Blog : Love cars… hate Accountants

Steven Ward

Car guys: Bob Lutz
Car guys: Bob Lutz

This is a book which came to me via recommendation as I’m no fan of American Iron. It is also largely about that unacceptable face of Capitalism that is GM.

So, under duress I started reading it and within a couple of paragraphs I encountered a problem – I just couldn’t put it down. Neither could I stop thinking about what was being said and done between the pages. Bob Lutz – my new hero – is a real car guy, as obsessive and the rest of us, just a damn sight more successful.

This is his latest ‘soft’ autobiography which outlines his second and final career at GM covering the last 10 years. It starts as he ponders just how bad GM’s health is and how poor its products are. It continues as he is urged out of semi-retirement to try and turn the company around. However, not long into his contract his wildly enthusiastic ideas for genuinely desirable cars and his strong anti-bean counter measures suffers a serious set-back.

GM is declared bankrupt and put into Chapter 11. This is a seriously grave turn of events as GM looks set to lose its position as the world’s number 1 vehicle manufacturer. Not put off in the slightest, LUTZ continues his ruthless and unabated drive to turn the company around as much as he’s authorised to do. The results are plain to see, indeed, they are on every road, all around the world.

This book left me wanting a Pontiac Solstice and willing GM on towards world domination. It also left me asking myself, another rather more perplexing question. Which will be revealed in another blog…

Keith Adams


  1. looks an interesting read,would also like to read unsafe at any speed by ralph nader he took on GM re: chevy corvair and they unleashed a horrid dirty tricks campaign culminating in mr nader winning a courtcase against GM

  2. I have also read this book and it is brilliant. One thing to remember though. Bob Lutz was the boss of Ford of Europe in the late 70s and early 80s. It was he who against all advice decided to ditch the Cortina for the Sierra because he thought it was too British. He also decided that Ford of Europe should distance itself from the UK and concentrate on the German market. The result? In the UK Fords market share is less than half what it used to be and Dagenham and Halewood have long gone, whilst in Germany, Fords reputation is still in the gutter. Also worth bearing in mind, the Chevrolet Cruze, a car he seems particularly proud of has to be one of the most miserable, horrid cars ever to roll off a production line.

  3. Quick points Paul, Halewood and Dagenham still exist, the former a JLR factory, the former building the EcoBoost engine. Secondly, the Market share of Ford and Vauxhall have both plummeted in recent years. Don’t know the total for Ford but the GM (Vauxhall and Chevy) is about 15.4%, and this combined total is about that of Ford. This would in previous years be seen as a disaster (see the history of Rover Group) but Ford is still the largest selling company in Britain and second largest selling automotive group after VAG. Probably agree about the Cruze stuff though.

  4. I’ll add this one to my list. I recently read ‘When Rover met Honda – Insights and Memories’ , which revealed some striking differences in the way the companies operated. I was surprised to discover that the agreement for the HH-R had not even been signed when BMW bought Rover in 1994.

  5. My Fiesta has an engine made in Bridgend, so Ford’s presence in this country still exists as a manufacturer of engines for its German and Belgian built cars. However, Halewood now prospers as a Jaguar factory.

  6. ” It was he who against all advice decided to ditch the Cortina for the Sierra because he thought it was too British.”

    Well not really they just called the ‘new Cortina’ the ‘Sierra’.

    “Dagenham and Halewood have long gone”
    Halewood were making Gearboxes for Ford, they then built the Jag X-Type and now build the Freelander.
    Dagenham are Ford’s worldwide centre of excellence for Diesel engines. Dagenham is a lot smaller than it used to be, but then the same can be said about most car factories. The days of raw materials coming in and cars going out are long gone. Sub assembies are shipped to an assembly plant when they turn them into cars.

  7. Halewood is currently working flat out to supply incredible demand for the Freelander and Evoque! In the long run getting ditched by Ford was probably the best thing that could ever have happened to JLR and Halewood.

  8. James@8–absolutely! Having taught in Halewood (and sent apprentices to Ford, Halewood year on year) during the 60’s through to the 80’s I find it incredible just what comes out of Halewood now compered with the stuff that was grunged out of that factory then. Being ditched by Ford and the resurection with JLR is without doubt one of the all time recoveries.

  9. The bean counters. The downturn in quality at Mercedes in the late 90s can be attributed to them finding the cars ‘over-engineered’.

    And the infamous Project Drive….

    Re: The Sierra, extremely forward thinking from a previously conservative (small c) company with an aerodynamic hatchback (albeit still RWD). See the Hyundai Stellar for what would have happened if the Sierra didn’t.

  10. Of course, if you don’t have beancounters you end up with BMC in the 60s who produce a world beater in the Mini, and then sell it too cheaply so they make no profit and run out of cash…

  11. I recently watched an interview with Bob Lutz, and -being skeptical of the US having ANYOBDY with the sense to mass-produce a modern appealing car- I was shocked and astonished to hear the man speak.

    It’s not just how he writes: The man has the facts and figures at his immediate mental disposal, and he GETS IT.

    About a dozen years ago, I had the fortune to share a breakfast with Rick Wagoner, shortly before he was made Chairman of GM. He spoke some sense of the need to make Gm more like the European manufacturers, but soon after, he was up in front of the cameras waving the metaphorical American flag and proclaiming that the US already made the greatest cars…

    Bob Lutz strikes me as a more honest man. A man who lives cars. A man who truly wants to make fabulous product. -However, GM -with it’s crippling legacy costs- will probably NEVER be able to produce anything resembling his dreams.

    Pity. -He seems like a gem.

  12. Yes, of course Halewood is now doing extremely well as a Landrover plant and Dagenham is a major engine plant. But it used to be a major engine plant and major car production facility as well. I guess the point I was trying to make is that the UK market has dwindled in terms of volume and importance to Ford to such an extent that it no longer feels the need to build cars here, something that would have been unthinkable at one time and probably as big a blow to the UK automotive industry as the collapse of Rover.

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