Newsweek magazine has published a hagiography of GM Vice Chair Bob Lutz. This one-pager, Bob Lutz: The Man Who Revived the Electric Car, focusing on his role in resuscitating the electric car after GM’s efforts to kill the electric car. The 75-year Lutz is given the last word as to his vision.
Detroit’s horsepower jockey insists the Volt will be his crowning achievement—and his swan song. “This is like JFK’s call for the moon shot,” he says. “I want to stick around to see the Volt come to market. Then I’ll pack it in around 80.” And ride off into the sunset on electric power.
Truth be told, after having been core to such environmentally and national security sound vehicles like the Dodge Viper, Ford Explorer and other vehicles that have helped US fall deeper into oil addiction, Lutz has a deep hole to dig himself out of before he merits lavish praise for the Volt.
Now, two points:
Lutz does seem critical to fostering the Volt at GM.
The Volt PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) could prove crucial to turning the US (and, perhaps, global) auto industry toward a more sensible path.
Now, as we see the singing of Lutz’ virtues, consider this paragraph from the Newsweek piece.
But the biggest naysayers Lutz faced were inside his own company. After being burned by the failure of its EV1 electric car in the ’90s … GM was gun-shy about plugging in again. When Lutz first proposed creating an electric car in 2003, the idea “bombed” inside GM, he says. “I got beaten down a number of times.”
So in 2006, Lutz formed a skunkworks team of engineers and designers to quickly cobble together the Chevy Volt concept car, which became the star of the 2007 Detroit Auto Show. And then he persuaded the brass to greenlight the Volt for production by arguing that they must try to seize the green high ground from Toyota, which is battling GM for the title of the world’s No. 1 automaker. “We saw Toyota getting highly beneficial rub-off from their Prius success, which permitted them to cloak themselves in the mantle of total greenness,” says Lutz. “This was starting to hurt because it was one reason for a sudden surge in Toyota’s market share.”
What jumps out from this?
“Failure of EV1” as opposed to GM’s undercutting of and destroying of the EV1.
GM management fought going (back to) electric, hard.
Production decision was ‘green image’ (greenwashing driven).
Note the pointing to Toyota’s use of Prius to provide coverage for their gas-guzzling SUVs.
Note the speed to action. Team formed in 2006. Concept car 2007. Production in a few years. Where would GM be if it hadn’t been so desperate to kill the EV1?
And, well, this hagiography clearly shows that Newsweek doesn’t consider Lutz a putz, no matter what idiocies he might say about Global Warming.