Bob Lutz On Enthusiast Culture, Stick Shifts, and More - ModernCamaro.com - 5th Generation Camaro Enthusiasts
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post #1 of 5 Old 06-18-2008, 08:23 PM Thread Starter
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Bob Lutz On Enthusiast Culture, Stick Shifts, and More

http://blog.cardomain.com/blog/2008/...-with-bob.html


We had a great time with Bob Lutz and his posse last night. The dinner was supposed to last an hour and a half, but somehow with all the great wine and food it ran over three hours. And Bob talked pretty much the whole time. Let's get the Volt stuff out of the way first. Yes, GM is still on track for November 2010. They are expecting to build and sell 10,000 in 2011 and 60,000 in 2012. From there it's anyone's guess. In terms of price they are aiming to bring the Volt in under $40k, but are hoping that tax credits will make it easier for people to afford.

There was a lot of talk about gas prices. Bob actually seems pretty content with the current high gas prices--he just thinks they ramped up a bit quickly. Bob claims to have lobbied the folks in DC for gas taxes starting in the 70s, but says that politicians had always balked at the idea. So US auto manufacturers were pretty much stuck selling gas-guzzling SUVs. Or something like that. But given GM's new direction, Bob said that cheap gas would actually be a bad thing for them at this point. With the new CAFE standards kicking in, a return to cheap gas would put them "at war" with their customers by forcing GM to produce small, efficient cars that consumers wouldn't want. GM is fully committed to the Volt and is intent on "taking the vehicle out of the environmental debate." Continue reading...



Bob is pretty excited about the whole electric thing. He pulled out his Blackberry and showed me the new Vectrix electric scooter he had recently purchased. It was parked in his garage, right in front of a stunning red 1955 Chrysler 300 (Bob is definitely still a Mopar guy).



We talked about whether or not there might be an electric Cadillac. The GM guys all seemed to think it would make a lot of sense for the brand, which has focused so much on leading technology in recent years. However, Bob ruled out the idea of an electric RWD muscle car. He sees electric vehicles as primarily FWD.



Bob still is a great believer in ethanol, and told me to look into a company named Coskata, who he thinks has the right idea. But he doesn't think it's gonna happen in this country, for a variety of reasons. And Bob thinks that diesel is doomed over here--it's just too complicated and expensive to get diesel cars to pass to our strict emission regulations.







A recurring theme of the evening was that the US government has really screwed up things for the auto industry--they didn't tax gas enough, and as a result we have crummy roads and no transportation infrastruture. And now with the safety standards and CAFE regulations the automakers are stuck between a rock and a hard place. I think Bob has a point. How can you make a truly fuel-efficient vehicle when safety standards basically call for an armored vehicle with twenty airbags? Bob thinks that there is no way will we ever see a return of cheap, light-weight econoboxes like the Geo Metro, Honda CRX, etc.



So then I brought out some of your questions. Darvell asked what Bob recommends for students wanting to get into the automotive industry. Bob said to study electrical engineering--that it's all about battery technology now. Garret asked why so many modern automakers are not offering manual transmissions. Bob said that there was little demand, and again, it was harder to get these cars to pass the emission regulations (modern automatics can be easily programed to time their shift points just right). And regarding Infinitespecter's question, "why can't Detroit design something original on its own?" Bob said he thinks the Camaro, HHR and even the Solstice/Sky are uniquely American, but that he sees a "global convergence of taste." He sees the new Malibu as an expression of this new global taste.



Toward the end I asked Bob what he thought of Chrysler's decision to axe the Viper (a car which Bob helped bring to market when he was at Chrysler). He said that Chrysler is losing a lot of money on the vehicle, and that if it was up to him he'd probably do the same thing.







There was a lot more to the our evening, so stay tuned for John and Jen's version of the dinner in the next day or two.

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post #2 of 5 Old 06-19-2008, 04:47 AM
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Great write up.

Thanks for the info.
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post #3 of 5 Old 06-20-2008, 07:13 AM Thread Starter
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Bob Lutz On Enthusiast Culture, Stick Shifts, and More

Part two

http://blog.cardomain.com/blog/2008/...tz-on-ent.html

Rob, John and I are each posting a blog on our recent sit-down with Maximum Bob in an effort to address as many as possible of the questions y'all had for the Czar. I was curious about what Bob thought of GM enthusiast cultureóis the General interested in harnessing its old-school brand loyalists, the classic and muscle-car fans, the way for instance Mopar has done so successfully? Bob said that Chevy enthusiasts don't need any coaxing to remain loyal, and that the company can't remain preoccupied with the past. So if you're into old-school Bow-Tie, Bob Lutz is probably assuming that your eventual repeat-customer status is a foregone conclusion. Yikes, maybe he hasn't seen how many of the Camaro and GTO guys are buying new Camries and Kias for their daily beaters?

Speaking of enthusiasts, a lot you were asking about the disappearance of the stick shift from modern cars.

Bob made the point that manual transmissions harm the all-important average fleet MPG, because, in contrast to the past, they're now less fuel efficient than automatics: there's computers now that determine optimal gas-saving shift points more precisely than even the most discerning human. Bob was somewhat enigmatic about the availability of the stick in specific models. He emphasized that the Camaro "will have a manual transmission." I fell for it, but Rob felt it was a bit of a political answer: whether Bob means it'll have one for its initial run, or during a subsequent model-year, was unclear. The G8 GT will have an optional Tremec six-speed for 2009.

As for your concerns about the Camaro's ugliness, Bob stressed that the car employs an entirely "new design language," and that it's not meant to be slavishly retrostyled like the Mustang or the Challenger. He said that the ultra-retro Camaro prototypes, which looked a lot closer to the '69 Camaro, were even vetoed by Rick Wagoner, who wanted to give the car a look that would have more global appeal.

And for those who will never buy a new car, GM or otherwise? Hey, even we are helping out. Every time you buy an old hulk, you help raise the market value of that vehicle, and once the price gets higher, there'll be a larger contingent of folks who decide they "might as well" buy new. It's when people hang onto their old rides that "fleet renewal" doesn't happen, and once again, mean old CAFE standards are to blame for that too. Or something. Anyway, we had a great time with Bob, who was very gracious with us over dinner and gave us a lot of really interesting stuff to mull over. More from John tomorrow, and in the meantime you can click here and here for some video segments of our discussion with Bob.

1998 Camaro A4 7.06 @ 96.5 MPH NA 1.47 best 60ft
2010 Camaro Tube Chassis work in progress
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post #4 of 5 Old 06-20-2008, 07:48 AM
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WOW fantastic write up. Thank you so much for sharing.

Bob seems like a Hoot. Speaks his mind and the "don't give a ****" attitude!

Got to love it!
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post #5 of 5 Old 06-20-2008, 02:10 PM
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Its nice to see that the G8 GT is going to have a manual tranny in 2009 tho.


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