Home » Legendary Exec Bob Lutz Says The Lack Of Real Enthusiasts Is Hurting The Car Industry

Legendary Exec Bob Lutz Says The Lack Of Real Enthusiasts Is Hurting The Car Industry

Bob Lutz Ts2
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Classic Car Club Manhattan recently invited legendary executive Bob Lutz to have a chat over dinner with old pal and Autopian contributor Bob Sorokanich. As you might expect, with an automotive career stretching over half a century, he’s got some quality stories to tell.

If you’re not familiar with Lutz’s career, just know that it was (mostly) a glittering one. He also didn’t discriminate, working in top executive roles at all of the Big Three automakers in the US. He was executive vice president of Ford, later moving on to become the president and vice chairman of Chrysler Corporation. He later wound up as the vice chairman at General Motors to complete the trio.

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As seen on YouTube, Lutz used the chat as a chance to talk about some of his favorite projects over the years, as well as his insights into the auto business. He celebrates unique and standout products in the auto space, and decries the dire lack of real car enthusiasts in the industry.

One of the biggest standouts in Lutz’s career was the Dodge Viper. The V10-powered roadster was an unlikely project that promised to be the first American car with 400 horsepower. Some might have called it a distraction for Chrysler amidst a difficult period, but Lutz doesn’t see it that way at all. In fact, he credits the Viper with revitalizing the broader Chrysler brand. The company was seen as troubled, and barely able to produce more than its humble front-wheel-drive K-Car. The Viper was key to flipping the script, proving to the media and the public that the company could do so much more.

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He explains how this affected Chrysler’s dealings with banks at the time. The company was facing possible bankruptcy, with banks looking dimly on the company’s future prospects. Lutz was meeting with the banks to try and shore up the finances, and the Viper became a hot topic. “I was in a German bank which was reacting with difficulty, and they said our chairman would like to speak with you in private,” explains Lutz. “The Chairman said, uh, Mr Lutz… this red sports car, what do you call it?” says Lutz. “I said the Dodge Viper.” The hot new roadster proved crucial. “[He says] ‘Mr Lutz, would you make sure I can buy one, please?’ and that secured the revolving credit agreement with them,” laughs Lutz.

Dodge Viper 1996 Pictures 4
The Viper debuted with one engine, one transmission, no roof, no air conditioning, no power steering, and no real windows. It was a ridiculous car, but one that Lutz credits with changing public perception of Chrysler as a whole.

Another bank was already impressed with the future prospects for Chrysler, but they had a tough question. They wanted to know what Lutz would cut if profitability didn’t meet expectations in the next few years. “I thought, well, I’m dealing with bankers here, so I’m going to give the bean counter’s answer,” he says. “I said, sir, without question, the most frivolous product in our portfolio is the Dodge Viper and that’s what we’d cut.” And yet! “The banker says, wrong answer! Wrong answer! That’s the one that’s driving investor enthusiasm!” laughs Lutz.

Making a car like the Viper is hard enough, but succeeding on a barebones budget requires making the right moves. “You gotta collect the right people,” says Lutz. “Many engineers in automobile companies could be working for Hotpoint or Shark vacuum, they wouldn’t care—they put in their day behind the work station, they go home.” He found that the real car enthusiasts in the company were more valuable to a project. “That difference in productivity, it’s three-to-one,” he says. “The whole Viper team, we actually interviewed them to make sure we had the right guys.” Out of 1,000 volunteers, interviews whittled the Viper team down to just 80 people. “They got the job done in a little over two years,” he says.

 

Dodge Viper 1995 Photos V10

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It was a recurring theme throughout Lutz’s career. “One of my biggest shocks when I joined a car company was there are almost no car guys in car companies,” says Lutz. “These guys could be making washing machines or vacuum cleaners, it’s all the same to them. It’s units, units.” For many, the automotive business really is just a business. “But in every car company, there is a secret network of true car guys,” he explains. “You find out who those guys are, you work with them, and you can create breakthrough products.”

He puts this down as a root cause of the problems faced by many contemporary automakers. “They tend to go by momentum, and they go with the decision that is close to okay and consumes the least capital, and that’s everybody’s favorite decision,” he explains. “Nobody starts at the other end and says what is it that’s really going to excite the customers, what is it that’s going to make us best in class?” He finds this methodology key to making products that aren’t just good, but are exceptional. “Once you’ve defined that, then you work backwards, and you try to trim the investment, and try to massage it a little bit to make it financially feasible.”

Photos Dodge Viper 1991 X

“The trouble is most automobile companies start the other way,” says Lutz. “They say, what is conveniently affordable, and now let’s make it as good as we can?” He preferred to follow his own process during his long career. “My way has always turned out to be a little bit more expensive than the momentum way, but I have a track record of producing vehicles that are infinitely more profitable than the momentum theory. ”

He puts much of it down to who’s in charge. “Good finance guys are a dime a dozen, but good car guys that are capable of running [a car company] are rare,” he says. “You give me a car company that’s run by a car guy, and one that’s run by finance, the car-guy company is gonna win every time.”

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Images Plymouth Prowler 2001 1
The Prowler was a car quite unlike any production vehicle before or since.

Naturally, the Plymouth Prowler came up for conversation, the brainchild of storied designer Tom Gale. “He was a hot rodder at heart,” says Lutz. “He was convinced it was going to be second only to the Viper.” In a similar way, the Prowler was also developed as a fast, low-cost program, and the team raided the parts bin to make it happen on budget. The Prowler got a modified version of the company’s front-wheel-drive transaxle, converted to work for a rear-wheel-drive layout. “That’s what dictated the maximum engine size being a V6,” says Lutz. “It couldn’t take the torque of the V8, which was a shame, because that car really needed a V8.”

While the Prowler didn’t go on to do big numbers, Lutz nevertheless believes it had an important role to play. “It was another one of those halo vehicles that caused the media and the public to say, ‘who are those guys?'”

Photos Plymouth Prowler 2000 1
The Woodward Edition was a glorious tribute to hot rodding and American automotive culture in general.

Lutz also discussed differing management styles across the industry, contrasting his approach to that of former Volkswagen CEO Ferdinand Piech. In the 1990s, Piech had apparently told Lutz that he secured excellent panel gaps on VW product by simply threatening to fire those below him if it wasn’t sorted. Lutz tells the story with a laugh, noting that the American management was typically a touch less dictatorial. “The best car guy I’ve ever met in my life,” says Lutz. “But I wouldn’t have wanted to work for him. He was a despot.”

Lutz’s approach at GM was more collaborative. An initial investigation suggested achieving 4 mm panel gaps would cost the company $200 million, which wasn’t in the budget. GM couldn’t spend that, yet weeks later, the panel gaps had drastically improved. “I said, how the hell did this happen?” says Lutz. It turned out that a casual conversation with the workers on the hemming and stamping lines made all the difference. “They said, oh, you want four millimeter gaps?” laughs Lutz. “We know how to do that, it’s just nobody’s ever asked for it before!”

Chevrolet Volt
Between bad institutional memories of the EV1, and internal competition from GM’s fuel cell division, getting the Volt to happen was no easy feat according to Lutz.

Lutz doesn’t just focus on the high-performance stories, either. He notes that his favorite program was something altogether more sedate. “The [Chevy] Volt was my favorite program, because it stretched the limits of what GM was capable of,” he says. “Doing new gas engines is easy … but doing a series hybrid where you’re on electric propulsion all the time … nobody had ever done that before.” He also notes the public perception issue the brand had around lithium-ion batteries, which he says Toyota was more than happy to talk down in those days. In an argument between GM and Toyota, he notes it was difficult for the American brand to sound like it was making the right reliable choice given the Japanese brand’s reputation.

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Ultimately, an hour only barely scratches the surface of Lutz’s broad experience in the industry. Having started his automotive career all the way back in 1963, he saw the rise and fall of giants. It’s always amazing to get insights on what goes on in the sprawling campuses of major automakers, and how that translates into the cars we see on the road every day.

Image credits: Dodge, Chrysler, GM, Plymouth, Classic Car Club Manhattan via YouTube screenshot

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Phil Ventura
Phil Ventura
19 days ago

there aren’t less enthusiasts, just less folk with enough money to buy a car. the real enthusiast starts out in a cheap beater, learning to repair and modifying for extra ‘oomp’. cars these days allow for very little ‘hot rodding’. and let’s not talk about trying to do an engine swap for ‘more power’.

Gerontius Garland
Gerontius Garland
27 days ago

“I was in a German bank which was reacting with difficulty, and they said our chairman would like to speak with you in private,” explains Lutz. “The Chairman said, uh, Mr Lutz… this red sports car, what do you call it?” says Lutz. “I said the Dodge Viper.” The hot new roadster proved crucial. “[He says] ‘Mr Lutz, would you make sure I can buy one, please?’ and that secured the revolving credit agreement with them,” laughs Lutz.

What a charming story about a banker making questionable financial decisions based on a quid pro quo.

Sean Ward
Sean Ward
27 days ago

Ah yes, an opinion I truly value from the man who murdered Chrysler.

Vee
Vee
25 days ago
Reply to  Sean Ward

You’re thinking of Bob Eaton, not Lutz. Eaton’s the guy who ate steaks with Schrempp and sold out the company before he jumped ship to Chevron. Lutz and those in product development who left before Eaton pulled the rug out from under everyone in April of ’98 are the ones who made Chrysler look so big and strong that Daimler-Benz went parasitic.

Dinklesmith
Dinklesmith
27 days ago

I always liked his idea for turning Pontiac into the economy performance brand on Cadillac platforms. I wish he had gotten that through

Elhigh
Elhigh
28 days ago

Drop dead, Bob.

Sincerely, a car guy. Just because I’m into cars that you’re not into doesn’t make me not an enthusiast. Kiss my ass.

Mr. Fusion
Mr. Fusion
28 days ago

I like hearing his stories, even though I disagree with at least 50% of his takes. But what’s funny is that the guy is always gripping a stogie in every single interview I’ve seen him do post-retirement. Thus, as he gets older, he reminds me more and more of Uncle Lewis (William Hickey) in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
28 days ago

Hell yeah, the Viper was so awesome…along w/ the SRT-10 w/ Viper engine…if you don’t like these vehicles (or similar), you’re dead inside. Yeah, I can’t control that there’s less enthusiasts (which can also change- there’s still more people getting interested) but I can still call it sad. I’ll never understand these people who just view cars as appliances and say “as long as it gets me to where I’m going” and “as long as it works, I don’t need to understand how it does” w/o an inkling of interest…are you really that boring? Do you not have a personality? Do you really have no life at all? Yes!
There are so many interesting cars, especially classic cars over the last 100+ years (besides newer cars, most of them suck) that if you can look at all of them and say “oh, none of them interest me” then you really are dead inside

MGA
MGA
25 days ago
Reply to  Freelivin2713

Are you surprised? Even the comments here on an enthusiast site would have you thinking a Rav4 Prime is exciting and desirable.

Scone Muncher
Scone Muncher
25 days ago
Reply to  MGA

My work has a couple as fleet vehicles… The Rav4 Prime is the epitome of *an automobile*. It’s an appliance. It’s just kinda…there. There is literally nothing interesting about it at all. For most people, that’s what they want, I guess? It only doesn’t come in beige because that would be too interesting in a sea of silver.

(The CR-V is interchangeable if one likes burning more fuel.)

Fuzzyweis
Fuzzyweis
28 days ago

Ugh, I was content reading this until the shot about Toyota and lithium-ion. At the time NiMH was better for cars use, decent capacity, much less fire risk, more developed(in use since mid-90s).

NiMH batteries were developed for cars by Ovonics, GM took over Ovonics and sold their shares off to Texaco, who sued Toyota for continuing to use it, only to settle and allow Toyota to keep using them in limited capacity for like the Prius.

If the Volt was made with NiMH instead of Lithium, would’ve been cheaper, more durable, for slightly less range, or actually if they’d have continued developing NiMH maybe about the same range since with Lithium they have to have built in buffers.

So Lutz’s accomplishments aside, saying Toyota got it wrong on lithium really grinds my gears, GM got it wrong on NiMH and 90s corporate greed set us all back at least 10 years on EVs.

Also yes the Prowler should’ve had a V8.

Toecutter
Toecutter
27 days ago
Reply to  Fuzzyweis

NiMH was good enough in the 1990s/early 2000s that streamlined sedans with 150-200 miles range were possible. It was capable of accepting a fast charge and charging from 0 to 80% in under 30 minutes. Robert Stemple, former chairman of Energy Conversion Devices, claimed $150/kWh in production volume for 20,000 cars per year.

Tangent
Tangent
28 days ago

The biggest proof to me that there are no car guys in most car companies is how they option the enthusiast vehicles. Want the model with the powerful engine and better suspension? Well here’s the full leather interior, 12-way power seats, 20″ wheels, the biggest infotainment screen we make, and no, you can’t downgrade any of those. They don’t see those models as “enthusiast” cars, they see them as the most “premium”. To add insult to injury, models with those features stripped out will be given a fancy label and cost even more!

Cerberus
Cerberus
28 days ago
Reply to  Tangent

I agree, but it works for them with the customer base as a whole. That’s why performance divisions founded on the track, like M or AMG, move away from the compromise of all out performance to become luxo-laden barges with a more powerful engine and a jacked up price. A lot of the higher end buyers go in with, “What’s the best (most expensive) one?” and they don’t really care about history or actual performance they won’t and can’t use so much as looking better to people who care about tags and labels. Same with pure sports car models that tend to become bloated cruisers, posting much higher sales when they do until their street cred wears off and they get dropped. We’re a small minority and always have been (in spite of the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia). Golden Age of muscle? Most were sold with the small engines. Wide variety of high end sports car makers? Total sales volumes were very low (hence why so few of the old makers still exist today and those that do are owned by a bigger company after probably fighting off several bankruptcies and being tossed around to multiple former owners). Ferrari probably makes more cars annually than the whole exotic industry did in the late ’60s, never mind earlier when many of their models were built in the double digits and the “mass produced” ones in the threes. So, as much as we hate it, it works. There’s only so much room for a Morgan or any other truly enthusiast marques that barely scrape by with low production for as long as they can.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
28 days ago

This is true in the marine industry as well. Most employees can’t afford the products they work on, and never will be able to afford them, so they just sort of don’t care about boats and being on the water.

SNL-LOL Jr
SNL-LOL Jr
28 days ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

LOL I read this comment while sitting next to a hiring ad for presumably the submarine shipyard in Groton CT.
I don’t think the workers there could afford what they build either.

Parsko
Parsko
28 days ago
Reply to  SNL-LOL Jr

A very good friend is an engineer there, can confirm.

Arthur Flax
Arthur Flax
27 days ago
Reply to  Parsko

I should think that some of the engineers there later find lucrative careers in the South American export-import industry.
Though I have no proof this is the case.

Last edited 27 days ago by Arthur Flax
Yes I Drive A 240
Yes I Drive A 240
28 days ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

Which part of the marine industry are you referring to? I work in the powersports industry and personally work with hundreds of marine dealers every week and everyone I talk to loves it.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
28 days ago

I’m sure people who work at the dealers love it. But the engineers designing the 300hp outboards that cost $30k after an employee discount are not affordable to 99% of the population.

Cerberus
Cerberus
28 days ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

I worked briefly as a marine mechanic before moving to telecom and what I determined is that I don’t want what anyone’s selling and certainly not at the insane prices. Anytime someone thinks cars are overpriced, they should take a look at boats—even little shitty ones that aren’t much of anything but some fiberglass with a motor (that doesn’t have to meet the emissions standards that cars do) hanging off the back. My plan is to build my own design that isn’t an overweight gas hog that’s excessively fat to pack as big a party as one can for the length with a bunch of junk features that require more maintenance.

B L
B L
28 days ago

MBA’s yet again ruining everything, although in this case with an assist from the light truck exemption.

Cerberus
Cerberus
28 days ago

When going to school for automotive design, I figured this out and concluded that I would be miserable in that profession in a company surrounded by people who could just as well be building electric outlet covers and designing boring sedans (now CUVs, which is—somehow—even worse) ruined by committee for buyers who DGAF. Plus, I’d likely be living around Detroit. While I have some fondness for the place, there’s no place like home.

Parsko
Parsko
28 days ago
Reply to  Cerberus

Also studied Automotive design (ME), made the same decision at graduation. Not the industry I want to be in due to “design by commitee”. Went the semi-con route and still love cars to this day.

Cerberus
Cerberus
28 days ago
Reply to  Parsko

My real dream was to build my own cars and I realized I was about 40 years too late. Eventually planning on building a boat version instead.

Toecutter
Toecutter
27 days ago
Reply to  Cerberus

One-seater or tandem two-seater microcars that can be sold as “motorcycles” and electric velomobiles are an accessible way to do this.

Cerberus
Cerberus
27 days ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Only if they have a maximum of 3 wheels and then it can’t be enclosed and these rules vary by state. Even building one for myself (as was the original plan if nothing else as a kind of prototype using an Omnivision Cessna 150 fuselage with partial tail extending over the rear wheel called “Dragonfly” due to the resemblance), the RMV basically told me to build it however I chose and hope I found a state trooper inspector who was fine with signing off on it being road legal. The problem is that less than 4 wheels = motorcycle, but a motorcycle cannot be enclosed. Another potential issue after that is the helmet law. Motorcycles require them, but it’s illegal to wear them in an enclosed vehicle in some places. I wanted to use the car rules since it would be enclosed (unless I drove exclusively with the canopy slid back, which largely defeats the purpose) and because it would really be a 3-wheeled car. In the end, I concluded the extra engineering (much higher torsional loads on the chassis and more complicated suspension interactions) to make it a 4-wheeler would be easier than the bureaucracy and, if I’m spending that much more money, I might as well skip the prototype and go straight to one of the final designs. Some laws have changed in various states since then thanks to Aptera’s lobbying, but it’s still a bit of a toss up. Hell, I’m having trouble registering a f’n utility trailer right now because I ordered the kit online delivered to my house and the manufacturer put my name on the title instead of the distributor (who never saw it) and I have little confidence that having the distributor sign off on the back will be acceptable to Patty and Selma as my name is still on the front. Another problem is just that things have changed so much in general on the roadways in terms of inattentive morons and larger vehicles and I don’t need to end up in prison because some generic eunuch crashes into me while updating social media land about their inane lives. A velomobile is of no use here or of interest to me. At this point, a boat allows far more design freedom (like a fighter plane control stick I couldn’t use in the car and wouldn’t want to), is much cheaper, less complicated, and faster to build*, and I already wrote it into three books. Also, like cars, nobody is making what I really want, but I don’t have a boat (I don’t count the kayaks, even the converted EV one, which is another stupid thing I need to register).

*The less complicated and faster parts are especially important as my damn ADD brain loses interest when little progress is made for much effort or cost. I can build the major hull up for a few grand in a weekend or 2, so it’s largely a “real” boat very quickly, which encourages me continuing it and the below the waterline portion was already designed by a real naval architect, unlike my unique car chassis which is just a general idea. Another thing is that the major portions required to make it a useable boat are all fairly simple, so I can get to using it before it’s actually done and staring at its incomplete nature while using it will also push me to work on it (outboard 4-stroke just bolts onto the transom with some minor rigging—though I’m sure the control stick will require a bit of screwing around to get right—and I don’t need the sliding canopy or fancy interior and custom gauges to run it).

Toecutter
Toecutter
27 days ago
Reply to  Cerberus

Man, regulations sure do suck where you are at.

Where I’m at, my vehicle passes as a “bicycle”, and can function as one with the pedal drivetrain coupled with being light and aerodynamic enough to pedal. At least it did before I took it apart again for upgrades. Not only does it cost next to nothing to run(150-200 miles at 30-35 mph on 1.7 kWh), there’s no insurance, no taxes, no drivers license, and no registration. I LOVE flying down state highways at 50 mph in it, although I’m not legally allowed to go on the interstate(nor would I want to). On bike trails, I turn the motor off and simply pedal it unassisted.

Currently upgrading it to AWD with a hub motor in each of 3 wheels, 25+ kW peak power, 400+ Nm torque, and a more slippery body. It’s also getting solar panels so that my electricity is free too. Expected finished weight: 120 lbs.

My intent is to troll Hellcats.

Last edited 27 days ago by Toecutter
Cerberus
Cerberus
27 days ago
Reply to  Toecutter

If I wanted one, there’s nowhere I would ride one of those things even if there was a place. Not allowed on bike trails and it would be too big where even recumbent trikes are a bit of a nuisance and the speed would be pointless with all the other users (plastic road biker jerks trying to beat some stupid Strava time are menace enough as it is, though they thankfully steer clear of any trail that isn’t paved). I won’t even ride a bicycle on these narrow winding roads full of blind driveway exits and all the morons driving on them, especially if they can’t even see you coming around a turn with the forward blind spot of a 6′ tall hood. I’m fine with dying on the road, but only if I have the opportunity to fight back (also a big reason I’ve never had a motorcycle—flight is not my usual stress response and there’s not much chance of winning a fight against something with a lot more mass and inherent stability).

Toecutter
Toecutter
27 days ago
Reply to  Cerberus

Detroit is a post-apocalyptic wonderland! I’ve always wanted to visit there. Lots of urbex opportunities.

Cerberus
Cerberus
27 days ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Less since they demolished the Packard plant, though I believe the Belle Isle zoo has been abandoned since I was there, so that would be a hell of a score (not that there’s a shortage of places, but look out for lions and tigers abandoned by pimps in derelict houses). Belle Isle was open to anyone, so I’d run the track at full tilt (in a ’84 Subaru, nobody really notices you’re giving it 10/10). Don’t know if it’s changed since the ’90s, but the streets were like Mad Max and as long as you didn’t shoot at the cops, they DGAF what you did. No state inspection in a salted state, so junkers that would have failed MA inspection 10 years prior were still on the road, largely uninsured, blasting through red lights across wide major roads at high speeds (this exact scenario happened to me when I was near the DIA on Woodward and a giant ’70s land yacht caught air in front of me on the crown of the road from a side street. I would have been obliterated had a voice in my head not urgently told me to slow down and I didn’t comply). One time, I’m going somewhere over the max reading on the Joan Claybrook speedometer keeping up with traffic in the passing lane on the highway and I see the back ends of the cars ahead of me leap up, so I hammer the brake and somehow avoid getting into a pileup. Turns out, some guy was calmly changing his tire. In the passing lane. On a highway with breakdown lanes on each side. A minivan whose front wheel broke off on an onramp, cocking it diagonally across so as to largely block the ramp (though the small Subaru could slip by) stayed that way for months. Anyway, having PTSD at the time, the danger and chaos of the place made me feel more comfortable than the BS veil of civility I had at home. I still have a sign in the garage to warn would-be arsonists that a building was being watched as an attempt to thwart Devil’s Night arson. I like it a lot more than LA.

Luddy Ludwick
Luddy Ludwick
28 days ago

Want to like Lutz since he’s one of the greats, but his hatred of Saab is EVIL! Guys like him just didn’t know what to do with it.

Kleinlowe
Kleinlowe
28 days ago
Reply to  Luddy Ludwick

The answer is in between the lines in the article – American auto companies only see displacement-obsessed meatheads as ‘Real Enthusiasts’. Oh, you’re excited by innovative interior design? NOT A REAL ENTHUSIAST! You admire Honda small engines? NOT AN ENTHUSIAST! You want to make a simple, affordable, reliable People’s Car like the 2CV, OG Beetle or CVCC? Get out of here, you bean-countery fake! REAL ENTHUSIASTS have 7-liter engines to cram into aging Mercedes platforms!

Last edited 28 days ago by Kleinlowe
Toecutter
Toecutter
27 days ago
Reply to  Kleinlowe

You want to make a simple, affordable, reliable People’s Car like the 2CV, OG Beetle or CVCC?

What if you want to make such a vehicle, but powered with a massive 7L engine, use mass/size reduction and drag reduction to get fuel economy while simultaneously kicking planned obsolescence to the curb, and undercut all of the other offerings by making it one of the most featureless/least luxurious and therefore least expensive things in the lineup?

I’m all about hoonability on a budget.

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
28 days ago

And yet I couldn’t get another job.

Gene1969
Gene1969
27 days ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

I thought you worked here because they paid more and the great coffee. -shrug-

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
27 days ago
Reply to  Gene1969

The coffee is only good if Jason makes it. Matt doesn’t drink it and David is cheap so buys shit. Jason gets the gourmet stuff.

Last edited 27 days ago by Adrian Clarke
Gene1969
Gene1969
27 days ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

I can see that. David is also hampered by the fact that there are no Ellias Bros. Big Boy restaurants so he can’t get their famous coffee from Highland Park.

Jsfauxtaug
Jsfauxtaug
28 days ago

Yet, how do I lined up to get the keys to the castle? Networking? Mentoring? Moving company to company?

Oh mystical Lutz, what is thy wisdom?

My Skoda is the Most Superb
My Skoda is the Most Superb
28 days ago

Well Lutz, believe me I’ve been trying to get my ass in a job for a major car company but these guys don’t make it easy. I consider myself grateful for currently having a job that is tangential to the auto industry but as a car enthusiast, it’s just not enough. I simply have no idea how to get seen by recruiters in the auto space, so submitting applications on LinkedIn and OEM career websites is what I’m stuck with doing.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
28 days ago

As someone that has been applying to a lot of jobs recently, I can tell you BMW wants me to move to Spartanburg, GM and Ford want me to move to Detroit, Honda and Toyota want me to move to BFE, Hyundai.. I don’t remember, but it’s not remote and it’s not here.

The car industry would do well to make itself more accommodating to car enthusiasts. There are things that must be done onsite, but being the test engineer or product manager for the MyBMW app or trying to unfuck GM’s whatever they have going on doesn’t mean I need to be next to the machine shop or metal stamping presses.

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
28 days ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

Remember when Cadillac moved their HQ to NYC? Nothing says car enthusiast like the only place in the US where people don’t own cars.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
28 days ago
Reply to  Rabob Rabob

I’m not asking for NYC, only modernity with respect to software.

Al Camino
Al Camino
28 days ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

I would not live within Spartanburg’s city limits, but have you been to Greenville and the surrounding areas? It’s a very livable and vibrant city surrounded by excellent outdoor recreation opportunities.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
28 days ago
Reply to  Al Camino

A huge, huge part of it is that I don’t trust the company. How many months or years of service do I get before I’m rightsized and stuck in South Carolina with no job? I worked my last job for 13 months before being laid off. Thank god I didn’t move my life just to hitch my wagon to that shitshow.

No way I’m moving to anywhere I don’t already want to go, just to find out I wasn’t part of a core competency for achieving shareholder growth and organizational sustainability.

Last edited 28 days ago by Mechjaz
Al Camino
Al Camino
28 days ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

I totally get it. As a refugee from an untrustworthy corporation, it doesn’t matter if you’re an excellent performer, at some point you’re just a cell on an Excel spreadsheet to some MBA somewhere whose job is to delete as many cells as possible from the spreadsheet to enrich his/her bottom line.
You have to live somewhere that resonates with you and that you’re happy to be at when you wake up in the morning. Good luck!

Widgetsltd
Widgetsltd
28 days ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

In 2007, Chrysler LLC gave me a promotion and moved me to Southern California to run their technical training center. One year later, upper management outsourced the entire department to Raytheon and pushed most of us into accepting a “voluntary” termination package. I spent a few years in the contract employee wilderness and had a big chip on my shoulder the whole time. In 2014, I was hired by Subaru of America and have been happy there ever since. Maybe there is a happy ending out there for those victimized by cost-cutting, maybe not.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
28 days ago
Reply to  Rabob Rabob

I’ll give you that one. That… that was pretty dumb.

Plus, I’m not insensitive to the needs of onsite work. Test benches, test harnesses, power supplies, lab equipment – none of this could or should feasibly be made to accommodate remote work. You can’t hug a child with remotely-operated robot control arms and all that.

Checking a Jira board and Github happens better at home where I’m comfortable and quiet than in an office where I’m trying to drown out the sights and sounds of everyone else doing things.

Rubbit
Rubbit
28 days ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

Unfortunately, they’ll still try to drown you in useless meetings all the while you’re trying to do as much work as possible. One big plus side to being at home is that you don’t have 20,000 people dropping by your desk eating up your time just so that they can do theirs, as they’re incompetent people who can’t do their own work without asking you how to do it for them! I don’t want to sounds so antisocial, but I’ve been there!

Cerberus
Cerberus
28 days ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

That’s one of the reasons I discontinued pursuing a career as a designer. Detroit is fine and all, but I much prefer New England. “Me, I ain’t going anywhere, just sit and watch the sun come up, I like it here.”

Rubbit
Rubbit
28 days ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

Corporations are still not used to a remote workforce. They feel they need to exercise control over an employee when being there has no bearing on the job and ignoring the cost savings to the company by keeping that employee at home. For example, my wife would work a 9:00 to 5:00 because the office was open 9:00 to 5:00. Now working from home, she works from 8:00 to midnight 6 days a week! She doesn’t necessarily want to work those hours, but they are overworking her. She also sees that at some point, they’ll be moving her back to the office because they need to see her there, at which point the productivity will drop like a rock. On the flip side, there are some people who belong in a structured environment and can’t handle being on their own because they need to be supervised, otherwise, they end up screwing around.

Justin Thiel
Justin Thiel
28 days ago

I think it is like teaching. People get into the car business for the right reasons. But number crunching, red tape, meetings, more meetings, beat the love of cars out of them.
An engineer who went to school for 7 years and has a love of sports cars finds himself designing window switches for mini vans for 4 years..

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
28 days ago
Reply to  Justin Thiel

are they at least sports minivans?

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
27 days ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

I so wish someone, anyone, would sell a sporty minivan. There’s no reason they can’t be sporty. They’re basically just longer, taller hatchbacks with a lower center of gravity than a CUV, and sporty CUVs exist so why not minivans? I just want a freakin’ Honda Odyssey Type R, man.

Bob
Bob
28 days ago

I am thoroughly unconvinced that there’s a large untapped pool of car enthusiasts hiding somewhere that the manufacturers just haven’t located. Mazda sold 9,000 Miatas last year (and I wonder if that was COVID bounce-back, because they are way behind that in 2024). 11,000 Toyota 86s. Supra sales peaked at 6,800 in 2021, 2,600 last year. 32,000 Vipers over 25 years. Alfa 4C didn’t sell. Thunderbird, Prowler, Crossfire. All too small? I don’t see anyone buying sedans with big back seats and huge trunks either. Meanwhile, Ford sold 700,000+ F-150s last year, and the year before that, and the year before that.

There are passionate car enthusiasts, but we’re all here and there aren’t enough of us to make it worth the cost of tooling.

Last edited 28 days ago by Bob
Michael Karesh
Michael Karesh
28 days ago
Reply to  Bob

Correct that the sports car market is much smaller than it used to be. Incorrect that it’s not worth the cost of tooling–you just have to charge Porsche or (better) Ferrari money for the cars. Enthusiasts with deep deep pockets have more supercars than ever to choose from.

Mensaman
Mensaman
28 days ago
Reply to  Michael Karesh

And there is what I see as the crux of it. Enthusiasts with deep pockets are the minority. Most of us enthusiast can’t afford a new car, let alone a new sports car.

Bob
Bob
28 days ago
Reply to  Michael Karesh

Fair, but what I’m reading here are mostly complaints. And they’re not complaints that there are too many hypercars to choose from. They are complaints that the manufacturers for which Bob Lutz worked aren’t bold enough to make the cars that these readers say that they would buy (and, mostly, haven’t bought before).

And Miatas and 86s don’t go for anything like Porsche money. But not many of them move.

Last edited 28 days ago by Bob
Rubbit
Rubbit
28 days ago
Reply to  Bob

I don’t think it’s about the money. I think people have lost their sense of individuality and they’re just following the Joneses.

Bob
Bob
28 days ago
Reply to  Rubbit

I feel that way too, but I bet people have been thinking that for a long time, so I’m not at all sure that I’m right that’s new.

Kleinlowe
Kleinlowe
28 days ago
Reply to  Rubbit

The increasing wealth disparity absolutely has a lot to do with it. Today’s wealth disparity hasn’t been this bad in a hundred years; so the average person doesn’t have any extra to spend on fun and frivolity when they need a car that will start every day to get them to both jobs and home again, much less a second one that will sit in storage most of the time waiting for the odd day off when they can enjoy it.
Add into that historically high home ownership and rental costs; even if you’re fortunate enough to afford the property to store a pleasure car, that’s likely to have soaked up any extra income you might have been able to wring out into your own pockets.

Rubbit
Rubbit
27 days ago
Reply to  Kleinlowe

Yup, yup and yup. That’s kind of where I am right now. You work hard enough for years, you manage to scrape up a few things and just when you think you can, everything starts to change again and not in your favor.

I scraped for years to get a house I wanted to build drove the crappiest but reliable vehicles, raise the family got a minivan when I never thought in a million years I would do that. Turned out that that minivan was the greatest thing since sliced bread. So what do I do? My kids grew up, they’re out of the house and I got another minivan! Used, mind you. That thing is a workhorse. I chuckle every time I see somebody with a truck go to the grocery store and they can’t load their groceries into the bed because you know that the girls are going to go flying around on the back! They’re loading in the backseat uncomfortable it’s amazing to see how little utility a pickup truck offers.

Just before that, after 18 years of running around with my Honda Accord and 400,000 miles, we got a an Acura TLX that was a year old with 12,000 miles, it now has 40k so it’s really not accruing that many miles. But it’s the same as the van, I can open the trunk and it’s huge I can put a crap load of groceries in there same amount as in the van ( actually the van holds more if I put the seats down but then it becomes like the pickup bed of a truck if things aren’t tucked in well enough stuff can go flying around).

Lastly, after searching for a while not exactly knowing what to do thinking that it may be the wrong decision but seeing that vehicle prices were going to skyrocket and this may be my last opportunity, I bought a crashed BMW Z4, it took me a year to repair (myself , not a shop) lost half my hair thinking that I was not going to get it registered because of our rules here in Massachusetts, ended up being easier than I was making it out to be ….and I have ended up with a car that is unmistakably unique. It’s only purpose is to let the sun hit you in the face, it’s not fast but that’s not what matters, and my wife is tickled pink every time we get in it. And, I can still put groceries in it lol!

People still give me the strangest looks simply because I do things on a budget, and I can’t stop to think whatever it is that they think of me otherwise I get nothing done.

Last edited 27 days ago by Rubbit
Mechjaz
Mechjaz
27 days ago
Reply to  Rubbit

If it’s any consolation, I hate hate hate dailying the (single cab) truck and have definitely jammed groceries in a backpack on the bike. Normally I’d be taking the Z4, but… Sigh.

Bob
Bob
27 days ago
Reply to  Kleinlowe

The revolution will not be televised, because those corporations are going in the first wave. TikTok and Instagram will be on fire, though.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
28 days ago
Reply to  Bob

What car enthusiast can afford any new good car these days? The better value is to buy old cars. I bought a great 1985 Jeep CJ for $5K and a 3rd generation Miata for $15K. I don’t buy new cars and never will. They’re too expensive. It’s much better to buy the dip.

Bob
Bob
28 days ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

Ok, but that does nothing to get new cars developed. We think we’re the consumers, but really it’s the dealers to which the OEMs are selling cars, and no dealer orders cars so that you can buy them used eight years later.

Average price of a used car in the US is very close to $50k. Miata, 86, GTI are all less expensive, and I’m sure are sold in the US in their small quantities only because much larger numbers are sold around the world.

There ARE a lack of enthusiasts in the US who ACTUALLY buy NEW cars. No wonder the OEMs don’t make them.

Donald Haack Jr
Donald Haack Jr
28 days ago
Reply to  Bob

“I don’t see anyone buying sedans with big back seats and huge trunks either.”

I don’t see anyone making them either

MtnCamantalope
MtnCamantalope
27 days ago
Reply to  Bob

I think the point is that there aren’t enough enthusiasts working at car companies. I’ve read some of Lutz’s books and his big thing is passion for the product makes a better product, even if I costs more initially. He wants enough enthusiasts in the industry so that we end up making the decisions.

Gene1969
Gene1969
27 days ago
Reply to  MtnCamantalope

I read some of his books too and he really needs to get over the whole “Suit” thing.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
27 days ago
Reply to  Gene1969

Can you say more about what you mean? I don’t know anything about Lutz and this intrigues me

Gene1969
Gene1969
27 days ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

In his book, “Guts”, Lutz basically brags having everyone (including designers) wear suit to work and railed against casual Fridays. I believe this is due to his long military career.

NosrednaNod
NosrednaNod
27 days ago
Reply to  Bob

The majority of car enthusiasm in 2024 is with EV owners. Get a bunch of cross over owners together and they might not literally be able to accurately tell you the brand, model and trim level of the car they own. Us EV owners can’t STFU.

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
27 days ago
Reply to  Bob

The issue is complicated with backwards emissions regulations that penalize small lightweight efficient vehicles while incentivizing CUVs and trucks, and general economic suckyness preventing the younger generations right now, which should be prime sports car buyers, from affording new cars in general, let alone a frivolous vehicular toy. Even those that can afford a new car are generally busy also trying to buy a house and start a family and pay off debt, and a sports car doesn’t really fit in that picture easily.

Sports cars sold really well at times in history when they were both relatively cheap, and housing and practical transportation were also easily attainable. Nowadays there are just very limited cheap options for a fun new car, and people are having a difficult enough time just meeting their needs that most aren’t willing to take on the financial burden of an impractical car.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
28 days ago

Lutz is very knowledgeable about a lot of things, but honestly, when he says the Volt stretched GM to the limits of what they could do, I disagree that it was the Volt that did it. The vehicle that truly stretched things was the GM EV1… particularly the EV1 that had the NiMH batteries that were supplied from GM-Ovonics.

And while he’s knowledgeable about a lot of things, when it comes to BEVs, he’s typically way behind the curve and generally doesn’t get it.

He things that the modern performance car should still have 8 or more cylinders when it reality, the modern performance car is actually a BEV.

He’s one of the old school auto industry execs who can’t get it through their heads that there are a lot of people that want to buy BEVs.

Even with the success that Tesla has had, he still has trouble understanding and was one of the idiots saying Tesla would go under even after the company became solidly profitable with the success of the Model 3.

Last edited 28 days ago by Manwich Sandwich
Leicestershire
Leicestershire
28 days ago

Lutz used to mock Tesla, but I don’t think he does any more. He knows success when he sees it.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
28 days ago
Reply to  Leicestershire

He he only stopped mocking Tesla relatively recently because if he didn’t, it would just make him look COMPLETELY out of touch given that they’ve become hugely profitable.

But I think he STILL doesn’t get it when it comes to BEVs.

Kleinlowe
Kleinlowe
28 days ago

The sheer, out-of-touch, mothball-smelling, Boomery chutzpah on display here is astronomical. If someone’s disconnect from actual life on Earth were visible as physical displacement, Lutz would be conducting this interview via advanced space-based radiotelescopes.

I was just rereading the article on the EV1 Cabriolet – so according to Lutz: A project made by engineers willing to work unpaid in secret all night, for consumers who literally lined up and begged to buy the car at any cost: Bean counters with no enthusiasm. Literally the worst people. Might as well be a microwave or a vacuum cleaner. (Ignoring the casual dismissal of cooking and cleaning appliance enthusiasm, as commuting appliances are the only genre with TRUE ENTHUSIASTS.)

A fake 50s hotrod with a minivan engine for the time-out-doll collector set: TRUE CAR ENTHUSIASIM at it’s 100% finest, with an American flag and a bald eagle!

Oldhusky
Oldhusky
28 days ago
Reply to  Kleinlowe

Man i was thinking about the unpaid labor angle while reading this as well. Producing a saleable commodity shouldn’t rely on unpaid labor of ‘enthusiast’ employees. It reminds of the long hours and trash wages so many earn in the non-profit sector, justified by the opportunity to do meaningful work that makes the world better. Or in health care, where mountains of additional labor are extracted from workers because they are in a caring profession and feel obligated and morally compelled to serve their patients. To the healthcare workers the people they serve are patients; to the suits they are just a customer from which to extract profit. This is all exploitation and wage theft as far as i’m concerned. No one should be expected to labor unpaid for a for-profit corporation. Ever.

Jim Zavist
Jim Zavist
28 days ago

In addition to engineering costs, government compliance costs also need to be amortized, as well. Technology has increased both complexity and costs, so much of that ends up being shared. Insurance is expensive and often doesn’t cover modifications, while modifications rarely add to trade-in values and are a definite no-no on leased vehicles. Plus, many younger folks escape through their smartphones, instead of driving . . .

The NSX Was Only in Development for 4 Years
The NSX Was Only in Development for 4 Years
28 days ago

There are no shortage of car enthusiasts, but as always, the kinds of cars that people are enthusiastic for are different than what old guys like, so they think car enthusiasm is completely dead. You only have to go to an import show like Wekfest to see how fanatically devoted people are. Another reality is the simple fact that people barely have enough money these days to simply survive, let alone pursue expensive hobbies.

Justin Thiel
Justin Thiel
28 days ago

I had to google Wekfest… this is me, this is my people. I want to go

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
28 days ago

That’s not what he’s saying though – he’s saying there aren’t passionate enthusiasts among GM corporate employees. I actually think that’s what hurts US brands – they pool all the ‘enthusiasts’ to the fun cars and let the economy cars languish. Which is why GM has a graveyard of discontinued entry level cars – Cobalt, Chevette, Sonic, Cruze, Spark, Monza, Nova, Citation, Cavalier, and on and on and on while the Corolla and Civic are considered good products regardless of generation.

US corporate culture absolutely beats any enthusiasm out of just about the most passionate person though. Execs obviously will never admit that.

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
27 days ago
Reply to  Rabob Rabob

Actually from what I’m told, the Chevy Sonic is pretty fun. It could be had with a manual and there were sporty versions of it, basically a hot hatch that everyone overlooked. There’s even a handful of companies making aftermarket parts for them as they have a decent amount of tuning potential. The manual Spark is also supposedly pretty good, in a slow-car-fast kind of way.

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
24 days ago
Reply to  Austin Vail

who cares lol

Noahwayout
Noahwayout
28 days ago

The V10-powered roadster was an unlikely project that promised to be the first American car with 400 horsepower.”

This can’t be right. There were plenty of big block options in the late 60s and early 70s that served up well over 400 horsepower.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
28 days ago
Reply to  Noahwayout

Maybe over 400hp gross, but not 400hp net… at least not for a road car offered by a mainstream car maker.

Noahwayout
Noahwayout
28 days ago

Thanks. Good clarification.

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
27 days ago

Just off the top of my head, the 1969 Corvette was available with 435 hp and the 1970 Chevelle SS 454 had 450 hp. There were also various special edition or homologation versions of other muscle cars rated for around 400 hp but dyno tested and found to be much more powerful than that.

The difference between gross and net hp is small enough that I’m convinced there were definitely 400+ hp American cars before the Viper.

I think what Bob meant to say was “first American manufacturer since the fuel crisis to make a 400 hp car,” which was still a huge achievement and nothing to sneeze at.

Noahwayout
Noahwayout
25 days ago
Reply to  Austin Vail

As another user pointed out, those would be gross numbers, not net numbers. Net would be significantly less. The OG Viper had a true net HP of 400.

Lew Schiller
Lew Schiller
28 days ago
Reply to  Noahwayout

That’s not an unlikely project…SuperfastMatt’s Off Road Viper…that’s an unlikely project:

https://youtu.be/6d7aRoYvYs0?si=8SonxX0uxKwgTvOy

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