Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business

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  2. Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business by Bob Lutz
  3. See a Problem?

Because of this inconsistency, I took what he wrote with a proverbial grain of salt. I found this very interesting for the descriptions of the foibles of the design process at GM in the 90s, and the work on the Volt. His descriptions of the people involved in leading car design and manufacturing are well done. Jun 23, Al rated it really liked it. While I didn't agree with all of his political insights, Bob Lutz' new book on his years as vice chairman at General Motors is a great read, primarily for those who care about American cars and are stumped when car companies make ludicrous mistakes.

Lutz provides a true insider's view as to how General Motors made many self-inflicted wounds which were compounded by economic pressures out of its control that led to its unavoidable bankruptcy. Bean counters and MBA owning brand managers are ripped While I didn't agree with all of his political insights, Bob Lutz' new book on his years as vice chairman at General Motors is a great read, primarily for those who care about American cars and are stumped when car companies make ludicrous mistakes.

Bean counters and MBA owning brand managers are ripped apart by Lutz in anecdote after anecdote. Likewise, the import biased media comes in for devastating criticism. Lutz doesn't spare himself criticism when it comes to being wrong, but that's not very often. Though part of his thesis is that you can't have success in the auto industry applying the same number crunching analysis used in other industries, he ends his book with some lessons learned at GM that can be applied to other American businesses as well. As a Chevrolet truck owner during the time period covered, I found the whole book insightful.

Lutz is now retired from GM, but he continues to step on toes in the auto industry. Feb 14, Barry rated it did not like it. Somewhere there is book that discusses the soul of American business, the important guiding principles of economic success and how American companies have lost their way.

It will provide insights for how to get us back on track with a deep and nuanced understanding of the business culture and relevant illustrative anecdotes. Wherever that book is, it is not between the covers of this one.

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Perhaps the book would have been better served by the title Bob Lutz vs. How I saved GM. The amount of time spent on what was, ostensibly, 'the point' could have fit into a single chapter and adequately summarised in single page. Disappointed would be an understatement. Dec 30, Alicia rated it it was ok. I made it through this book - barely. While the author respects design, the writing is terrible and he's a raving lunatic.

His position on many topics is so biased, it undermines the validity of nearly everything else. I learned a lot about GM Most of what I learned probably wasn't true. Dec 05, Ken rated it it was ok. The book offers many interesting insights about automobile design and marketing strategy within the car industry, but the author's neo-conservative political agenda was far too intrusive.

His belief that global warming is a left-wing media hoax, and that Fox News is somehow notable for its courageous stand against the obvious is flat-out ridiculous. Although I suppose it is not surprising that a leading CEO of the automotive industry would maintain that car emissions and global warming are not l The book offers many interesting insights about automobile design and marketing strategy within the car industry, but the author's neo-conservative political agenda was far too intrusive.

Although I suppose it is not surprising that a leading CEO of the automotive industry would maintain that car emissions and global warming are not linked, just as cigarette manufacturers were convinced that smoking did not cause cancer and it all boils down to a matter of 'personal choice'. I do agree with Mr. Lutz's overall take on the American car industry in that he feels that, "The operation was a success, but the patient died".

I accept and understand his observation that too much 'over-thinking' goes on in the industry, and I agree that it's probably because something is dreadfully wrong with the business management curriculum at the university level. But, I think that his opinion that this was caused by a 'left-wing' bias in American higher education is ridiculously absurd.

I suppose the author is trying to come across as 'a no-nonsense kinda guy', but his neocon views soured me to his more valid positions. Dec 22, Don rated it really liked it. Mar 18, Amanda Spacaj-Gorham rated it it was amazing Shelves: Lutz's direct, sometimes harshly condemning, sometimes humble always open style and voice really come through in this utterly readable cross between an autobiography and business critique.

He knows the car business like no other. Don't be surprised that he's giving his opinions on the car business and business professionals, because the title implies that will be the content of the book. I read a few reviews when I was picking between this and some other very attractive bo Lutz's direct, sometimes harshly condemning, sometimes humble always open style and voice really come through in this utterly readable cross between an autobiography and business critique.

I read a few reviews when I was picking between this and some other very attractive books that criticized him for being opinionated and basically thinking that he knew all about the car business I seriously doubt the reviewer from Bloomberg read the whole book, based on his review. His review read like he wrote it before sort-of reading the book. Bob Lutz is the only man I can think of who has been at the helm of all of the Big Three.

Let that sink in Mar 15, Cristina rated it really liked it. It's only one man's opinion, though I read it because I wanted to understand how this man thinks.. Feb 20, Jeremy rated it did not like it. This is just an awful book. But Lutz is so cocksure so dismissive of so many things and people, he is thoroughly unreliable as a narrator.

May 06, Omar Halabieh rated it it was amazing. This book is an account of Bob Lutz's stint at General Motors from t0 When he joined GM, he did so with the following intent and strategy: Exert my influence to improve products already in the pipeline and use my communication skills and reputation with the media to have them seen in the best possible light.

Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business by Bob Lutz

Lead the creation of the future portfolio: Cars and trucks so good, so desirable, that c This book is an account of Bob Lutz's stint at General Motors from t0 Cars and trucks so good, so desirable, that customers would pay full price and wait for delivery if necessary. Permanently change the culture of the company, especially around design, planning, and engineering, in such a way that mediocrity or the dreaded adjective "lackluster," so frequently applied to new GM cars would be permanently banished.

Bob also covers the other factors, that led to the eventual Chapter filing, including rising fuel prices, staggering health insurance costs etc. A very insightful book on the dynamics of the automobile industry both in the US and globally, as well as on leadership, management and execution. The lessons learned can be easily extended to various other industries - which to varying degrees have or are experiencing similar challenges in their respective domains. Below are key excerpts from the book that I found particularly insightful: With the advice and support of their bean counters, absolutely, but with the final word going to those who live and breathe the customer experience.

Passion and drive for excellence will win over the computer-like, dispassionate, analysis-driven philosophy every time. The Japanese did it all! Noble intent, but that's not how it turned out These wasteful procedures and their attendant costs are all due to our unique to America "contingent fee" legal system, which results in our health care being the most expensive in the world while at the same time not necessarily the best. As we have seen, and as the following will abundantly demonstrate, GM's leaders were not up to this admittedly monumental task.

I maintain that without a passionate focus on great products from the top of the company on down, the "low cost" part will be assured but the "high revenue" part won't happen, just as it didn't at GM for so many years. It worked, just as decades later it's working for GM as well as it ever worked for Toyota.

The error lies in transposing it to cards, which every one of the former consumer products CEOs tried to do. Here's where it goes awry: Changing the design or engineering of a car consumes hundred of millions of dollars and three years. And the federal government doesn't care whether it's a test batch or not; every car model, regardless of production volume, must be fully certified from an emissions and safety standpoint. Unlike a Crest toothpaste tube, these cars, assuming a negative test outcome, will hang around as worthless orphans for years.

As with everything else at GM, the approach had sterling intellectual credentials, but in a world driven by a whim, fashion, and fluctuating fuel prices, it just didn't work. Running a company by region is fine for many industries but no longer optimal for car companies. You have to go global, with the regions reduced to marketing and PR entities, as is the case with the Japanese, Koreans, and Germans in the United States. Of Course, my recipe had called for a gradual rise over time, not an overnight doubling.

The gasoline sticker shock due to the only partially explicable sudden rise in the price of a barrel of crude had an even more profound effect on our fortunes than the financial crisis, because GM's buyer group was hit the hardest. With Chevrolet and GMC, we were the nation's leading producers of full-size pickup trucks Pickups are the preferred vehicles of tradesmen such as carpenters, plumbers, and electricians, and their work had evaporated along with new housing starts.

Why did Sir Richard Branson and others , with no higher education at all, succeed so brilliantly in both the airline and music businesses? The simple answer is: Uninfected by the MBA virus, they simply strive to offer a better product, one that delights the customer. They control costs, of course. And they tolerate a necessary level of bureaucracy. But the focus is on the product or service American business needs to throw the intellectuals out and get back to business! The big proviso, of course, is that the autocrat must be so steeped in the car business, and have so much taste, skill, intuition, and sense for the customer, as to be nearly infallible.

False beliefs and unjust accusations need to be tackled, not left to fester in the files of the media, to be pulled out when another negative story is due. I do not see the media, or media exposure, as a negative. A frank, open, and candid approach, with lots of easy access to the CEO, is a winning strategy. The days of absolute industrial and economic dominance that we took for granted and assumed would go on forever are over. They have been over for some time; we just didn't notice it As a country, we need to go through this painful collective Chapter like experience.

For a time, we need to put the "American Dream" of ever-more, ever-bigger, ever-richer on hold as we grapple with the reality that we are, on balance, far less competitive than we need to be. Jul 03, Taymour Siddiqui rated it liked it Shelves: Through this history he addresses an important topic: Most of the book focuses on GM and his experience with GM which is meant to illustrate what he sees as the problems with American business. However, the part where he actually focuses on American businesses is very short and only talked about in the conclusion.

Despite the shortcomings of the book, I think this is the most important part that everyone should read and has important lessons about business. The book is not that well written, but gets the point across clearly. He does attack global warming and rants off about some off-topic things some times but for the most part the book stays on topic and if you plow through you can get some value through his story of GE. He does focus a lot on himself and how he saved GM and it is fairly self-centered.

I don't know, maybe he was the hero of the day for GM but he certainly makes it seem like that. Going into this, I was hoping to get a lot more on GM's bankruptcy and the decisions surrounding that and more discussion on that. I was disappointed though, he didn't talk much about that at all. The book was almost entirely focused on the more earlier periods of GM's history and more about his role in GM. Dec 02, Bern J rated it liked it.


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I always admired Bob Lutz. After all he ran BMW Motorad for awhile. These wasteful procedures and their attendant costs are all due to our unique to America "contingent fee" legal system, which results in our health care being the most expensive in the world while at the same time not necessarily the best.

As we have seen, and as the following will abundantly demonstrate, GM's leaders were not up to this admittedly monumental task. I maintain that without a passionate focus on great products from the top of the company on down, the "low cost" part will be assured but the "high revenue" part won't happen, just as it didn't at GM for so many years. It worked, just as decades later it's working for GM as well as it ever worked for Toyota. The error lies in transposing it to cards, which every one of the former consumer products CEOs tried to do. Here's where it goes awry: Changing the design or engineering of a car consumes hundred of millions of dollars and three years.

And the federal government doesn't care whether it's a test batch or not; every car model, regardless of production volume, must be fully certified from an emissions and safety standpoint. Unlike a Crest toothpaste tube, these cars, assuming a negative test outcome, will hang around as worthless orphans for years.

As with everything else at GM, the approach had sterling intellectual credentials, but in a world driven by a whim, fashion, and fluctuating fuel prices, it just didn't work.

See a Problem?

Running a company by region is fine for many industries but no longer optimal for car companies. You have to go global, with the regions reduced to marketing and PR entities, as is the case with the Japanese, Koreans, and Germans in the United States. Of Course, my recipe had called for a gradual rise over time, not an overnight doubling. The gasoline sticker shock due to the only partially explicable sudden rise in the price of a barrel of crude had an even more profound effect on our fortunes than the financial crisis, because GM's buyer group was hit the hardest.

With Chevrolet and GMC, we were the nation's leading producers of full-size pickup trucks Pickups are the preferred vehicles of tradesmen such as carpenters, plumbers, and electricians, and their work had evaporated along with new housing starts. Why did Sir Richard Branson and others , with no higher education at all, succeed so brilliantly in both the airline and music businesses? The simple answer is: Uninfected by the MBA virus, they simply strive to offer a better product, one that delights the customer. They control costs, of course. And they tolerate a necessary level of bureaucracy.

But the focus is on the product or service American business needs to throw the intellectuals out and get back to business! The big proviso, of course, is that the autocrat must be so steeped in the car business, and have so much taste, skill, intuition, and sense for the customer, as to be nearly infallible. False beliefs and unjust accusations need to be tackled, not left to fester in the files of the media, to be pulled out when another negative story is due.

I do not see the media, or media exposure, as a negative. A frank, open, and candid approach, with lots of easy access to the CEO, is a winning strategy. The days of absolute industrial and economic dominance that we took for granted and assumed would go on forever are over. They have been over for some time; we just didn't notice it As a country, we need to go through this painful collective Chapter like experience.

For a time, we need to put the "American Dream" of ever-more, ever-bigger, ever-richer on hold as we grapple with the reality that we are, on balance, far less competitive than we need to be. One person found this helpful 2 people found this helpful. Lutz controversial political points of view. Definitively a book for car fans, but surprisingly, the author managed to deliver a very comprehensive and typical Harvard-like business case.

Therefore, do not let Mr. Lutz controversial political points of view get in the way such as his simplistic argument for dismissing the relevance of global warming. Among his bias in favor of the Big Three opposition to fuel economy targets you will be surprised that he would have supported a gradual annual increase in federal fuel taxes instead of CAFE standards. I am not a car buff, but very interested in green cars and sustainable mobility.

I decided to read this book just because I was intrigued about Bob Lutz key role in the conception, development and market lunch of the first mass production plug-in hybrid, the Chevrolet Volt. Nevertheless, what really captivated me was Mr. Lutz analysis of what had happened to the U. Lutz considers them responsible for completely derailing GM from its original goal of providing superior value to its customers, and the result was a decline that ended up in the bankruptcy filing and GM government supported rebirth. He considers this is a phenomena that has been affecting not only GM but also many other US giant corporations that have lost sight of their real and long term business goals.

Also, a lot of time is wasted in developing "Missions, Values, and Goals", winning strategies, scenario planning, cost control, and other non-value added activities. Unfortunately, as explained by Mr. Lutz, this approach has left aside simplicity, common sense and core functions such creativity, innovation, and product design, as key decisions are taking by the bean counters not the mechanics, the engineers and the creative people in the organization who are the ones who really have the know-how about the products.

Not surprisingly, short term profit seeking and the same type of analytical MBA approach did not allow the financial geniuses that run the sophisticated financial models foresee the catastrophic financial crash. What matters, Lutz argues, is having on board at least one automotive artist with the talent to design desirable new cars. His frequent criticism of the press is sometimes churlish, as when he alleges that unnecessarily harsh and ill-informed lefty journalism gave the Hummer H2—on which he signed off—an unjustifiably bad rep. He closes with the recognition that having a media-savvy, talking-head CEO is now a must and in the best interest of the business in which he worked for 47 years.

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