Saturday, October 01, 2005

Busy Week

It's been a busy week for me, starting a new job (finally) and getting acclimated to the British working environment. It's quite interesting and a contrast to the American work experience of endless hours of labor while looking over your shoulder for the possible pink slip followed by loss of health insurance and life as a beggar. Or at least I've made it that way in my mind.

A brief note about GM which I think shows that Bob Lutz still has some tricks up his sleeve. This comes from the Car Connection:

Lutz also told reporters that in the future GM would emphasize strong design as it developed new vehicles. Vehicle engineering would no longer be allowed to dictate a vehicle's proportions if it stood in the way of a great design, said Lutz, who added that GM also is developing a genuine global product plan.

"In the past, (GM) produced a lot of very excellent vehicles but somehow they didn't excite anybody," said Lutz. "I think our approach was much too rational and too analytically driven," said Lutz.

Lutz noted every manufacturer in the car business today sells technically excellent automobiles. "You cannot buy a bad automobile any more from any producer. We have to do more products not because we're looking at a particular segment, but because it's a great vehicle," he said.

The only way carmakers can gain an edge with consumers now is with a strong design and strong interiors, he added.

Absolutely correct and brilliant. I'd tweak what he was saying to the extent that American cars are not as technically proficient as Japanese cars, but it is close. GM has, in my opinion as an owner of an older GM car, made reliable vehicles. They are certainly more reliable than anything coming from Europe. Lutz I think realizes that even if GM were to invest so much time and money in producing a car that is more reliable than a Japanese car, it would be a waste of time as the PR campaign waged by Japanese manufacturers for decades has been one of reliability, and the public has bought it. All that is left is design, and in this area Lutz has shown talent. The HHR and the Solstice are good looking cars. The upcoming Saturns look great as well. Even though they are wrongheaded, the new fullsize SUVs from GM have very nice interiors.

The way this plan can go awry is for GM to invest in making the WRONG type of cars. Even if a car is good looking, if it gets bad mileage, it just won't sell. If Lutz and Wagoner had had more foresight and kept abreast of what the oil market was going through, they would have ceased new investment in any large SUVs and basically given up on the market. That money could have been invested in cars, and reduced production times and made for better design.

I think there is still evidence in GM of an inability for the company to be dynamic and change course. Once a project has been slowly started, the momentum is impossible to stop. They absolutely missed the boat with a Camaro. That window has closed and by the time one hits the streets in five or so years, the price of oil will not make it a car worth buying.

As for Opel/Vauxhall, I think GM should develop this "aesthetics first" mentality for that company. There has been some improvement, but I look at the Corsa, one of their smaller cars in the lineup, a car that will undoubtedly see increased attention as fuel prices rise, and I know there could be improvements. Vauxhall has a reputation for being bland even though their cars are much better looking than most of GM's American offerings. In a market like Europe where cars are all very similar to each other, you have to make your product stand out. And the only way to do that is by making it look good.

Nice job on this article!

The only thing I did not understand was in the 7th paragraph-
"The upcoming Saturns look great as well. Even though they are wrongheaded,..."
Don't understand what is meant by wrongheaded.

Best of luck on your new job.
Thank you. I mean to say that any investment in large SUVs as a future product is wrong because of oil prices. Those are two different sentences you quoted.
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