|01-19-2006, 10:25 AM||#1|
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: San Diego, Ca
2001 L-Series 3.0L Wagon
Interview with Lutz
From one of the British rags I get!
Wednesday 18th January 2006
At Full Chat by Mike Rutherford
have interviewed some of the biggest and most notorious motor industry chiefs wherever and whenever I have bumped into them. The chairman of Hyundai chatted at length to me when we were both trying to have a day off at the Taj Mahal in India. The boss of Chrysler talked shop while he sat on a bull in South America. And one of the world's top car designers once revealed all about his employer and his future products as we propped up a Tokyo bar at 5am.
I suppose it's a sad sign of the times that when the world's press descended on the LA and Detroit motor shows in the past couple of weeks, the PR minders handling certain twitchy industry big shots formally warned journalists that they weren't doing interviews.
But thankfully, General Motors' global product guru Bob Lutz still believes he has a corporation and cars to sell. And sell them he does. GM is still the largest car firm on the planet. And, in a quiet Californian haven where I recently shared a few pots of coffee with him and his family, Lutz also assured me that the quality of his cars isn't bad, either. He said: "We actually match Toyota and the goal is to better it."
But does he really believe deep down that humble Vauxhalls are screwed together better than Japan's finest? "Yes I do. I do now," he said. "I think the newest models, such as the Astra, are sensational and will be highly reliable and extremely durable. Vauxhall has really got its act together. We have gone from being arguably
the worst six or seven years ago." Incredibly, he admitted: "Okay, so the Signum didn't exactly work, because you could argue it's a wonderful car which answers a question nobody asked. But if you've got a weak brand you're trying to bring back, the way to do that is to sell unique cars for which there's no alternative in the more established names. That way you're forcing customers to your products and once they're there, they love it."
Lutz went on to insist that these days, nobody is guaranteed a job in the car industry, especially when trading conditions are so tight and financial losses so huge - as they are currently experiencing at GM. He told me: "We always tell our workforce that the best guarantee is high quality, low cost and constant pressure for improved productivity because, let's face it, the whole western industrialised system is in a battle for survival against the growing Asian powerhouse."
He also believes that Britain is a more attractive place to make cars than Germany. He continued: "It has been used to success in the last 40-50 years or so, but is having a real problem dealing with the new reality. For most of that same period, Britain has been slapped around, is used to being in constant economic turmoil and is sort of nicely attuned to the realities of the world." In other words, Vauxhall workers in the UK seem comparatively safe, which is good news - even if it could be at the expense of their German counterparts at Opel.
"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it and then misapplying the wrong remedies."
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