Bob Lutz, author and former vice-chairman of General Motors, went toe-to-toe with comedian and faux-right-wing pundit Stephen Colbert Monday evening. While predicting record sales for Chevrolet’s Volt, which was started under his watch at GM, the 80-year-old former industry leader bested the host in a push-up competition.
Lutz appeared on the Comedy Central program “The Colbert Report” to hawk his new book about the auto industry, “Car Guys Vs. Bean Counters.” Swiss-born Lutz is a bit of a Renaissance man. Not only did he head up the largest automaker, GM, for a time, but he also did administrative stints with Ford, Chrysler and BMW. The former Marine sometimes goes by the nickname Maximum Bob.
‘Car Guys Vs. Bean Counters’
Lutz described his new book, which appears to be a manifesto to his hands-on management style:
“Unless you have creative people who really want to deliver outstanding products or outstanding customer service, all of the bean counting and all of the finances isn’t going to do you any good. The problem is when you have the wrong people in charge. Then the business goes downhill because all they look at is spreadsheets and they forget the customer. That’s what the book’s about.”
In spite of saying he is a conservative, and doing his admittedly begrudging “duty” by endorsing Mitt Romney for the 2012 Republican presidential candidate, Lutz also defended President Obama’s much-criticized bail-out of the auto industry. Lutz characterized Romney’s remark that Obama should have let the automakers go bankrupt an “unwise statement.” He said to let the auto industry go bankrupt would have been “economic Armageddon,” adding that “any country in the world would step in with loans for its automotive industry.”
Ramping up the Volt
Lutz took some time to talk about the Chevrolet Volt, which was given the green light while Lutz called the shots at GM. He said the car is necessary in the automaker’s lineup as part of its effort to meet upcoming fuel economy standards:
“General Motors, like every other company, has to meet fuel economy regulations. But we’ll still do Corvettes, we’ll still do 500 horsepower, 560 horsepower Camaros, and on the other end we do the Chevrolet Volt because we do have to meet the fuel economy laws.”
In answer to criticism leveled against the Volt, Lutz called it a “huge success,” citing March’s record sales as evidence. He also said that the company expects to sell “about 3,000 a month from here on out.” He also reminded critics that the Volt was just named European Car of the Year — the first American-made car to ever be so-named.
Competitive up and downs
At the end of the interview, Lutz told Colbert that he does 40 push-ups every day. That was all the invitation Colbert needed to challenge the elder businessman to a push-up contest. Although both men started strong, Colbert soon pooped out and conceded the challenge while Lutz was still bobbing up and down with no sign of tiring.