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“Complete Acquiesence”: Bob Lutz Reveals How the Pontiac Aztek Happened
October 10, 2014 at 4:40 pm by Bob Lutz
Car and Driver



How do bad cars happen? How, for instance, did Pontiac’s Aztek—the greatest failed model in recent history—get all the way from flawed design to ugly product? We asked Bob Lutz, our industry expert and man-about-town, if he knew anything. Turns out, he knows quite a bit.

I kind of got hired [as GM's vice chairman of product development] because of the Aztek. I was getting an award, and [then-GM chairman] Rick Wagoner introduced me and took a couple of funny digs. When I gave my speech, I said, “It’s curious that the man who oversaw the Aztek would comment on my failures.” It brought the house down. When I apologized later, he said, “Ah, I was expecting it. We’re disappointed in the Aztek. I’d enjoy hearing what you think we’re doing wrong.” After three conversations, he offered me a job.

A bad car happens in stages. The Aztek concept car was a much leaner vehicle. Decent proportions. It got everybody excited. At the time, GM was criticized for never doing anything new, never taking a chance. So Wagoner and the automotive strategy board decreed that henceforth, 40 percent of all new GM products would be “innovative.” That started a trend toward setting internal goals that meant nothing to the customer. Everything that looked reasonably radical got green-lit.

Continues here: Car and Driver
 

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http://www.roadandtrack.com/voices/...the-inside-story-of-the-pontiac-aztek-debacle
a working link to the "go-Lutz-yourself" where this came from
I think this article says MOST of what went wrong @ GM and I assume Ford and Dodge
that the "group goals" are the ONLY important thing to achieve
One guy I informally interviewed about how the Aztek happened was one of the top guys on the project. And this guy, he looks at me and he says, "I'm proud of it." Proud of the Aztek? "Yup. That was the best program we ever did at GM. We made all our internal goals, we made the timing, and I'm really proud of the part I played in it." He had tears in his eyes. It was almost tragic.
 

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Very true about the dictator type manager. I've had the bad fortune of first hand experience with a couple. Terrible people whose nastiness is mistaken for capability - people like that are incapable of getting the best out of the people around them. Bad managers make Aztek's, good managers make C7 Corvettes.
 

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I saw no reference to sales figures. Just how did the Aztek sell?

Neighbors down the street have had one since they moved in. It starts every time, takes them where they're going, and brings them back.
 

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I still like the Aztec, to each their own. With as many as I've seen on the road it couldn't have sold that horribly.
I remember seeing it at the Vancouver international motor show and a LOT of people where checking it out + it looks to have sold well EX it was a segment of its own
to me people like to point to the UGLY AZTEC as a DUD but I do NOT think it was in the way the solstice/sky was or OTHER "ugly ducklings" like the Honda RidgeLine
 

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I agree. I've always had a soft spot for it.

It's not as ugly as, say, an i3:

Man that is one extremely weird experimental aeroplane. Where did you see it again?

Evryone hates this thing and because of that, I really want one. :D
The Aztek was styled under the direction of Tom Peters, who would later design the Chevrolet Corvette (C7).[1][2][3] According to an analysis in 2000, BusinessWeek said the Aztek was to signal a design renaissance for GM,[3] and to "make a statement about breaking from GM's instinct for caution."[3] One designer said that during the design process, the Aztek was made "aggressive for the sake of being aggressive."[3] Peters, the Chief Designer said "we wanted to do a bold, in-your-face vehicle that wasn't for everybody."

As a four-door crossover with a front engine and four-wheel drive, the Aztek featured a four-speed automatic transmission with a V-6 engine. Marketed by Pontiac as a "sport recreational vehicle," The Aztek used a shortened platform shared with GM's minivans (e.g., the Pontiac Montana) featuring 94 cubic feet of cargo room capable of carrying a 4' x 8' sheet of plywood with its rear seats removed. The design employed conventional rear swing-open kammback rather than sliding doors and a bi-parting rear tailgate, the lower section formed with seat indentations and cup-holders. Other features included a rear center console that doubled as a removable cooler, rear stereo controls in the cargo area, a sliding cargo floor with grocery compartments and an available camping package with an attachable tent and inflatable mattress.

Calendar year Total American sales
2000 11,201[17]
2001[18] 27,322
2002 27,793
2003[19] 27,354
2004[20] 20,588
2005 5,020
2006[21] 347
2007[22] 69


GM forecast sales of up to 75,000 Azteks per year, and needed to produce 30,000 annually to break even. Just 27,322 were sold in 2001.[23]

Pricing of the Aztek was also an issue at launch: the vehicle was too expensive for its intended "Generation X" audience and was priced significantly higher than competing vehicles. After the 2001 model year, the GT model was dropped and pricing was slashed, in addition to extremely generous rebates and cut-rate financing instituted by GM in the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.[citation needed]

The Aztek had among the highest CSI (Customer Satisfaction Index) scores in its class, and won the appellation of "Most Appealing Entry Sport Utility Vehicle" in 2001 from J.D. Power and Associates, an independent consumer survey organization which noted: "The Aztek scores highest or second highest in every APEAL component measure except exterior styling."

Matthew DeBord of The Big Money argued that despite its poor reviews and sales, the Aztek was the car that, in the long run, could save GM. He praised GM for being daring and trying to create an entirely new market in vehicles, rather than simply copying successful formulas. He argued that the Aztek's failure is similar to the failure of the Apple's Newton and Mac Portable - two failed products that revolutionized the computer industry and became the basis for later successful products made by Apple.[24]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontiac_Aztek
 
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Yeah, the incredible thing is that the Buick Rendezvous sold about triple the volume the Aztek did. GM had expected just the opposite.

The Buick was better styled (though hardly elegant), rode better, came with 3 rows of seats as an option, a better interior, and was much more refined. For no more money than the Aztek's range sold for.
 

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"At the time, GM was criticized for never doing anything new, never taking a chance. So Wagoner and the automotive strategy board decreed that henceforth, 40 percent of all new GM products would be innovative."

Since when does "innovative" automatically imply "butt-ugly"? I think indifference has a lot more to do with the Aztek coming into existence.
 

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Yeah, the incredible thing is that the Buick Rendezvous sold about triple the volume the Aztek did. GM had expected just the opposite.

The Buick was better styled (though hardly elegant), rode better, came with 3 rows of seats as an option, a better interior, and was much more refined. For no more money than the Aztek's range sold for.
My parents had the Rendezvous - I hated the styling (as you said, much better than the Aztek, but 2x0 is still zero) but it did ride nicely, comfortable and I did like the interior.
 

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"At the time, GM was criticized for never doing anything new, never taking a chance. So Wagoner and the automotive strategy board decreed that henceforth, 40 percent of all new GM products would be innovative."

Since when does "innovative" automatically imply "butt-ugly"? I think indifference has a lot more to do with the Aztek coming into existence.
I wonder if any of this "40% of product being innovative" had anything to do with the first gen CTS coming into existence? Or what other products were impacted by this rule?
 

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The good thing is that these sort of mistakes will probably not be made in today's internet era. Controversial styling like the i3 mentioned here is one thing, despite it being a success (can you imagine how it would sell if the i3 would have looked differently), but if 90 percent of the people think something is outright ugly, you probably didn't do your homework.

It could be worse. Peugeot lost most of its loyal clientele, primarily because of all of its dreadfully designed models it had made for over a decade. Gone was the proverbial French elegance. The 308 for instance reminded me of the monster bug in Men In Black.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-wUQOz3h4XU4/UYa5bLyzc2I/AAAAAAAAOd4/llRG1QhEgFg/s320/The+****roach.jpg
 

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I was at a EPCOT a few months before production began, at a GM sponsored pavilion where the Aztec concept was on display. I talked with a GM rep and told him how bad the production version looked. I do give him credit for his positive PR spin, but I could tell he really agreed with me and was just doing his best.

I think the Buick Rendezvous was much a more balanced and successful design.
 

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What a lot of people forget is that the Aztec was one of the first crossovers. Based on a car rather than light truck platform, it was lighter, rode and handled better and got better fuel economy. More importantly, it was one of the few times that GM was on the forefront of a market trend.

The biggest problem was that the platform wasn't the best in the minivan market. It was also narrower than the competition. So, you ended up with narrow ungainly protortions, average ride and handling and a drive train with sub par NVH.

The world would have been very different had GM engineers been working with a class leading platform to start with. An important lesson as GM looks to base nearly everything on a handful of platforms going forward.
 
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