A legend in the car industry reveals the philosophy that's starting to turn General Motors around.
In 2001, General Motors hired Bob Lutz out of retirement with a mandate to save the company by making great cars again. He launched a war against penny pinching, office politics, turf wars, and risk avoidance. After declaring bankruptcy during the recession of 2008, GM is back on track thanks to its embrace of Lutz's philosophy.
When Lutz got into the auto business in the early sixties, CEOs knew that if you captured the public's imagination with great cars, the money would follow. The car guys held sway, and GM dominated with bold, creative leadership and iconic brands like Cadillac, Buick, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, GMC, and Chevrolet.
But then GM's leadership began to put their faith in analysis, determined to eliminate the "waste" and "personality worship" of the bygone creative leaders. Management got too smart for its own good. With the bean counters firmly in charge, carmakers (and much of American industry) lost their single-minded focus on product excellence. Decline followed.
Lutz's commonsense lessons (with a generous helping of fascinating anecdotes) will inspire readers at any company facing the bean counter analysis-paralysis menace.
From the Hardcover edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Absolutely marvelous; anyone who reads this will understand the enervating hubris that is destroying business, education and government in America and much of the rest of the world.
First though, to set this book and Lutz in context, a quote from midway through the book: "I know I'm full of crap a lot of the time, but that comes with the territory.
"Your job is to provide me with honest feedback," Lutz writes. If read with this caveat in mind, this book offers enough insight to rescue almost any failing industry without government bailouts. In my career as a reporter, I've seen enough once excellent newspapers go down the drain because publishers refused to understand Lutz's observations, insight and remedies.
He's a "product man," which means a commitment to quality products instead of profits, prestige or paper pushing. Lutz is infuriated by "bean counters" who see value only in profits; as such, it is an eloquent 'cri de coeur' rather than...
Well worth reading for what's between the lines as well as the ideas presented. The insight into the structural problems at GM is piercing and fascinating. What I found as interesting are Lutz's blind spots. He points out absolutely correctly that customers don't care that the project manager met his schedule and product cost goals; the customers care about the car in front of them, and for Lutz, that means the car's being appealing inside and out. Much good discussion of interiors, paint, proportions, etc. But only the most passing mention of what it's like to DRIVE the cars... after all, customers do more than just admire the lovely beasts. The "unfair shake" the automotive press gave GM was based on more than anti-GM prejudice; it was based on quality, durability, erratic ergonomics, and in the cognoscenti's magazines, on the driving experience. The forward unbalanced muscle cars like the GTO that didn't much care for stopping or turning were sneered at, as were the general...
This is a very worthwhile book for anyone who wants an insight in what happened to the US auto industry as its share of domestic sales collapsed. (GM alone had more than 50% of the US market by itself in the late 60's and was down to 20% in 2013).
The received wisdom has been that GM and there American car companies brought this onto themselves by not caring about producing a quality product. Lutz's great insight is to show the reasons why quality became such a problem for US companies and not for Japanese makers (essentially the response to the Arab oil embargo in 1973 was to force an immediate increase in fleet mileage targets, forcing US car companies to redesign their car fleets more quickly than was possible).
While this might seem like just making excuses, Lutz points out that in the category of light trucks (e.g. Ford 150), where mileage rules weren't applied, US car makers retained their dominance, as they continue to do today.
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