Lutz on Wagoner: Smart, didn't make tough calls

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Thread: Lutz on Wagoner: Smart, didn't make tough calls

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    Lutz on Wagoner: Smart, didn't make tough calls

    Lutz on Wagoner: Smart, didn't make tough calls
    Automotive News
    June 14, 2013

    Bob Lutz and Rick Wagoner were cut from different management cloth, according to Lutz in his new book, ICONS AND IDIOTS: Straight Talk on Leadership.

    Lutz, as General Motors vice chairman, relied heavily on his instincts, while Wagoner, as GM CEO, was deeply data driven. The two executives didn't always see eye to eye, but they did get along.

    "In contrast to other executives I've known in my career," Lutz writes "... Rick Wagoner showed little in the way of 'peculiarities.' As a leader he was always polite, kind and ready to hear opposing views without anger or even visible irritation. His executive suite was modest, as was his style: he eschewed executive trappings and even excessive compensation."

    But Lutz says Wagoner tended to overfocus on process to the detriment of creativity and was too loyal to some ineffective underlings.

    In his book, Lutz profiles several auto industry notables he encountered during his long career, as well as a high school teacher in Switzerland and his Marine Corps drill instructor.

    In the following excerpt, Lutz reflects on Wagoner, who in 2001 hired the then-69-year-old former Chrysler, Ford, BMW and Opel executive as GM's head of product development. The two men worked together closely until Wagoner's departure in 2009 in the midst of GM's bankruptcy proceedings -- President Obama having taken Wagoner up on his offer to resign.

    Full article at link.

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    Re: Lutz on Wagoner: Smart, didn't make tough calls

    I never understood how you can be a CEO without a vision or more inportantly, why you would even be hired. Most of these guys are just recycled through different industries. There's very few visionaries in corporate America anymore.

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    Re: Lutz on Wagoner: Smart, didn't make tough calls

    Look this guy has a really big mouth and at some point a man has to realize when he is past his prime and sit it down. He HAD a great career now he need to go play more golf and play with the grandchildren. Let young men of the current era have their time producing product for the current population. Still mad at him for messing up the STS and if he had his way we would have never had the first generation CTS.

    How fair is it to put that man on blast without him being able to defend him self and who made that old rag the one who's opinion counts. Reminds me of the movie "Whats Love Got to Do With It". Not saying who is right or wrong but how would you like your ex to write a book or article about you.
    Last edited by rueben44; 06-14-2013 at 05:44 PM.
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    Re: Lutz on Wagoner: Smart, didn't make tough calls

    Quote Originally Posted by rueben44 View Post
    Look this guy has a really big mouth and at some point a man has to realize when he is past his prime and sit it down. He HAD a great career now he need to go play more golf and play with the grandchildren. Let young men of the current era have their time producing product for the current population. Still mad at him for messing up the STS and if he had his way we would have never had the first generation CTS.

    How fair is it to put that man on blast without him being able to defend him self and who made that old rag the one who's opinion counts. Reminds me of the movie "Whats Love Got to Do With It". Not saying who is right or wrong but how would you like your ex to write a book or article about you.
    I've always wanted to see the STS that Lutz killed....I gather it was inspired by the Imaj concept.

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    Re: Lutz on Wagoner: Smart, didn't make tough calls

    I've enjoyed Lutz in all ways. If you work for large corporations you see exactly what he saw. And you also know folks like Lutz would never be CEO unless they start a firm because large firms prefer individuals who tend not to rock the boat. It's one reason why so many companies slide into oblivion. They follow what worked not comprehending that times change and what worked in the past will not work going forward. You can see this documented in books like The Innovator's Dilemma.

    The fact Lutz opens up about people in an honest way is something I actually enjoy reading and will pick this book up as I've picked up his prior tomes. The man understood the auto industry. He understood that as cars improved the differentiator would become style and performance. This is something that Toyota, for example, doesn't get as they watch Corolla sales deteriorate. GM didn't get it either, then did, and seems to have forgotten it somewhat with the Malibu. It doesn't cost more to design a beautiful car and all things being equal, the attractive car will be the go to car: see Fusion for an example.

    As mentioned above I'd love to see the car designs Lutz nixed. I do know he tried to save the Grand Prix (or was it the Grand Am) that he said looked like Bugs Bunny. Seeing the last of the Grand Prix's you can see how bad the front fascia was. He was also more than willing to make comments on how old various platforms were at GM. And regardless of how you feel about the man, he did try to save Pontiac with the Solstice and G8 but that was too little, too late and in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression. The G8 is, in my opinion, not only the best Pontiac ever but one of the best sedans ever built, regardless of price.

    So I'll be picking up Icons & Idiots because we all tend to work or have worked with such individuals, and sadly our children will work with such individuals as they tend to breed and propagate, to say nothing of promoting one another into power...
    "Christians should not hold dumb opinions about the natural world based solely on misreadings of the Bible, especially opinions that can be demonstrably falsified by Reason, lest the Faith be subject to ridicule and mockery." -- St. Augustine of Hippo.

    "Stop being dicks to the poor." Pope Francis, paraphrased.

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    Re: Lutz on Wagoner: Smart, didn't make tough calls

    Quote Originally Posted by CaddyLac10 View Post
    I never understood how you can be a CEO without a vision or more inportantly, why you would even be hired. Most of these guys are just recycled through different industries. There's very few visionaries in corporate America anymore.
    Visionaries don't make it through corporate structure anymore. They generally are too outspoken and bristle under the bureaucracy. Generally the only way a visionary can make it nowadays is if they start their own company. Think Elon Musk, even if I don't believe Tesla is all its cracked up to be.
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    Re: Lutz on Wagoner: Smart, didn't make tough calls

    Looks to be a good book, I'll have to put it on my list.

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    Re: Lutz on Wagoner: Smart, didn't make tough calls

    I got the book this week and am 3/4 of the way through it.

    So far I find Lutz is quite fair about his assessments of others and modest of his contributions. He clearly lays out how his style is foreign to the automotive executive culture and so his observations must be understood in that context.

    I've always liked Lutz. In a way he is an opposite of who I see myself. Maximum Bob always kept it interesting and GM is the better for it in my view.

    On the original STS a black and white picture of it had been posted here on GMi way back in 2004. It had integrated exhaust tips that lined up with upright tail lights. Beyond that I don't recall it looking like Imaj. As I recall Lutz asked that the roofline be raised one inch for production.

    As for the Lacrosse, you may not have liked it but it was a breath of fresh air into Buick who had been turning out the same Century seemingly forever. In my view the MCE was particularly handsome as was the Super variant.
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    Re: Lutz on Wagoner: Smart, didn't make tough calls

    Quote Originally Posted by rueben44 View Post
    Look this guy has a really big mouth and at some point a man has to realize when he is past his prime and sit it down. He HAD a great career now he need to go play more golf and play with the grandchildren. Let young men of the current era have their time producing product for the current population. Still mad at him for messing up the STS and if he had his way we would have never had the first generation CTS.

    How fair is it to put that man on blast without him being able to defend him self and who made that old rag the one who's opinion counts. Reminds me of the movie "Whats Love Got to Do With It". Not saying who is right or wrong but how would you like your ex to write a book or article about you.
    Let's be honest, the ship was sinking under Wagoner and he just kept asking the band to play on. He was about the worst leader anyone could envision when GM needed him at their most. He would not cut and kill wasted focus groups, wouldn't make the mass layoffs needed in layers of management, and could not tell someone with a bad idea "NO".

    I mean, when he was begging for the govt. to save GM in the Senate hearings Senators were asking him what he's done himself as CEO over the years to help save the company and he had no straight answer.

    I'm sure he's a nice guy. I'd probably like to meet him as a person. As a CEO of what once was one of the largest companies in the world, he was a horrible leader, no vision, and completely inept.

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    Re: Lutz on Wagoner: Smart, didn't make tough calls

    I found this while looking for the STS that Lutz killed...said it was a 2003 study for the CTS. ICTSclay2003.jpg
    Interestingly Sixteen looking.

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    Re: Lutz on Wagoner: Smart, didn't make tough calls

    Quote Originally Posted by johnstarnes View Post
    I found this while looking for the STS that Lutz killed...said it was a 2003 study for the CTS. IAttachment 12910
    Interestingly Sixteen looking.
    Good find John. The rear fender shapes look like the CTS MCE.
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    Re: Lutz on Wagoner: Smart, didn't make tough calls

    I would never sing Wagoner's praises because didn't that whole Fiat thing happen under his control? That has to be a history maker right there but I have to give him credit for keeping GM alive and truly trying to turn it around on a tight rope. The economic fall was a blow that they could not stand while on life support. It was like all the errors of GM's past had come to a head and he was trying to guide them through it and bam the economy falls out.

    If you remember Chevy had started to produce small cars again like the Aveo and Cruze plus the Malibu had been given an update. He pushed the hybrid technology out in the big SUV's and trucks and redid them also with better quality interiors. Pontiac finally started to make nicer cars like the G8, Solstice, and marginally the G6. We finally started to get some cars from Europe and Cadillac was starting to make upticks in quality and was pushing bold design again.
    Last edited by rueben44; 06-15-2013 at 12:21 PM.
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    Re: Lutz on Wagoner: Smart, didn't make tough calls

    T200/250 Aveo was a disaster, hence why they had to change name to Sonic for Chevy sub-compact. We have a compact car named the Cruze because GM tarnished the name of the Cavalier, and it's replacement the Cobalt was sub-standard to the competition. Bad styling in sedan form, so-so interior, and lackluster quality control killed that car.

    Hybrid trucks are being killed. G6 never recieved the updates the other EPI cars did, withered on the vine until Pontiac died. Speaking of G6, G8, why did they kill the Grand Am and Grand Prix names, they were not tarnished.

    I liked what Wagoner did on the financial side of things, he improved GM in many different ways. I also am glad he brought Bob Lutz on board. But Bob Lutz was not always perfect on product decisions, and I feel that Wagoner was needed to step in and fix critical product, which he did not do.

    Chevrolet was starved of good product for a long time. Bob Lutz got the Malibu right. Why could the same have not applied to the Cobalt? That's the kind of situation where Wagoner needed to step in and say, "dammit we need to do out best"
    "The car's brilliant and ... a great surprise, pleasant surprise for all Corvette lovers everywhere ... a huge shock to our competitors ... because I don't think anybody was expecting something that good. What pleases me the most about it was that ... I can say this is the first car that's come out, that was done since I left.

    -- Bob Lutz, former vice chairman and head of global product development at GM

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    Re: Lutz on Wagoner: Smart, didn't make tough calls

    Quote Originally Posted by rueben44 View Post
    I would never sing Wagoner's praises because didn't that whole Fiat thing happen under his control? That has to be a history maker right there but I have to give him credit for keeping GM alive and truly trying to turn it around on a tight rope. The economic fall was a blow that they could not stand while on life support. It was like all the errors of GM's past had come to a head and he was trying to guide them through it and bam the economy falls out.

    If you remember Chevy had started to produce small cars again like the Aveo and Cruze plus the Malibu had been given an update. He pushed the hybrid technology out in the big SUV's and trucks and redid them also with better quality interiors. Pontiac finally started to make nicer cars like the G8, Solstice, and marginally the G6. We finally started to get some cars from Europe and Cadillac was starting to make upticks in quality and was pushing bold design again.
    Hybrid tech in the big SUVs was a horrible disaster. GM has given up on that smartly. The Aveo was even worse, it was junk, a rebadged Suzuki tin can. The Cruze was not in production until after Wagoner was long gone - he had no say in that decision. That decision was made under Whitaker. Pontiac was completely mismanaged for years, and no matter what kind of cars they were producing they were doomed. Wagoner did not help at all. It was in 2005 that Lutz questioned whether Pontiac could continue much longer.

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    Re: Lutz on Wagoner: Smart, didn't make tough calls

    Quote Originally Posted by TigerMWM View Post
    Bob Lutz is my kind of car guy, but I like his business acumen as well. I'm not sure if he's cut from that same cloth as Iacocca or John Z…as he's even more of a car guy.

    Really look forward to reading this book.
    Bob Lutz is the reason why a lot of GM's vehicle programs stalled at critical times on his watch.
    Lutz constantly let his "Car Guy" opinion dominate / overrule sound marketing data in order
    for his pet projects to proceed.

    So to turn around and say that Waggoner wasn't strong enough is pot calling the kettle black.

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