In a speech during his induction into the Automotive Hall of Fame earlier this week, Former General Motors vice chairman in charge of product development Bob Lutz reflected on his efforts to create a culture of “product excellence” at two of his employers — GM and Chrysler.
When he left Chrysler in 1998, the automaker fell back to its old way of doing business that ended up leaving it in the “porcelain bowl”, Lutz reflected.
“As a special point of pride for me, it’s because I left Chrysler in 1998, and I thought I had been able to convince the culture that excellence pays. And a little more money to be excellent, a little restraint on leasing, a little restraint on daily rental sales is all for the better. The minute I was out the door they said “thank God he’s gone, now we can get back to doing business the way we always have”, and headed straight for the porcelain bowl.”
By contrast, Lutz’s efforts to instill a similar culture at General Motors has endured following his departure, having become “deeply ingrained” at the automaker. A series of recent awards and praise, such as the top rating for the all-new 2014 Chevrolet Impala sedan from the Consumer Reports this week, reflect that.
I was “wondering whether the lesson that excellence pays would be retained by General Motors after my departure”, said Lutz. “Well, those JD Power Quality Reports, the new GMC and Chevrolet pickup trucks, and this triumph of the Chevrolet Impala convinces me that the ethic of spend a little more, engineer it a little better, put in the extra cost if you have to, but product excellence is the final driver of market and financial success. That lesson, I think, is deeply ingrained in General Motors, and by the way, the rest of the industry too, but especially General Motors.”
Lutz spent most of his career at GM as vice chairman in charge of product development, but also held positions at BMW and Ford.
His conclusion is simple, yet powerful: “Product excellence is the final driver of market and financial success.”
Here’s a segment of Lutz’s speech (not always mobile-friendly):
The GM Authority Take
Thank you for all of the hard work, Mr. Lutz. GM wouldn’t be the same without you.