[ad#post_ad]Bob Lutz, former vice chairman of General Motors retired on May 1st. I had the pleasure of a one hour exit interview with Mr. Lutz before he left the company. Much of what he’s said has appeared in several hopefully interesting articles over the last few weeks. Yesterday GM threw a going away party for the 47 year auto veteran. “If I see things going wrong, there will be the ghost of Bob Lutz,” he said told party-goers, “and it ain’t going to be friendly.”
Below are his final unpublished comments to me. Mr. Lutz, though not working at GM anymore will continue to participate in the auto industry. For now he is writing a book about GM, its downfall, his time there, and includes a chapter about the Volt. He plans to complete it before the end of the year. He will also be invited to and will appear at the Volt launch ceremony, the car he made possible.
For those that are really interested, I have included the raw 60 minute total audio conversation between us at the end of the post.
Do you think the consumers will get the benefit of an extended range electric Volt over a pure EV?
Yes. Because the educated people like yourself and readers of your site will be among the early adopters and they will be telling all their friends.
We’re already telling them.
That’s what I figured, of course.
As the consummate gar guru for combustion cars for decades it sounds like in your heart you are really interested in getting off petroleum.
I am. Fundamentally one of the appeals, to be totally honest, is to demonstrate General Motors’ technological capability and to reinforce that fact that people were wrong to believe that GM didn’t have advanced technology. General Motors can do anything it wants to do and can do it better than any other car company in the world.
I truly believe that and the Volt demonstrates that. And demonstrating that in the face of the then infatuation of America and the American media with that paragon of automotive virtue called the Toyota Motor Company, that was very important to do. Just draw a line in the sand and say hey there’s only one technology leader in the automobile business and that’s GM.
That was important. Secondly I fundamentally like electric cars. As you know I have a battery background from my time at Exide. I deeply believe in the continued progress of advanced batteries and I am the owner of five Segways and one Vectrix electric scooters. So I personally own more electric mobility devices than most people you know.
You’ve driven the Volt a lot and had it home, Iv’e read. How do you actually like driving that car?
I love it. I just absolutely love it. I think it’s a great car to drive. I’m personally going to get myself on the list for one, no question about it. No question that I think its the greatest achievement of my career.
How do you see the future of GM?
I think the future looks brilliant. The company is very streamlined now, it does far less business with itself.
We have a much cleaner balance sheet, we’ve just repaid the government loans. Im not allowed to say anything about future profitability but we certainly have a justified hope of making some money this year. We also have a justified hope of doing an IPO in the reasonable future to start replacing government ownership with private ownership again.
But the most important thing is that this company now is 100 percent dedicated to product excellence. You can see that in all the recent things that we have launched which are all selling extremely well.
That ethic of only the best is good enough because were General Motors and we know how to do the best cars and trucks in the world we just didn’t always have the will or the focus to do it. We’ve always had the technical means. Now we’re back at it, I think we’re approaching the top of our game again and Im very very proud of what the guys are putting out and what’s planned for the next few years.
Do you feel Mr. Whitacre is doing good, I know at first he said he knew nothing about the car business?
I feel very good about it because Ed likes to delegate and he’s very quickly figured out who he can delegate to and who not. Ed is not going to interfere in or meddle with the vehicle development process. He has delegated that to Tom Stephens, Jon Lauckner, and Ed Wellburn.
Its not that he doesn’t want to know but he asks ‘what is the value in my approving this stuff?’ We say ‘well you’re the CEO.’ He says ‘YeahI know but I’m not a specialist in this stuff, how do I know if this vehicle is going to be great or not?’ We say ‘you don’t but we’ll tell you all about it.’ He says ’you guys know what to do, you know what the rules are. We have to do the world’s best vehicle in each category and we have to make money on it. I assume since you know it’s the goal you guys are not going to propose a bunch of stuff that’s not the world’s best and wont make money.’ We all said ‘you’re right. ‘ He says, ‘then why do I need to see it?’
Well that’s the way he manages it and I’ll tell you its very very refreshing and I think its going to be very effective for the company, because the creative people are back in charge of product development and that hasn’t been the case around here since the late 60s.
After your retirement to you plan to stay involved in the electrification of the automobile in some manner?
I’d like to. It depends on what kind of board memberships are offered to me. I’m certainly not going to start an electric car company.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 19th, 2010 at 6:19 am and is filed under Original GM-Volt Interviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.