Bob Lutz, General Motors’ vice chairman and chief car guru, says what really turns him on is “doing the unexpected”–acting “contrary to the conventional wisdom, forcing people to re-think their beliefs.” Maybe that’s why Lutz, who made his name developing behemoths like the V-10 Dodge Viper, is so sold on the fuel-efficient new Chevrolet Volt, which will run on a lithium-ion battery and could go on sale by 2010. “The Volt thrills me because it’s the last thing anybody expected from GM,” the ex-Marine said at a private lunch in Arlington today. If you’re into cars or the car business, jump to read more of Lutz’s contrarian beliefs.
During a closed-door session with several journalists at the Cacharel restaurant, Lutz declared that:
–Hybrid cars like those made by Toyota “make no economic sense,” because their price will never come down, and diesel autos like those touted by Chrysler are also uneconomic. The only place in Europe that diesel-driven cars are big, he said, is where diesel fuel is half the cost of regular gasoline; in most places there, the costs are comparable and diesel has little market penetration.
– Global warming is a “total crock of ****.” Then he added: “I’m a skeptic, not a denier. Having said that, my opinion doesn’t matter. (With the battery-driven Volt), “I’m motivated more by the desire to replace imported oil than by the CO2 (argument).”
– With more and more good-quality cars on the market these days, “you’ve got to look at the business artistically, too. Part of our business is creating blockbusters–just like the movie business–yet we never think of ourselves that way. A car is an exciting mobile sculpture that you want to own, drive and be seen in. That’s why (auto-industry) comeback stories are always design-driven.” One GM car that fills that bill, he said, is Cadillac’s CTS.
– The best car dealers will thrive even in a sluggish economy. “They’ve got to isolate themselves from the economic forecasts,” Lutz said, “and say, ‘I make my own prosperity.’ ”
Tonight, Lutz will jawbone privately with area GM dealers about these and other matters at a local restaurant where steak will be served.