2:20 pm)

    alex_md: How many people will not charge their volts?

    I think very few.

    I bought the iPhone on day one. Stood in line for hours to get it. That original model was terrible on battery life, so I got one of those alarm clock – charging stands for it and put it on my nightstand.

    The last thing I do every night is dock it in the cradle so I am fully charged by morning. I’m sure the lifestyle change after getting the VOLT will be the same.

    My wife will come home from work, (it’ll be for her mostly anyway), and then plug it in the socket right outside our garage. (We’ll have that curcuit upgraded for the higher output.)

    Simple. No problem.


  68. 68
    coffeetime

     

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (2:39 pm)

    CorvetteGuy:
    I think very few.I bought the iPhone on day one. Stood in line for hours to get it. That original model was terrible on battery life, so I got one of those alarm clock – charging stands for it and put it on my nightstand.The last thing I do every night is dock it in the cradle so I am fully charged by morning. I’m sure the lifestyle change after getting the VOLT will be the same.My wife will come home from work, (it’ll be for her mostly anyway), and then plug it in the socket right outside our garage. (We’ll have that curcuit upgraded for the higher output.)Simple. No problem.  

    Funny, but I too bought my iPhone on Day One, and I’ve had no problems at all with the battery. Of course, I manually check for email, turn off WiFi if I’m not within range, and sparingly use the camera (which is a power hog). Otherwise, I charge it every other day.


  69. 69
    DaveP

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (2:47 pm)

    Somebody mentioned Steve Jobs above, and you have to remember the guy is a brilliant double edged maniacal sword. For all his huge successes, he’s got an equally long tail of huge failures. Apple /// ? Nearly sank the company. NeXT? Epic fail. (Lisa was a failure, too, although I have one and I thought it was ahead of its time ;) True the i-stuff was hugely successful in his second incarnation at Apple, but before that his Mac-opia nearly sank the company when he destroyed the Apple market right after the “Apple II forever!” campaign (I’m still mad at him for that one) and then the company threw him out.

    He’s kind of the equivalent of a hail Mary pass. You really don’t want someone like him leading your company unless you think there’s 30 seconds left in the 4th, you’re at 3rd & down with like 70 yards to go. In that case, you do want him because, frankly, he’s probably the best hail Mary passer there is or has ever been. :)


  70. 70
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    Dec 7th, 2009 (2:56 pm)

    A little off topic, but related to the management shakeup, I am going to claim victory on my guess that the Saab deal was what broke the camel’s back for Henderson. :) There were NO announcements from GM last week about the future of Saab, and several announcements from companies (Spyker, the Chinese) who are trying to buy it.

    I theorized the only thing that Henderson could really be held responsible for in his short tenure was the asset sales; Saturn, Hummer, Saab, and Opel. He failed to sell 2, (Saturn, Saab) and the board overturned his sale of Opel (they didn’t want him to sell it). So, his track record was not making the board happy in that area. Also they fired him exactly one week after GM had announced the failure of the Saab sale to Koenigsegg when they said they would review and announce the future of Saab in one week.

    They didn’t. Ergo I’m right! ha ha ha. And I predict that the sun will not explode tomorrow because it is actually made of a smooth, rich cheddar. You’ll see I’m right on that, too. ;)


  71. 71
    LauraM

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (3:12 pm)

    DaveP: He’s kind of the equivalent of a hail Mary pass. You really don’t want someone like him leading your company unless you think there’s 30 seconds left in the 4th, you’re at 3rd & down with like 70 yards to go. In that case, you do want him because, frankly, he’s probably the best hail Mary passer there is or has ever been.

    Steve Jobs is a visionary. Sometimes that works out. Sometimes it doesn’t. But when it does work out, it pays off big time.

    GM doesn’t need new vision, IMHO. They have the Volt for that. What they need is someone capable of follow through. Someone who can change the culture and streamline production. And someone who can deal with the UAW.


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    CaptJackSparrow

     

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (3:23 pm)

    @coffeetime & @CorvetteGuy

    Being the family fat nerd, everyone complained about the first gen iPhone batt times. I told them the best thing to do is shut off WiFi and Blutoothe whne you’re not using them. If not, WiFi will keep polloing for avail SSID’s/Networks and Blutoothe will keep “searching for devices…”.
    If you have ever left a Bluetooth enabled phone/device on and you’re stuck on the freeway, you’ll notice your bluetooth enabled device will keep finding sh|t.
    And “Shut off” apps that are running. They take up CPU time even idle.


  73. 73
    Larry

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (3:44 pm)

    DaveP: For all his huge successes, he’s got an equally long tail of huge failures. Apple /// ? Nearly sank the company. NeXT? Epic fail. (Lisa was a failure, too, although I have one and I thought it was ahead of its time

    The Lisa was a brilliant innovation but was too expensive, so they re-packaged everything that was good about the Lisa and called the the “McIntosh” – ever heard of that? Without the Mac Apple would no longer exist.

    A CEO who “knows nothing about the company”, but who is good at business, can be successful in the short term by making best use of available assets. The long term will be won by the CEO with the best vision of what transportation will be and a thorough understanding of exactly how the business works.

    The CEOs of a potato chip company and a silicon chip company can trade jobs and continue producing the same old products successfully, maybe even find a way to improve efficiencies using an ‘outsider perspective’, but they won’t recognize a ‘better chip’ when it comes along and are more likely to stay with the same old product.


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    Guy Incognito

     

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (6:24 pm)

    Van: “Not to put too fine a point on it, but you need to advertise the vehicles you have in the showroom, not that you will have cars like others have in their showrooms now.Tends to drive folks out of your showrooms and into the showrooms of Toyota and Ford.”  

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but GM can both advertise for those vehicles that are currently available in the showroom, as well as advertising the fact that GM’s focus is on future electrification of their vehicles.

    The claim that GM has shifted its advertising focus from vehicles that are now available in the showrooms to the Volt is absolute baloney.

    In fact, the GM advertising I’m seeing the most of is for the Camaro…go figure.


  75. 75
    RB

     

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (7:01 pm)

    37 Jean-Charles Jacquemin:
    Hi Jim have you had a look on jalopnik.com ? look here :
    http://jalopnik.com/5416549/daughter-of-resigned-gm-ceo-attacks-new-gm-ceo-on-facebook
    Well, perhaps this is a clue,Ragards,JC
    NPNS  

    JC
    Wow! Thank you.


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    Dave K.

     

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (7:35 pm)

    CDAVIS: Video of Chevy Volt Test Drive (transition to gas engine):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5p5ud1SZkqw

    This test drive is unbelievably quiet. Would have been fun to see the driver cue up some tunes on the sound system. Enya “China Roses”?

    http://music.barnesandnoble.com/search/mediaplayer.asp?ean=093624683520&track=7&disc=1

    =D~


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    The Grump

     

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (9:20 pm)

    Well, lets see how well AT+T is doing.

    Verizon has them eating crow over their 3G coverage map this year. Check out the commercials Verizon has been running against AT+T:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JgrBtn8XdU&feature=channel for the “Island of Misfit Toys” commercial, and:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMAjLdpun20&feature=channel for the “Christmas Elves” commercial.

    They’ll make you smile – and have already made AT+T launch a sour grapes lawsuit against Verizon. AT+T isn’t suing about the 3G coverage maps (which they admit are correct). They are suing because they believe their customers are so stupid, the customers cannot tell a 3G coverage map from a cellular coverage map. Now, this guy’s running GM. Merry Christmas, everyone.
    ————————————————————-
    You’re a mean one, Mr. Whitacre.
    You really are a heel.
    You’re as cuddly as a cactus,
    You’re as charming as an eel.
    Mr. Whitacre.

    You’re a bad banana, With a greasy black peel.

    You’re a monster, Mr. Whitacre.
    Your heart’s an empty hole.
    Your brain is full of spiders,
    You’ve got garlic in your soul.
    Mr. Whitacre.

    I wouldn’t touch you with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole.


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    jeffhre

     

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (9:56 pm)

    Dave K.: My crew was able to nearly double production and then follow it up with another 20%. I talk directly with the company president about my crew.

    What if a boss doubled production and raised it by another 20%, and the rest of the company took that inventory, and proceeded to lose $4000 on every unit sold…CEO’s must operate at a different level of decisionmaking.


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    Dec 7th, 2009 (10:12 pm)

    LauraM: GM doesn’t need new vision, IMHO. They have the Volt for that. What they need is someone capable of follow through

    In six months the competitive landscape will once again change and any companies without vision will be at a disadvantage…again.

    Fritz Henderson may not have been moving fast enough for Whitacre, but his ability to work with the UAW is first tier – oh well.


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    Dave K.

     

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (10:48 pm)

    jeffhre: What if

    Jeffhre.. I think you missed my point. Getting the job done isn’t as much about knowing the size of every fastener used on a product. It’s about determination and constant improvement at each area of the production line. The task then becomes a matter of recycling waste and watching overhead.

    The decision making aspect is done more by the board members. And less by a CEO. Since the Volt is now 70% production complete. These initial production decisions involve making sure the line can be upgraded for expansion. And to what degree to include input from key production players before cementing the working plan. It’s very important to ‘hear out’ the floor leaders before anchoring assembly bolts. A prime example is line simplification for easy maintenance and quick turn around times.

    On your question of “lose $4000 on every unit sold”. The team must get behind an idea. In this case the electric Volt car. Before considering, “how much can I make on it?”.

    There is a period of adjustment regarding the flow of materials and ultimate flow of the finished product. GM plans to start with a relatively low production lot of 8000 units. This will expose areas of needed improvement in the material flow aspect of getting the job done. A “comfort zone” will then be identified and maintained. This may be 800 to 1000 units per month in the short term. Each area of production must then be audited for efficiency and quality. Then comes the next big decision. Supply, demand, and price.

    Maintaining a low production rate will result in a higher asking price per unit. But, this will also allow competition to cut into the long term market share. And will stall the evolution of Mr Goodwrench training programs and related support systems. These being parts departments, accessories, and customer support.

    My guess is that GM will not over weigh initial profit per unit concerns. GM will find the production number that most benefits the manufacturing team long term. This will probably be (as GM has already mentioned as being a possibility) 4000 to 5000 units per month.

    The name GMC represents truck manufacturing. The real fun, and profit, will start when Voltec goes (solar) four wheeling. And when electric Cadillacs are cruising domestic and foreign boulevards.

    =D~


  81. 81
    jbfalaska

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (10:50 pm)

    Well, watching Whitacre pitch in commercials (to the young no less) reminded me of the same old stodgy, straight from the board room perspective linked to the old GM. Pray GM gets an outsider very fast just as Ford did, and pray the CEO has a much better understanding of image and selling than Whitacre.

    LEAVE THE VOLT ALONE Dear Whitacre. Everything is riding on it, not just the butts of those soon to buy.


  82. 82
    jbfalaska

     

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (10:51 pm)

    The picture above is reminiscent of Oldsmobile, not the younger, hipper and technology buyers for the Volt.


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    Don J

     

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (11:39 pm)

    The electrification of the automobile is inevitable. Oil is a limited resource, pretty much all of the cheap oil has been found (the newer discoveries tend to be expensive to extract), and demand for oil is continually increasing due to population growth and emerging economies demanding more oil.

    But one worry is that GM may be a little ahead of the curve on this. Oil may continue to be cheap for another 5 to 10 years. But in 20 years, people are going to be demanding EVs because gasoline will be so damn expensive.


  84. 84
    Don J

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    Dec 7th, 2009 (11:48 pm)

    Jack: Oh come on.This is the same hype we heard prior to the launch of the EV1 which was supposed to lead GM into the 21st century with new products and technologies.Let’s see what happens when the price of oil starts to fall just prior to the PHEV and EV introductions, next year.The rhetoric and situations are similar to the mid-1980s and late-1990s.I hope the technology can sustain itself this time.  

    This is DEAD WRONG. The EV1 was introduced because the California Air Resource Board mandated some zero emission vehicles . . . it was not introduced for energy efficiency. Gas was cheap back then. Today gas is much more expensive . . . and the price will continue to go up. And much better (lithium) batteries are available today. Although the Volt is not yet fully economically competitive to a standard gas car, it is getting very close. (It might actually be cost effective if gas prices were to increase dramatically . . . which could happen.)

    Between increased oil prices and lower prices for batteries and EV drivetrains, the EVs will soon be cost effective. I just hope GM is not too far ahead.


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    Jess

     

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    Dec 9th, 2009 (6:15 pm)

    [...] Dennis fro&#109 G&#77-Volt.com &#115ought out for a further comme&#110t from Lutz o&#110 the topic. &#73&#110 re&#115po&#110&#115e [...]


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    Dave K.

     

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    Dec 9th, 2009 (8:11 pm)

    Volt%20LA%20open%20door.jpg

    LA Auto Show 2009

    =D~


  87. 87
    Dave K.

     

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    Dec 9th, 2009 (8:21 pm)

    Converj%20LA2009.jpg

    Electric Cadillac Converj LA Auto Show 2009


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    Dave K.

     

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    Dec 9th, 2009 (8:28 pm)

    Volt%20LA%202009%20crowd.jpg

    Volt display LA Auto Show 2009


  89. 89
    Dave K.

     

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    Dec 9th, 2009 (8:39 pm)

    Converj%20LA%202009%20side.jpg

    Converj display


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    Dave K.

     

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    Dec 9th, 2009 (8:50 pm)

    Volt%20LA%20on%20display.jpg

    Volt display


  91. 91
    ejj

    +1

     

    ejj
     Says

     

    Dec 10th, 2009 (5:10 pm)

    “Whitacre is known to be a stern taskmaster and is shaking up the company to remove some of its inbred mentality to avoid repeating some of the same mistakes of the past.” PLEASE – Let’s remove ALL of the inbred mentality and avoid repeating ALL the mistakes of the past.


  92. 92
    Marleen Wergin

     

    Marleen Wergin
     Says

     

    Dec 21st, 2009 (9:15 am)

    cool blog i am driving a car powered on water fuel as energy source its good against global warming and it saves me loads of money too you check it out here: LINK