Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Panic in Detroit

On the way home tonight, I caught part of On Point, a decent news talk show out of WBUR in Boston. One of the guests on tonight's show was GM's vice chairman product development, Bob Lutz. I don't follow the auto industry as closely as a I used to, so while I am familiar with Lutz's name, I don't really know anything about him. He started off talking about the Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid that GM is hoping will finally be the car that will best the competition in style, quality, and efficiency. He's not a very good speaker and his voice leaves a lot to be desired, but I can't really hold that against him. Once he switched out of sales pitch mode and starting fielding questions from the host and the callers, he came completely unhinged. He sounded more like an anonymous commenter on a third-rate conservative blog than an executive of a fortune 5 company. He literally responded to a caller's question about the possibility of improving the efficiency of gasoline engines by challenging the caller to come up with some new ideas. I could practically hear the spittle hit the microphone when he started talking about "professor" Tom Friedman's ideas about the US automotive industry. I don't know if he was confusing Friedman, who to my knowledge is not and has never been a college professor, with his colleague Paul Krugman, who is a professor. Either way, it made him sound like a complete fool. If this is what Detroit, or at least GM, has to offer, the US auto industry is in even worse shape than I had previously imagined.

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