We wont lie. Motofinity has a man-crush on Bob Lutz.
How can you help it? The guy helped bring to life the Dodge Viper, BMW 6-series and Pontiac GTO, and that’s just recently.
So what’s this book, Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business, or in our case, Kindle Book about? Essentially, it’s about what led to the downfall of General Motors. I’ve personally been very critical of GM, after reading the book, perhaps some of that is unfair – but certainly not all of it.
General Motors began its slide 1970s. In the book, Bob explains how GM, flush with cash, started from scratch on its entire product line to meet the new Corporate Average Fuel Economy requirements. CAFE legislation hurt domestic manufacturers more than imports because global vehicles were already efficient enough or took less effort to meet the standards. In the process of redesigning the entire fleet, quality was flushed.
Lutz points out that CAFE is a joke (and hey, we’re doing it to ourselves again!) because domestic manufacturers make the best large trucks out there. Other brands try, and lately they’ve tried harder than ever, but they just aren’t as good as domestics and get worse gas mileage. Hello Nissan Titan. The Lutz alternative to CAFE is raising the gas tax.
Hold up Bob.
Pushing the burden onto the consumer for manufacturers lack of foresight into meeting future requirements is what got you into trouble in the first place. You postulate that if we had higher taxes on gas then people would be more motivated to make “wise” car buying choices like putting us all in Fiestas or Aveos.
Mr. Lutz, you’re sucking out our car souls.
We motorheads like our V8s and rear-wheel drive. Unless you have some plan to give us $20K 400 HP Camaros so that we can afford a second car, we reject your plan. Even a modest 25 cent increase that will gradually bring us even to Europe’s $7 a gallon prices it seems ridiculous to pay more in taxes for a gallon of fuel than for the actual gallon of gas. But we digress, we could write a book about how ass-backward energy policies are worldwide.
The crux of the book is really how Vehicle Line Executives (VLEs) and MBA eggheads justified horrible cars with festeringly-bad interiors by meeting internal goals. Yup, some group of bean counters with MBA sheepskins thought the Pontiac Aztek was a great car because it looked profitable on paper.
While Car Guys vs. Bean Counters focuses on how GM got in such an awful place, the larger question it raises is how America has changed from a manufacturing powerhouse to tottering on the edge of massive failure. The answer is greed. Our success led us to believe we deserved things that we didn’t. Lutz recounts asking GM executives how they could justify accepting outrageous UAW contracts. The answer was that the business guys had projected record sales coming and it was cheaper than a strike. We know where that got us.
Ultimately, this book leaves the impression that it’s time to call bullshit on the idea of “too big to fail.” Bailing out companies leaves the nation in fiscal mess. We feared that by letting companies go bankrupt we would lose too many jobs, but the 9-plus percent unemployment we’ve got in the wake of GM and Chrysler bailouts and $14 trillion in debt don’t exactly look like gains. Both points aren’t solely because of automaker bailouts, but the mentality that we deserve more than we have, and more than we can afford, persists.
Bob Lutz suggests that the position the United States is in forces everyone to readjust our sights, and that’s a good thing. Not everybody is going to have a six figure salary, you can’t afford a house on a fast-food pay check, and, of course, when executives make million dollar bonuses and then layoff thousands, they deserve taxpayer money even less than usual.
If you’re wondering how GM and the domestic auto industry got to the point of insolvency and why it was like watching a train wreck in slow motion over 3 decades – read this book. If you’re wondering why businesses fail left and right, why the country that used to be the best struggles to stay relevant, read this book. Change is the only constant, and big change appears to be afoot. If you’re maintaining a mentality that things will go back to the way they were and you’ll be able to make $100,000 a year with a job that has a “shift,” or if you think you deserve millions for being an executive of a company that’s hemorrhaging money, you’ll find that reality is a bitch.