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Lutz has perviously talked about how GM design attacked a vehicle, using the Aztek as an example. He basically said that GM handed the designers the essential dimensions, exterior and interior, of the vehcile and said "put a wrapper" around it, making sure that no interior space is infringed upon, and the exterior dimensions match what we want. So with vehicles like the Aztek, they simply put a wrapper on it with no regard to what it actually looked like. Then it got green lighted because the designers had met the execs criteria.

This change is great! GM doesn't need every car to be a styling standout like the Solstice (or Chrysler 300). But they do need them all to be pleasing to the eye and encourage people to consider buying them. So far I think they are heading in the right direction! Lets hope it keeps up now, and long after Lutz is gone.
 

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This is exciting news. I personaly lost all interest in new cars decades ago because design took a back seat to every other concern. For me to get excited about a car, it has to look good, period. If a car has 600hp and can do 0-60 in 2 seconds but looks like a Honda Element, I couldn't give a rat's ass. (I gave the poor Aztek a break on this one!) I would be far more interested Hyundai Eccel that looks like a Z8.

I have been ranting and blathering on to my friends and family for decades that design needs to be number one like it used to be, if detroit ever wants to come back. There is no good reason that cars have to be ugly or boring. Appearently Mr. Lutz agrees with me, and there seem to be good things going on at Ford and Chrysler too. I now have a renewed interest in the auto industry thanks to them. The bad news is my enthusiasm is spilling all over this forum and making for some pretty long posts. :leaving
 

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Sorry AztekzRpurty about using the Aztek in my post above! It was just a good GM example. Apparently the new Buick LaCrosse would have been another because Lutz ordered it restyled when he arrived.

I cannot believe that the Honda Element has not received more criticism from the auto press. It just goes to show they are somewhat biased when it comes to American and Japanese products. Both vehicles are essentially squared off boxes, with generous amounts of side cladding. The Aztek's nose treatment is a little more aggressive, but its not like the Element is pretty.

It is great to see importance being placed on styling. With Chrysler putting a lot of emphasis on styling, and now GM getting back to styling, I think the domestics are in for good things. Now Ford needs to step it up a little on its regular cars. The GT and '05 Mustang shows they can create some good looking cars, but some others, the 500, Freestyle, etc look a little plain to me.
 

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Fformula88 said:
Sorry AztekzRpurty about using the Aztek in my post above! It was just a good GM example. Apparently the new Buick LaCrosse would have been another because Lutz ordered it restyled when he arrived.

I cannot believe that the Honda Element has not received more criticism from the auto press. It just goes to show they are somewhat biased when it comes to American and Japanese products. Both vehicles are essentially squared off boxes, with generous amounts of side cladding. The Aztek's nose treatment is a little more aggressive, but its not like the Element is pretty.

It is great to see importance being placed on styling. With Chrysler putting a lot of emphasis on styling, and now GM getting back to styling, I think the domestics are in for good things. Now Ford needs to step it up a little on its regular cars. The GT and '05 Mustang shows they can create some good looking cars, but some others, the 500, Freestyle, etc look a little plain to me.
Totaly agree, the press is by and large very forgiving to foreign companies. Both Asian and European manufactures have turned out some pretty goofy designs lately, but they are quickly forgiven or glossed over. A reviewer might say "contraversial styling" or "ecclectic" or "not for everyone" and then cover that with how great the car performs, it's engineering gimicks or it's reliability record. American cars are given more the "what the hell were they thinking" treatment.

The Element does get a pass. They usually call it "quirky" or "ecclectic" or "funky", and then go on and on about how it's all rubbery and you can hose out the interior, and you can plug your iPod straight in, and the seats fold up in an engenious way giving lots of room. What ever, we know Honda can do no wrong, right? I still think it was designed by Rubbermaid.

Also agree that sedans like the 500 could look alot better and be more exciting. I don't think that it's just Ford though, the GM and Chrysler sedan offerings (with the exception of the 300) are pretty lack luster as well. The 300 and Magnum show that sedans and wagons don't have to be plain and boring. I bet that after the 300 release, Ford wishes it could go back and have another go at the 500! While the 500 certainly isn't any more boring than the Camery or Accord it goes against, it is however a lost opportunity to blow those cars out of the water! Those cars have great reputations, but looks can sell!
 

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It's a sad day when you have to wait until you're over 60 to be heard. If the corporate execs at the auto companies would only listen to it's own designers and us, the public, we would have much better looking and practical vehicles today.

Maybe it's because I'm over 50 that I don't get the Honda Element and Toyota Scion. I just don't see myself driving a box down the road. Sure when you are inside, you don't see how sad you look going down the road.

Let the designers design. Let the public be heard. Keep up the great work Bob. Maybe you'll be the spark GM has needed for years.
 

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While I agree, the press does seem to cut the imports more slack, it may be due to years of better quality products and vehicles that just keep selling more and more. Tough to tell an automaker to spiff up their designs when the general public seems to be voting for boring Honda / Toyota designs with their wallets.

Also, I don't see the Aztek and the Element in the same vein at all. You may not like the silhouette, but The E is clean compared to the Aztek. If GM would ditch the two-level hood look, clean-up the headlamp / awful turn signals and change the triangulated looking hatch to something more convential it would probably sell just fine.
 

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Imports do get a free pass. Honda and Toyota definitely, but even companies like Nissan that do not have the highest reputation for quality on earth.

Take the Nissan 350Z and the latest Altima when they were first released. At the time, Nissan was on the ropes. Their reliability had been bad for years, and they had no exciting products. Both vehicles were great for Nissan, and where overall good vehicles. But the interiors on both would have looked cheap in a Kia! Yet, Nissan got a free pass too. The rags did mention that there were some sub-standard materials, but it didn’t stop them from gushing about the cars. Had either one been a GM vehicle, there would have been paragraphs demonizing the vehicles for their low buck interiors. Especially on a 2 seater sports car that reaches into the mid $30k’s. They have trashed the C5 Corvette interior repeatedly, even though it looks like a Luxury car interior compared to those first 350Z’s.

The fact is the press is very hard on the domestics, and especially so on GM. Maybe they just expect better from them, and will not accept average. That’s ok to a point, but it really hurts the domestics when they do put out a very good vehicle.


Darkhamr said:
While I agree, the press does seem to cut the imports more slack, it may be due to years of better quality products and vehicles that just keep selling more and more. Tough to tell an automaker to spiff up their designs when the general public seems to be voting for boring Honda / Toyota designs with their wallets.

Also, I don't see the Aztek and the Element in the same vein at all. You may not like the silhouette, but The E is clean compared to the Aztek. If GM would ditch the two-level hood look, clean-up the headlamp / awful turn signals and change the triangulated looking hatch to something more convential it would probably sell just fine.
Oh, I know the Aztek and Element are not exactly the same car, or aimed at exactly the same buyers. The Aztek is certainly more aggressive and in your face. But the Element, minus the really aggressive grille, is not all that different. Both use liberal amounts of plastic cladding. Pontiac has always been ripped apart in the press for cladding. Yet Honda’s use earns them credit for making a “durable” vehicle. I guess I fail to see the Element’s use of cladding as good when the Aztek’s is bad. They do it for engines too. That element makes do with a 4 cylinder (I think 160 HP) and it scoots along fine and has “pep”. But if GM drops in a 180-200 HP V6 into a similar vehicle, it’s a “low tech” underpowered vehicle.

Another good example is the GTO’s styling. The Holden Monaro is a sleek and clean coupe design that has been given a lot of credit for a long time. But stick a GTO name on it, and suddenly the press calls it a “Grand Am look alike” or a “Grand Prix clone” and carries on about how its not a true GTO. Sure it is partially Pontiac’s fault because they used the Monaro styling basically untouched and did not make the car a retro car. But seriously, this car is not styled badly. If it had any other name on the back, or even been from another maker, it would have been loved for its clean and sleek design without resorting to wild teenager attracting ground affix, bulges, scoops, wings, or other nonsense. They would have loved it for being a mature looking muscle coupe with a sleeper design. But because it is a Pontiac, with GTO on the back, and from GM, they must have dropped the ball.

Credit where it is do, they generally recognize the good interior in the GTO. Unfortunately, they say that to take the opportunity to trash the rest of GM’s interiors.
 

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solsticeman said:
Wow. I was worried I get long winded... :lol JK!!!

Good post.
LOL, sorry! :lol I did get a little long winded! I should have included this at the end... :rant

:jester
 

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Fformula88 said:
The fact is the press is very hard on the domestics, and especially so on GM. Maybe they just expect better from them, and will not accept average. That’s ok to a point, but it really hurts the domestics when they do put out a very good vehicle.
I think there is a perception that because GM is the biggest car maker (by volume) that it should do better. The perception might be that if they are that big, they must have great resources to develope world beating cars, and the only reason they don't do that is corporate greed. I think nothing could be further from the truth. GM is big, but it's messed up, and how it got there is a whole nother rant, but it's car division in America is now a big money loser, they lost several hundred dollars on every car they sold last year due to incentives to get them off the lot. If it weren't for the trucks, SUVs and GM finance divisions, they'd be looking for a government bailout about now. Honda on the other hand made about $1200 dollars on each car and Toyota a whopping $1500. Toyota is by far the most profitable car company in the world bar none.

It's Toyota's long term stratagy that got them there. Engineering more productivity into their assembly lines (they are still the most productive I believe), progessive quality improvements to their cars and real drive to be better than anyone. Generous government subsities, shrewd business practices, good employee relations and the overwhelming desire to be a world player after rising from the ashes of WWII also helped enormously.

GM has been working on quality and productivity, they also are good at innovating new technologies, but they are losing. As darkhamr pointed out, people are voting with their pocket books. This is why I believe that design and styling is so critical for them. If you can't boost your productivity much more, you don't have R&D money for new engines and platforms every five years or so, there isn't a profit margin there to allow top notch materials and components, you can't cut the cost of labor much more and gimmicks and new technologies aren't enough to get them to the showroom, then what's left? Simple, work with what you have, and make cars people really want because they provoke an emotional response.

Good design costs about the same as losey design, but the good gets people to order cars sight unseen (like some on this board) and bad ends up in $5000 rebates to get 'em off the lot. It's a relatively low cost way to get people to buy your cars. Lots of customers buy cars on emotion, so if you make a car that looks hot, and looks good in people's driveways, they have a good time when they're in it, and when they step on the gas it goes like snot, they're probably willing to over look the push rods, slightly cheaper materials and the spotty reputation, because it makes the feel good and it didn't cost a fortune.

Not everyone will go for the sexy looks and great value, but that's ok, enough will that GM should be able to start making a profit and investing in repairing thier reputation. It's a long term plan, but long term worked for the Japanese. Or I suppose they could just make totally mediocer cars and then discount them to rental fleets, that's sure to move product. :rant (again)
 

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I agree that GM could use some really good standout styling to set it apart. What ever happened to American style anyway? Its time for them to bring styling back to the forefront (which it looks like they are doing).

Their interior quality and fit improvements will have to come in stages. The new G6 still will receive some criticisms, but it really is a huge improvement over the Grand Am. If GM makes just as big of an improvement on its next sedans (maybe the Zeta cars due out in a couple years) their interiors will begin to look very competitive.

They are not there yet, but at least they appear to be heading in the right direction!
 

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Yea, the press does love to rag on GM, and cut Japan a lot of slack. Nobody worse than Consumer reports in my opinion. But that's another can of worms.

As far as the Element and Scion B go, well, I kinda like them... But then, I bought an Aztek didn't I.... :crazy
 

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AeroDave said:
GM has been working on quality and productivity, they also are good at innovating new technologies, but they are losing. As darkhamr pointed out, people are voting with their pocket books. This is why I believe that design and styling is so critical for them. If you can't boost your productivity much more, you don't have R&D money for new engines and platforms every five years or so, there isn't a profit margin there to allow top notch materials and components, you can't cut the cost of labor much more and gimmicks and new technologies aren't enough to get them to the showroom, then what's left? Simple, work with what you have, and make cars people really want because they provoke an emotional response.

Good design costs about the same as losey design, but the good gets people to order cars sight unseen (like some on this board) and bad ends up in $5000 rebates to get 'em off the lot. It's a relatively low cost way to get people to buy your cars. Lots of customers buy cars on emotion, so if you make a car that looks hot, and looks good in people's driveways, they have a good time when they're in it, and when they step on the gas it goes like snot, they're probably willing to over look the push rods, slightly cheaper materials and the spotty reputation, because it makes the feel good and it didn't cost a fortune.
These are great points and brings something else to mind. I'm only 35, but for a good portion of those years, I recall the mantra from the domestics being "we are building the next import fighter". Or "this platform/vehicle is designed to compete with *Accord/Camry/Maxima, insert name here*" It makes me wonder if they often come up short by trying to match another vehicle rather than picking a segment or target group and build the best you can within that and stop worrying about others.
 

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Darkhamr said:
These are great points and brings something else to mind. I'm only 35, but for a good portion of those years, I recall the mantra from the domestics being "we are building the next import fighter". Or "this platform/vehicle is designed to compete with *Accord/Camry/Maxima, insert name here*" It makes me wonder if they often come up short by trying to match another vehicle rather than picking a segment or target group and build the best you can within that and stop worrying about others.
I agree with that statement. By making a comparison to a foriegn competitor, the draw attention to the short comings of their design, short change themselves by trying to copy too closely and not playing to thier weak points, and the others definately have weak points. I believe they should just make great cars that people really enjoy and let others draw comparisons. The best situation is when you have a vehicle that is very desirable and has no comparison. This is what they should shoot for, not trying to make a cheaper Camry or Accord. :banghead
 

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AeroDave said:
.... I believe they should just make great cars that people really enjoy and let others draw comparisons. The best situation is when you have a vehicle that is very desirable and has no comparison. This is what they should shoot for, not trying to make a cheaper Camry or Accord. :banghead
Agree 100% which is why I was dismayed by the recent Autoline program that said the domestics are spending more than twice as much on marketing and incentives as they are on development. I believe that great cars sell themselves. Let's hope GM decides to shift some more funding back into the products.
 

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:agree
 

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To try and keep from being long winded, I will try to be short.

GM and others compare themselves to the Cam-Cords because they are the most popular cars in the country, selling in the highest volumes. Therefore, if GM can out-do those cars in a certain area, they definately want to compare to show that they did out-do them in that area, and still offer the car at a better price. Example, the new V6 Malibu gets about equal gas mileage to the 4 banger Accords and Camry's, yet has more horsepower and torque and costs about the same, maybe less with incentives. So GM wants people to know they get more engine without a gas mileage penalty or a price penalty with the Malibu. They know the interior may not stack up in comparison, but they are hoping some buyers are willing to give up the nicer interior to be able to drive a vehicle with a little more power, and there are people out there who will make that choice.

As for GM using its money to develop a better car than a Cam-Cord all at once instead of marketing and putting incentives on current cars...

GM must sell X number of each car it offers a year, to keep plants running, dealers happy, and cash coming in. If they didn't advertise and use incentives to sell Grand Ams, the plant would fall idle too much. However, they have fixed costs with that plant, the labor, the structure, etc etc. So they would actually lose more money selling less Grand Ams, than they do by selling lots of them for a loss. But to sell them, they need incentives and marketing. So they simply cannot send the money elsewhere for engineering and development. To do that, they would need to close plants, lay off workers, dealers would go out of business, they'd lose tons of market share all at once, and they wouldn't be able to bring in enough money to bother sending to new engineering and development. They'd be finished.
 
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