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Not much news but a piece on Lutz and the Solstice....

MercuryNews.com said:
Is Solstice GM's savior?

GM COUNTING ON FIRST `LUTZ-MOBILE' TO ADD RAZZLE-DAZZLE TO ITS LINEUP

By Danny Hakim

New York Times

DETROIT - For much of his career, Robert A. Lutz has been trying to build a curvy two-seat sports car for people who can't afford a Porsche or a Lexus. He finally has -- the Pontiac Solstice.

The goal was always the same,'' said Lutz, General Motors' 73-year-old vice chairman and product development chief. Use low-cost mechanical components, change as little as possible, use stuff out of your parts bin and try to get there for under $20,000.''

Lutz, a former Chrysler president, was brought to GM four years ago to restore razzle-dazzle to the company's cars and trucks. For much of his tenure, though, he has been peddling vehicles largely created under someone else's watch.

He has had a chance to influence a few new vehicles that have come out in recent months, such as the Chevrolet Cobalt and Buick LaCrosse, which are generally regarded as improved but not dramatically enough to rescue the company from the industry's bargain basement.

Now Lutz gets to pass or fail on his own work. The Solstice, which is expected to retail for just less than $20,000, is the first vehicle created from start to finish during Lutz's tenure, and the start of a wave of wholly made Lutz-mobiles coming over the next two to three years that will make or break his legacy at GM. Coming off a $1.1 billion first-quarter loss, GM badly needs his products to succeed.

While the Solstice is a niche car that will not come close to saving GM -- the company plans to produce at most 20,000 annually -- Lutz says it is designed to appeal more to buyers' emotions than to their pocketbooks. And that, in many respects, represents his entire thesis for reviving GM's product line: make Chevrolets and Buicks and Pontiacs that seem more expensive than they are, cutting corners that buyers will not notice while carefully crafting the details they will, both on the inside and outside.

Producing an exciting little sports roadster for $45,000 to $50,000 is not an engineering or industrial feat,'' he said. But producing a very, very nice roadster using as many parts as possible that you already have in the parts bin to avoid investment and piece costs, and then bringing that out where you can still make money at a base price of $20,000, that's a good trick.''

Living off the cuff

A former Marine, Lutz is a car magazine's fantasy of what an auto executive should be. He chews on stogies. He likes to drive fast. He flies a Soviet-era fighter jet for fun. He makes the 42-mile commute from Ann Arbor to Detroit in a helicopter. He thinks global warming is a bunch of tree-hugging liberal hokum and lives off the cuff. Of late, he has taken to posting on GM's new Weblog, http://fastlane.gmblogs.com, with relish.

I thought The Wall Street Journal might feel a little bit left out after I singled out The New York Times in recent posts,'' he wrote in March, before offering a typically sharp-elbowed rebuttal of the Journal's review of the compact Chevrolet Cobalt.

In an impromptu speech at GM's shareholder meeting last month, he said: What we maybe had to relearn as a company is that we're not in the transportation business, we are in the arts and entertainment business. And that's what explains a vehicle like the Pontiac Solstice, which I think is the first expression of a new, less analytical, more emotion-driven product strategy.''

Born in Switzerland but raised mostly in the United States, Lutz moved easily between car bureaucracies in Europe and America. His stops in the industry have included a stint at BMW in the 1970s and a seat on Ford's board in the 1980s. As president of Chrysler in the 1990s, he championed the idiosyncratic PT Cruiser and Dodge Viper, and an early luxury SUV, the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

At GM, Lutz has been knocking down geographic barriers between the company's global design, engineering and manufacturing organizations to consolidate and do more with less. The company will need to. A recent Merrill Lynch report said GM spent less on product development, relative to its revenue, than any other major automaker. GM recently said it would increase its budget for product development this year to $8 billion from $7 billion.

At home, GM's new plan is to leave Chevrolet and Cadillac as the only full-line brands. Buick, GMC, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn and Hummer, which are in various states of revival and distress, are being fashioned into smaller brands with fewer, but better, products.

The company will lag by three years in offering the public a hybrid comparable to the Toyota Prius, and the first wave of Lutz-mobiles will be new versions of GM's big SUVs and pickup trucks coming next year, because they were due for redesigns. On the other hand, GM will be unveiling a crop of lighter sport-utility vehicles, known in Detroit as crossovers, a segment where Toyota and other foreign rivals are more dominant. And Lutz treats passenger cars as less of an afterthought.

We are no longer as lopsidedly dependent on the full-size sport utilities and pickups going forward as you can argue that we were in the last five or six years,'' he said. That was what was selling and it was carrying everything else.''

Focus on product

GM has plenty of issues, including its standoff with its labor union over health care costs, but ultimately car companies are like movie studios: It's about the product.

One hitch for the Solstice is that the company has waited to introduce a summer car until the fall. Nonetheless, GM already has taken down payments from 9,000 customers, which will account for about six months of volume.

Some followers of Lutz's career say they still wonder what he might say of some of GM's vehicles were he not on the payroll. Asked recently to recommend cars selling for less than $30,000, Lutz recommended the Pontiac Grand Prix GXP, a speedy version of a car often sold to rental car companies and corporate fleets, and a similarly souped-up version of the Chevrolet Impala.

I'm not just being a homer,'' he wrote on GM's blog.

John Brown, a 30-year-old personal injury lawyer and car enthusiast in Los Angeles, did not let that pass.

Come on Bob!'' he wrote on the site. You're responsible for the Dodge Viper and the Solstice, for Pete's sake, and you fly a fighter jet in your spare time. Don't try to shill for the GXP and the Impala, it's just not even remotely believable.''
Link: (warning pop-up ads)
http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/business/12365813.htm
 

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John Brown, a 30-year-old personal injury lawyer and car enthusiast in Los Angeles, did not let that pass.

Come on Bob!'' he wrote on the site. You're responsible for the Dodge Viper and the Solstice, for Pete's sake, and you fly a fighter jet in your spare time. Don't try to shill for the GXP and the Impala, it's just not even remotely believable.''
Interesting to me that they just can't write an article about anything related to GM without taking a swipe. I happen to know a lot of people that love their Impalas. What do they care about the opinion of a personal injury lawyer?We all know what wonderful humanitarians those people are. ;)
 

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Editguy said:
Interesting to me that they just can't write an article about anything related to GM without taking a swipe. I happen to know a lot of people that love their Impalas. What do they care about the opinion of a personal injury lawyer?We all know what wonderful humanitarians those people are. ;)
I know people that love their Impalas too, but enough about my grandfather...
 

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danlbrau said:
Gee, 9,000 cars with small (in any) profit margins, when they need to sell millions yearly. Yup, THAT will save GM...
Huh?
 

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Discussion Starter #6
danlbrau said:
Gee, 9,000 cars with small (in any) profit margins, when they need to sell millions yearly. Yup, THAT will save GM...
I think the headline saving GM is more of an eye catcher. Later in the article they admit it's not going save them financially.

While the Solstice is a niche car that will not come close to saving GM
 

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I think it's laughable that articles are written as if GM is on the verge of going out of business. This isn't about a struggle for survival, rather maintaining their place as the number one auto manufacturer.
 

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danlbrau said:
I know people that love their Impalas too, but enough about my grandfather...

The ones I know are all in their 20's and 30's.
 

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Editguy said:
The ones I know are all in their 20's and 30's.
My wife is presently driving an 00 Impala. It has over 75K miles and has very few problems. I have been a GM driver for many years, and this car has continued to enforce my feeling that the quality issues, for the most part, are in the past for GM. I am sure this car will make my wife happy for at least another 75K. :) :)
 

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GM could be losing money on each and every Sol sold, It has been done before. Not every vehicle has to be profitable - IF - it somehow contributes to the overall economy of the company. Hopefully buyers will alk in the door interested in the Solstice, the GTO, the SSR, even the Corvette but don't have the need nor money for that car, but it gets them in the door. Once through that door it is the salesperson's job to sell them something, anything, preferably the oldest car on the lot, no matter what it is.
 

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achieftain said:
GM could be losing money on each and every Sol sold, It has been done before. Not every vehicle has to be profitable - IF - it somehow contributes to the overall economy of the company. Hopefully buyers will alk in the door interested in the Solstice, the GTO, the SSR, even the Corvette but don't have the need nor money for that car, but it gets them in the door. Once through that door it is the salesperson's job to sell them something, anything, preferably the oldest car on the lot, no matter what it is.
Very true achieftan, in the early 60's Ford lost over a $1,000 for every Lincoln Continental sold, (No small sum then- it works out to be some 6,000 in today's dollars). But it was looked on as a worthwhile investment for Ford and it worked for them.
As far as the Solstice I'm thinking it'll do much the same for the Pontiac line. People may not be interested in a purchase but they'll definately want to see it. It's a good example that cheap doesn't have to mean plain, inferior, and boring. I think it's a teaser for what's to come from Pontiac in the future.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Solstice is the halo car. It will be used in advertising to get people excited about Pontiac. It will get people into the dealership where they might buy something else more practical like a Torrent or G6.
 

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Every girl at work I've shown pics of (thank god for the new Automotive 2006 Model magazine which had a nice shot of a Sly Solstice) was like "wow, you're getting one of those!?!"

Definitely will be a chick magnet at the very least.
 

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Chick magnet, lol?

I've been told to watch out, every guy in the area will be chasing me around once the Sol arrives! Was contemplating a move to California, Bay area, and my guy out there said the same thing!!

:devil: :cool: :devil: :cool: :devil:
 

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And that, in many respects, represents his entire thesis for reviving GM's product line: make Chevrolets and Buicks and Pontiacs that seem more expensive than they are, cutting corners that buyers will not notice while carefully crafting the details they will, both on the inside and outside.

Yes, because I didn't notice the fuel tank that takes my my whole trunk...
 

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Fortimir said:
And that, in many respects, represents his entire thesis for reviving GM's product line: make Chevrolets and Buicks and Pontiacs that seem more expensive than they are, cutting corners that buyers will not notice while carefully crafting the details they will, both on the inside and outside.

Yes, because I didn't notice the fuel tank that takes my my whole trunk...
hahah, maybe people would think it's a secret compartment into another world?
 

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Aspenrose said:
I've been told to watch out, every guy in the area will be chasing me around once the Sol arrives! Was contemplating a move to California, Bay area, and my guy out there said the same thing!!

:devil: :cool: :devil: :cool: :devil:
But really, in this case, they will be chasing the Sol. ;)
 

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:agree: Don't I know it! :cool:
It's going to be a shame to have it hidden away all winter long, waiting for spring to get it out! May have to bring it home after dark so I can slip it into the garage unseen!
 

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Aspenrose said:
:agree: Don't I know it! :cool:
It's going to be a shame to have it hidden away all winter long, waiting for spring to get it out! May have to bring it home after dark so I can slip it into the garage unseen!
Or, you could just bring it to Arizona and I would be glad to ride along as your tour guide, ya know, just want to be neighborly! :D
 

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:lurk: :cool: :grouphug:
Sounds like a plan to me! After going on 13 hours at work, and still here, I'm thinking I'm going to need one heck of a vacation, and AZ is sounding pretty good right now!!
 
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