Newsweek thinks Lutz is no Putz …

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?

  1. “Failure of EV1” as opposed to GM’s undercutting of and destroying of the EV1
  2. GM management fought going (back to) electric, hard. 
  3. Production decision was ‘green image’ (greenwashing driven).
  4. Note the pointing to Toyota’s use of Prius to provide coverage for their gas-guzzling SUVs.
  5. 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.

5 responses to “Newsweek thinks Lutz is no Putz …

  1. itsaboutchoice

    “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.”

    The “people” bought the cars, Lutz did not force them upon us. Point the finger at yourself and others, not the person that satisfied your desires.

  2. Yes, “its about choice”.

    There is no such thing as advertising. Yes, “choice” … how many Americans had ever heard of the “Hemi” before it was heavily advertised? (For example …)

    There is no such thing as corporate lobbying re CAFE standards and otherwise.

    Now, by the way, have you ever seen “Who killed the Electric Car?” I’m not an acolyte, saying that it is the perfect film and 100% truth, but it has quite a lot of substantive material/points laying out how a Corporation (oops, GM) can seriously undercut a project and help it be doomed to failure. In this case, the “people” wanted that electric car and GM choice to take it from them and destroy them.

    It is a nice “framing” that it is all about “choice”, but the fact is that choices are constrain by the options put before us and shaped by things like advertising.

  3. Thomas C. Gray

    The idea that GM was “desperate” to kill of the EV-1 is a complete fabrication. The EV-1 should never have been offered to the public in the first place. No one who’s familiar with EVs even considered the EV-1 the equal of either Honda’s 1996 electric car (cancelled later that year), ot Toyota’s Rav4 electric, killed at the same trime as the EV-1,but offered to the public for only half as long as the EV-1. Unfortuantely, the only source of info the media has is that totally fititious movie “Who Killed the Electric Car?”, a
    long sequence of lies and silly conspiracy theories.
    The EV-1 was a total flop, and deservedly so.
    Find me one fool who would spend $43,000 to buy (and then $20,0000 every five years for a new battery pack) for a vehicle that couldn’t guarantee a round trip to a destination a mere 35 miles away. And it took 8 hours to recharge!
    GM’ had a list (not a waiting list, as “Who Killed..” falsely claims) of GM customers who expresed interest in an electric car. It contained 5,000 names. Only 50 of those ever followed thru with a lease of the EV-1. The idea that the EV-1 was either popular or viable is one of the giant lies the braindead media has swallowed.
    You’d think none of them even knew what a car is supposed to do. Incredible!!!

  4. Well, Thomas, this is a distortion of the EV-1. Yes, Who Killed the Electric Car? is not an unbiased film, without message. Don’t think that I’ve ever said/written that. On the other hand, neither is your post. And, “totally fictional”? Come on.

    The vitriol comes from where?

    Now, as to the EV1, want to mention that there were already delivered upgrades that provided a longer round-trip?

    “What a car is supposed to do”? What is that supposed to mean. Are cars and car users 100% the same, requiring and desiring the same things in their transport?

    Etc …

  5. Thomas C. Gray you talk like an expert, freely stating “facts” without any links to back-up your claims.

    You said:
    “The idea that GM was “desperate” to kill of the EV-1 is a complete fabrication. The EV-1 should never have been offered to the public in the first place. No one who’s familiar with EVs even considered the EV-1 the equal of either Honda’s 1996 electric car (cancelled later that year), ot Toyota’s Rav4 electric, killed at the same trime as the EV-1,but offered to the public for only half as long as the EV-1.”

    Maybe your stating GM’s feelings about never offering the EV1 in the first place. The 3rd party facts seem to indicate the EV1 was an excellent car. It was designed from the frame-up to be electric. Here is a link to a U.S.A. Department of Energy test/specification page for the EV1. http://avt.inel.gov/pdf/fsev/eva/ev1_eva.pdf Please note the EV1 with NiMH batteries could travel 160 miles at a constant speed of 60 mph, 220.7 miles at 45 mph and 140 miles doing a driving cycle. The EV1 could accelerate from 0-50mph in 6 seconds! Note the graph where the EV1 had the longest range when compared to other contempory electric vehicles. http://avt.inel.gov/pdf/fsev/eva/compare_graphs.pdf

    You said:
    “Unfortuantely, the only source of info the media has is that totally fititious movie “Who Killed the Electric Car?”, a long sequence of lies and silly conspiracy theories. The EV-1 was a total flop, and deservedly so.”

    The Government testing shows as indicated at the links above, the EV1 was a very good performing car. Here’s a video of the EV1 chirping (spinning) its tires. http://video.google.com/videosearch?q=ev1+chirping&emb=0#
    Kris Trexler’s test drive of the EV1 with NiMH batteries. http://www.ev1.pair.com/charge_across_america/charge_html/nimh_test2.html

    You said:
    “Find me one fool who would spend $43,000 to buy (and then $20,0000 every five years for a new battery pack) for a vehicle that couldn’t guarantee a round trip to a destination a mere 35 miles away. And it took 8 hours to recharge!”

    First your range of 35 miles is completely wrong. The life of the battery pack seems to be in error. “…an Ev Battery, that will run a small streamlined car over 150 miles, or run a SUV 100 miles and last for 10 years and 100,000 miles. The only problem is that the patent is owned by an oil company, and they very little incentive to allow it to be manufactured any time soon.” http://sunelectro.net/techtalkpage.html Let’s address your statement about charge time. The Government test results show 6 hours 58 minutes recharge time that beats the 8 hour recharge time goal. A 6 hour charge won’t be necessary if the average 40 miles are driven. Now, lets address the cost. Toyota in the same time period of the EV1 decided to design and tool a factory to begin production of the Prius. Here are the early production numbers:
    * March 1997 – Toyota Hybrid System unveiled.
    * December 1997 – first generation Prius launched for domestic Japanese market only (300 sales).
    * November 2000 – cumulative sales for Prius top 50 000.
    http://www.cbn.co.za/pressoffice/mccarthy_toyota/fullstory/682.htm
    Note: They started with 300 sales, in November 2000 it was a cumulative sales total of 50,000. Not 50,000 per year it was a total production of 4 years from 1997 to 2000. To date, they sold 1 million, but it took 10 years to do it. Toyota was eating a pretty large amount of development and production costs for such few sales. They were not charging the customer the true cost of the car. GM could have been creative with financing or at least reduced the battery size, and thrown a gas engine under the hood and competed directly with the Prius hybrid in the same time period instead of waiting 10 years to start competing with the Volt.

    I can’t speak to the numbers of leases granted. How is it you can quote them with authority?

    Thomas C. Gray, who do you work for? GM or an Oil company?

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