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Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business [Kindle Edition]

Bob Lutz
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (164 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $12.45
You Save: $3.55 (22%)
Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

“One of the most acute books about management and how com­panies work in practice that I have read in a long time. If anyone wants to know exactly how the U.S. auto industry got into trou­ble, here is your guide.”


When Bob Lutz got into the auto business in the early 1960s, CEOs knew that if you captured the public’s imagination with innovative car design and top-quality crafts­manship, the money would follow. The “car guys” held sway, and GM dominated with bold, creative leadership and iconic brands like Cadillac, Buick, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, GMC, and Chevrolet.

But then GM’s leadership began to put its faith in numbers and spreadsheets. Determined to eliminate the “waste” and “personality worship” of the bygone creative leaders, management got too smart for its own good. With the bean counters firmly in charge, carmakers, and much of American industry, lost their single-minded focus on product excellence and their competitive advantage. Decline soon followed.

In 2001, General Motors hired Lutz out of retirement with a mandate to save the company by making great cars again. As vice chairman, he launched a war against the penny-pinching number crunchers who ran the company by the bottom line and reinstated a focus on creativity, design, and cars and trucks that would satisfy GM’s customers.

Lutz’s commonsense lessons, combined with a generous helping of fascinating anecdotes, will inspire readers in any industry.

Editorial Reviews


"Norman Dietz provides a steady-paced, documentary-style approach to this intriguing material. Lutz's comments will appeal to anyone interested in the fascinating world of auto manufacturing." ---Library Journal Audio Review

About the Author

BOB LUTZ held senior leadership positions at Gm, ford, Chrysler, and BMW over the course of an unparalleled forty-seven-year career, culminating in his vice chairmanship of General motors from 2001 to 2010. He is the bestselling author of Guts: 8 Laws of Business from One of the Most Innovative Business Leaders of Our Time.

Product Details

  • File Size: 493 KB
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio; Reprint edition (June 9, 2011)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004IYJEA6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #232,833 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
96 of 103 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Maximum' Bob Lutz At Maximum Velocity June 9, 2011
`Maximum' Bob Lutz is the last of the legendary `car guys' in the US automotive business. Car guys are those who work in the auto business because they like cars as opposed to the `bean counters' who work in the car business but treat the product as just another widget.

Car guys are those who work at GM or Ford or Chrysler during the day and then at night, work on their cars as a hobby. On weekends, they would race them. During their free time, they would talk cars with other car guys. That's what built GM and Detroit in general. What has almost destroyed it has been the rise of the bean counter to positions of dominance in the domestic car industry. Bean counters focus on financial manipulation over product excellence. Maximum Bob, in this book, documents what went wrong and how to address it - not only in the auto industry but in American industry in general which has all too often been led down the same path to doom as the car industry.

The book is partly a biography covering a very short portion of Lutz's life - his second stint at GM - which recently ended after about a decade. This time around, he tried, with some notable success, to repair the damage he foresaw coming and which caused him to resign from GM many years before. It's more than a biography, however. It is also a diagnosis of what went wrong with the US car industry and US industry in general. Being Maximum Bob, he generally doesn't hold back his often controversial opinions being a person who'd rather speak out and found to be wrong than keep quiet.

The book delivers some surprises as well as details of behind the scenes activities, which, from time to time hit the mainstream news. The short book contains no filler.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Absolutely marvelous; anyone who reads this will understand the enervating hubris that is destroying business, education and government in America and much of the rest of the world.

First though, to set this book and Lutz in context, a quote from midway through the book: "I know I'm full of crap a lot of the time, but that comes with the territory.

"Your job is to provide me with honest feedback," Lutz writes. If read with this caveat in mind, this book offers enough insight to rescue almost any failing industry without government bailouts. In my career as a reporter, I've seen enough once excellent newspapers go down the drain because publishers refused to understand Lutz's observations, insight and remedies.

He's a "product man," which means a commitment to quality products instead of profits, prestige or paper pushing. Lutz is infuriated by "bean counters" who see value only in profits; as such, it is an eloquent 'cri de coeur' rather than a balanced analysis of business management.

That said, few if any can't benefit from his basic insights into the over-confidence, hubris and arrogance that is making America into a third world society. Federal debt crisis? If Lutz's approach was applied to government and industry, the debate would center on how to use the surplus instead of crying about the deficits produced by dumb attitudes.

The current assumption is that America is great simply by being America; Lutz argues superiority is based on a never-ending search for improvement and innovation rather than complacency. My experience is that America is better than its political or business satraps; if leaders can pick the wisdom from rants such as Lutz, no country can do better.
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85 of 102 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Far Too Many Excuses, Some Good Material As Well June 11, 2011
Lutz' book is about what happened to America's competitiveness, and why, per an outspoken personality with a 47-year stellar career in the business. The title gives Lutz' perspective away. His focus is the automobile industry, but the logic extends to much of our formerly dominant manufacturing sector. Generally his comments make good sense, though not always. Example - his major point would be more accurate if expressed as 'excessive focus on short-term profits. On the other hand, Lutz is not likely to apologize anytime soon for imperfect decision-making - he's more into improving things - right now, and being right more often than wrong.

Lutz is not afraid to name names. His first target is America's handling of the original oil crises - with increased CAFE requirements, instead of raising the gas tax. The unintended result, per Lutz, is that Japanese manufacturers did not have to do anything to meet the new requirements, while American firms incurred high expenditures. Japan also benefited from U.S. desire to keep it within its sphere of foreign policy influence - thus, we did little or nothing about the 'yen' exchange-rate being set too low. (Sound familiar to today and problems with China?) Continuing, Lutz complains that negotiated 'voluntary trade restraints (early to mid-1980s) did NOT result in American manufacturers simply raising prices rather than using the breather to improve costs and quality. However, Lutz' defense of American automakers (they were shifting to the new demand for pickups) lacks credibility because our manufacturers pushed that strategy as a means of avoiding both Japanese competition and stringent CAFE restraints. Similarly, Lutz criticizes those linking global warming to the auto industry, but does a poor job making his case.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Great insight into GM and it's culture.
Published 4 days ago by Raul Arredondo
3.0 out of 5 stars Lutz
Good condition, quick arrival, but much writing and highlighted words
Published 6 days ago by Harish Punjabi
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book.
Published 18 days ago by H P Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I love Lutz' books.
Published 2 months ago by Craig Y
5.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed it.
as a car guy, I enjoyed it.
Published 2 months ago by P. L. Mcwhorter
5.0 out of 5 stars You can't make this stuff up. No one would believe it.
Lutz is very pleased with himself. But that is part of the charm. I wish we had more Lutzes in the American car industry. Or any gigantic business. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Bryon Matthews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Superb historical account provided by a no-nonsense, car-loving, extremely articulate genius of a true leader!
Published 2 months ago by Richard Crowell
5.0 out of 5 stars outstanding!
One of the best books on business and leadership I have ever read. Bob Lutz is a master of showing how the simple and direct approach is usually best, but frequently and sometimes... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Chris Pogue
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful plan of what to do to setup a business to fail
As a business owner I found the mistakes at GM to be a warning. Incentivizing people to do the wrong things is easy to do. Read more
Published 2 months ago by John Rinaldi
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for the car guys
This is one of the most enjoyable books about the car industry I have ever read.It's loaded with great stories.A must read for anyone who is a "car guy".
Published 3 months ago by MARC SCHUSTER
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