Blog: Good wishes to Bob Lutz
Dave Leggett | 4 March 2010
Whatever you make of GM's Bob Lutz, there are surely few who would begrudge him good wishes for his retirement. I saw him a couple of days ago in Geneva when he gave an interview to journalists and he was on his usual good form, as enthusiastic as ever at delivering his views on the industry.
There were some who portrayed him as a kind of relic from the past with old-fashioned attitudes. That is way too simplistic and, in fact, Lutz has always been a difficult guy to stereotype. A small example. In Geneva this week he mocked the 'right-wing radio talk show hosts' in the US for the way they portray the 'nationalisation' of General Motors. He pointed out that it was a free market Republican – Harry Wilson – who persuaded Democrats that the equity solution was preferable to loading GM with more debt to service. 'And now the poor Obama administration gets blamed for a left-wing socialist takeover of GM when in fact that solution was proposed by a free market Republican,' he said.
Is Lutz fond of RWD muscle cars? Do bears tend to defecate in the woods? Yes, bears do, but they will also go anywhere to answer the call of nature. Lutz is also the guy who has enthusiastically championed the Volt and understands that the auto business is rapidly changing.
One thing about Lutz is you always have the feeling he will say what he thinks and not slavishly follow the company line. I think he probably revelled in that image as the maverick, but he did seem to say things in a way that suggested his words were not exactly crafted by a PR person. I guess the 'global warming is a crock of shit' remark was a striking example of that. A stupid thing to say, or wonderfully provocative, brutally honest? Or all of the above? Discuss.
But he was not some kind of 'always shoot from the hip for maximum effect' idiot; far from it. He had a good grasp of the numbers and the big strategic picture. He also understood collective responsibility and I'd wager his colleagues would have liked having him on the board, bringing his considerable experience to the table. Have there been disagreements? I'd guess so, but Lutz doesn't seem the type to undermine people through media manipulation. Perhaps he is more team player than the maverick reputation suggests.
On a simple human level, you had to respect the guy's experience and history, his enthusiasm for the auto business and its products. Hard to believe Lutz is 78. I like the idea of him enjoying a good few years on his motorcycles/cars/airplanes, perhaps occasionally raising his head above the parapet to express some pithy and forthright views.
I'm starting to get a small idea of the scale of things here in China, but really, I'm only scratching the surface of this vast country....
Given the startling complexity of obtaining a journalist visa for China - the code 'J2' is now indelibly stamped on my mind - it was with some surprise how swiftly I managed to sail through airport im...