Lutz to Speed Up Gms Turn

by : Anthony Fontanelle

Bob Lutz, General Motors' vice chairman, is set to change the plight of the automaker in a short duration. The 75-year-old exec knows exactly that every second counts. This is the reason why he intends to use his precious time to heal the deeply embedded perceptions of GM auto purchasers.

No use crying over spilled milk; all that GM could do is to recuperate and learn from its mistakes. Recuperation is not as easy as producing quality vehicles - it is building up a real strong reputation. The world's largest automaker has already established an excellent standing in the auto industry - no wonder why it sits on the automotive throne. However, critics and analysts are saying that the Toyota Motor Corp. is a serious threat to the throne. Any time this year, as predicted, a new auto giant could rule the industry.

GM showcased remarkable cars and trucks however its sales declined by 8 percent last month. The man behind the plan said it may take years before the company's reputation is repaired. "An image transformation such as ours is really a five-year process," Lutz said in an interview. "We're two or 2 1/2 years into it."

Lutz radiates with urgency in the past few months. He is pushing his team to the limit to release the most-awaited vehicles in the industry. The exec also dashed off rants on his weblog to announce the latest plans of his company. Lutz could not manage to make grave errors this time around - he has to make every second count.

Lutz exudes confidence in the automaker's comeback plans but he remains realistic about the forthcoming events. Critics said GM took decades to create overwhelming problems and no one could remedy them overnight.

"A change in course cannot be done purely through advertising or something like that. There's not enough money in the world because a lot of these perceptions about brands or corporations are deeply embedded in people's belief system," Lutz said. He added that GM can change that belief system.

In the past six years, Lutz has shepherded GMs assembly line and some of its products are now released in showrooms. The Saturn Aura and the Chevrolet Silverado were tagged as the North American Car and Truck of the Year. "His imprint on GM has been huge," said Jim Sanfilippo, executive vice president for AMCI, an automotive consultancy in Bloomfield Hills. "What Lutz has done is nothing short of a transformation. What he has loosed in GM's product development system is just the tip of the iceberg. I buy his credibility. I don't think any of the fire in his belly is gone. He is still pushing the organization to raise the bar."

The Saturn Aura, Astra, Chevy Malibu, Silverado, GMC Sierra and the redesigned Cadillac CTS are well-crafted vehicles that are going to contribute building GM's ailing standing. They feature the typical GM vehicles with , powerful engines, superb capabilities and added features to wow more customers.

"But it is going to take time to win back customers who feel jilted or mistreated decades ago. It's going to take something special that makes people say, 'Whoa, wait, that's a GM,'" Lutz said. "It requires friends looking at a neighbor's new Saturn Aura and saying, 'Hey what's that?' Then driving it, and saying, 'Hey this is way better than my, insert name here, what did you pay for it?' Then you get one after another. That's the way Honda and Toyota grew here in the United States. But the problem is we don't have 20 years to do it."

GM has wasted too much time and Lutz does not want to aggravate the loss. "There is hope at the end of the tunnel with people who are currently under 25, there's a much greater acceptance of GM and American cars in general."