GM’s Lutz: Still a Putz on Global Warming

General Motors’ Vice-Chairman Bob Lutz is a bit perturbed about how the blogosphere called him out for calling Global Warming a “total crock of s–t” in a meeting with reporters.  In a post entitled Talk about a Crock, Lutz takes on those who had the audacity to criticize him for his idiocy and calls on people to focus on what GM is actually doing, rather than what its executives are saying.

Yes, Bob, let’s take a look at what GM is doing … and saying.

  1. Developing the PHEV Volt.  BRAVO.  +1
  2. Continuing with McSUV-heavy product line, with heavy advertising of it.  -1 
  3. Fighting (hard) against increases in the CAFE standard.  -1
  4. Heavily engaged in distorting greenwashing ads.  -1

Hmmm, -3 in a generous balancing act as we could continue this list.  I’ve been an enthusiast for the Volt from the first words about it and can’t wait to see it coming off the factory lines in serious numbers.  But, this is one car. Stated to be targeted for 60,000 vehicles in 2011.  In 2006, GM produced 9.18 million cars so we are talking about less than 1% of annual production.  Again, even while a major enthusiast for the Volt, it is easy to exaggerate its role in the GM equation.

Let’s take a little closer look at how GM executive Bob Lutz reacts to some (much merited) criticism. Thus, some items to talk about from Talk about a Crock.

My beliefs are mine and I have a right to them, just as you have a right to yours.

First, Bob, you are a Corporate executive and, for some reason, what you say in an arranged lunch session with reporters is taken as having something to do with Corporate policy and Corporate management.  You were a putz to say what you said in that session, no matter what your beliefs are, and your shareholders should not be happy with you.

Second, “beliefs” … yes, you can believe the earth is flat or that “evolution” is some left-wing conspiracy. It just would be nice if, somehow, facts collided with your universe.

My opinions on the subject — like anyone’s — are immaterial.

Wow, time to get rid of public opinion polls. 

No, Bob, that is not the case. Opinions coming from leaders (and, yes, the Vice Chairman of one of the Big Three can qualify here) shape opinions. And, opinions (rephrase, ill-informed opinions) on Global Warming are influencing the US (and Global) ability to deal with this very serious challenge.

And I think that many of the people who’ve been spewing their virtual vitriol in my direction in the past week are guilty of taking the easy way out.

How Bob?

Instead of simply assailing me for expressing what I think, they should be looking at the big picture. What they should be doing, in earnest, is forming opinions not about me but about GM, and what this company is doing that is — and will continue to be — hugely beneficial to the very causes they so enthusiastically claim to support.

Okay, “hugely beneficial”.  Exactly what is “hugely beneficial”?  Perhaps it is your rating as one of America’s ten worst greenwashers

General Motors, for falsely promoting its cars as environmentally friendly, with ads that place GM SUVs in natural habitats as if they were as natural as the birds. In fact, SUVs get very few miles to the gallon and are far more harmful to the environment than most other automobiles. General Motors is a member of the Coalition for Vehicle Choice, an organization that opposes clean air legislation and laws directed at reducing auto emissions.

Or perhaps it is GM’s leadership on helping move forward toward a better national Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard.  As you were quoted in what is most generously described as a disingenuous statement:

General Motors Vice-Chairman Bob Lutz told the Detroit News, “There is a dangerous amount of momentum” in Congress behind tougher fuel economy regulations. “And we are about out of technology to get us there.” 

Or, how about your more recent comments against Congress’ efforts for the (minimal) move to 32 mpg by 2020:

Bob Lutz, GM’s vice chairman and the head of global product development, said the proposed changes to the government’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards would represent an unfair burden on the traditional Big Three automakers.

“For one thing, it puts us, the domestic manufacturers, at odds with the desires of most of our customers, namely larger vehicles,” Lutz said in a year-end posting on a website maintained by GM. “That effectively hands the truck and SUV market over to the imports, particularly the Japanese, who have earned years of accumulated credits from their fleets of formerly very small cars.”

Lutz, a longtime critic of government fuel economy regulations, compared the attempt to force carmakers to sell smaller vehicles to “fighting the nation’s obesity problem by forcing clothing manufacturers to sell garments only in small sizes.”

Bob, do we really need to continue to look at how GM is so ” hugely beneficial to the very causes they so enthusiastically claim to support”? 

General Motors is dedicated to the removal of cars and trucks from the environmental equation, period

Can I stop laughing?

The only way this occurs: no cars and trucks!

Does anyone think that this is core to General Motors business plan? 

My goal is to take the automotive industry out of the debate entirely.

That’s right. Fighting CAFE standards improvements, arguing that big, polluting cars are simply what consumers want, etc … You want the automotive industry “out of the debate entirely” so that you can do what you want without government oversight.

The Chevrolet Volt program is occurring under my personal watch, because I — and others in senior management — believe in it. I fully expect that it will revolutionize the automotive industry, and I’m committed to seeing it successfully developed and in showrooms. 

Bob, this is the place where I truly agree with you.  The Volt, with its serial hybrid and plug-in with 40-so miles electric range, does offer a real chance for “revolutinizing the automotive industry”.  Your move with the Volt looks to be pushing Toyota toward a plug-in version of the Prius.  It could revolutinize the industry and transportation globally, especially if you were targeting not just one product, with less than one percent of annual production come 2011.  Will it be the #1 advertised GM product? How many units are projected for 2013? 2015?  Will 100% of GM cars be a minimum of plug-in hybrids by 2017?   

We’re going forward with these programs because it makes good sense to do so — common sense. If it’s doable, why wouldn’t we do it? It would lead to nothing but good things: energy independence, lower emissions, and better air. Isn’t that what we all want?

Yes, Bob, I how that is “what we all want”.  But, what you said is distracting from that “common sense”, that “good sense”.  And, saying what you said showed anything but good and common sense. 

Now, Bob Lutz has a different basis for complaint.  Why was he singled out among auto industry executives since they don’t exactly shine forth as assertive and knowledgeable about the science on Global Warming?  When a reporter asked a series of auto executives about Global Warming, here is Lutz’ reply:

My personal opinion is as it always was. I genuinely believe the planet is warming. It has been warming for the last four or five hundred years. I remain totally unconvinced that it has anything to do with human activity.

But my opinion is beside the point. The operative fact is that there is a growing body of American public opinion that believes in global warming. Most government officials believe it. And we (GM) have to behave as it if were real. The goal is to hopefully make a difference in C02 reduction, and we are absolutely committed to doing that.

Not exactly brilliant nor in accord with the science, but read through the other execs and Lutz doesn’t really come off as the worst putz of the group. So why did calling Global Warming “a total crock of s–t” get such attention? Perhaps Lutz got hit because of the graphic nature of his comments.  While some say that “there is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obiturary“, cursing to reporters can bring you attention, Bob, and it isn’t necessarily the attention you desire.

The reality: Global Warming is not a “total crock of s–t”.  Again, perhaps rather than trying to stuff another foot in your mouth, you should go and learn something about the scientific Theory of Global Warming rather than listening to right-wing political pundits who are putting political theology above scientific data and analysis.

2 responses to “GM’s Lutz: Still a Putz on Global Warming

  1. A brilliant skewering of Bob’s statement. Enjoyed the read immensely.

    One can only shake their head that the leader of a big automaker wouldn’t at least *pretend* to believe in climate change. I’m glad that the American consumer is peer pressuring him into doing something that he doesn’t believe in.

    I do take some comfort in the fact that he does believe in peak oil and energy independence, as some of the means towards achieving these goals are along the same trajectory as climate change.

    But still. Sheesh!

  2. Pingback: Lutz Can Be Such a Putz … « Energy Smart

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