Gm's Lutz Comfy Amid Industry's Great Storm

by Lauren Woods - Date: 2007-06-13 - Word Count: 588 Share This!

"Remain calm, serene, always in command of yourself. You will then find out how easy it is to get along." That old adage could be the philosophy that General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz is applying. Amid the great storm in the industry consisting of the rising gasoline prices, the hype of EPA mandates, and the overwhelming auto competition, Lutz is comfy yet geared up.

These days, Lutz is everywhere. He is delivering speeches, engaging bloggers and sparring with critics. In the previous week, the executive made his second appearance on National Public Radio in less than a month and faced lots of tough questions. Last month, he appeared on the NPR show "Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me" and wrote that the appearance "was an absolute hoot."

He was far less enthused about an appearance last week on "On Point" which is hosted by Tom Ashbrook. A number of callers launched insults at Lutz. One referred to the "amazing stupidity you've been spouting," while condemning the automaker a series of fronts. "After listening to Mr. Lutz, it's just amazing the incompetence that our leadership in American industry has," he said.

Lutz retaliated, "We produce what the American public demands. We don't manipulate demand I wish it were true. There's a lot of stuff out there that we would like to sell that is not selling. The Pontiac Aztec would have been a huge success if we had been able to manipulate the American public. Unfortunately, we weren't able to make anybody like it."

Lutz evaded queries about Sen. Barack Obama's criticism of the auto industry. But he responded to criticism from Thomas L. Friedman, a New York Times columnist. "Those who don't come from Michigan want higher mileage standards imposed on Detroit, while those who come from Michigan prefer to continue their assisted suicide of the U.S. auto industry by blocking tougher mileage requirements," Friedman wrote.

"We aren't into assisted suicide," retorted Lutz. "This is the problem people have. They think if we only try a little harder or that if we tweak something a little bit or if we reinvent that famous 100-mile carburetor that floated around for decades - which everyone knew was there along with the razor blade that lasted forever and the run-less nylon." He added the suggestion is nonsense that "we were somehow conspiring with the oil companies to keep this 100-mile carburetor away from the American public. These things are urban myths."

The executive has made several speeches recently about the development of the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid. Like the soothing gust from the Chevy cold air intake, Lutz flaunted the potentials of the upcoming vehicle. The Volt is crammed with lots of interesting features to pull customers closer.

The Detroit-based automaker and other companies are aggressively wowing bloggers, inviting them to some events and offering interviews. Lately, GM invited bloggers to its headquarters for interviews.

"Let me start by apologizing for not checking in lately. And I do that not because I feel I owe anyone an apology but because I'm truly sorry I don't get a chance to do as much of this as I'd like to." Lutz wrote May 18 in his blog. "The tone of some of the comments posted lately - that Bob is bored with blogging, that the GM blog is a failure, that management feels the blog has backfired, that GM is pulling out of the blog business - has been, frankly, bordering on ridiculous. I will continue to do it, whenever I can, and as long as it seems people want to read it."

Related Tags: auto parts, chevy cold air intake

Given her background on cars as an auto insurance director, Lauren Woods finds the world of cars to be constantly changing.

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