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95 of 102 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Maximum' Bob Lutz At Maximum Velocity
`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,...
Published on June 9, 2011 by Paul Cassel

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82 of 99 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Far Too Many Excuses, Some Good Material As Well
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 -...
Published on June 11, 2011 by Loyd E. Eskildson


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95 of 102 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Maximum' Bob Lutz At Maximum Velocity, June 9, 2011
By 
This review is from: Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business (Hardcover)
`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. It's all solid opinion from Lutz including his observations and analysis of what's needed to fully restore US industry in general and the car business specifically.

Except for solid swipes at media both on the left such, as the environmentalists writing in the New York Times, or the right such as Rush Limbaugh, Lutz explains that much of the problem faced by industry is structural. Somewhat to my surprise, he explains that the union management is often caught in the same structural web as management and thus can't alter its course even if it's obvious it must do so. Of course, a good deal of this changed with the recent bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler. It'll be interesting if GM's management and the UAW can continue to forge ahead or if they'll slip back into the mediocrity which they'd sunken into by the turn of the century.

Lutz also takes a few swipes at Ford implying the company is riding a wave of luck and good press. He is remarkably light on his comments about the government 'takeover' or Steve Rattner's group. I suppose one doesn't bite the hand which has pulled one from the quicksand no matter how noxious that hand is. In a few places he seems to pull a punch or two but he also defends some folks who were unjustly vilified and explains why they were really blameless for the general catastrophe which hit GM and, for different reasons, Chrysler.

In sum, this is must read for those who have even a casual interest in cars or the car business. It is also a must read for those who have an interest in reviving American industry in general or who have heard of Lutz and wish a look into his mind. It is not a thorough autobiography of Maximum Bob's life and times, however, because it only covers a few years of his rather storied career. It's a good solid interesting read for anybody who has even a casual interest in a man generally regarded as an industrial genius.

In the end, it's a heck of a read penned by an industrial legend. We could sure use a few more Bob Lutz's in the US.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How America lost excellence -- and got beans instead, June 19, 2011
By 
Theodore A. Rushton (PHOENIX, Arizona United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business (Hardcover)
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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82 of 99 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Far Too Many Excuses, Some Good Material As Well, June 11, 2011
This review is from: Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business (Hardcover)
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.

Continuing, Lutz brings out the Big Three's problems with excess health care costs, and also admits that prior to signing the disastrous 1990 contract, G.M.'s forecasters had erroneously determined that health care costs had already peaked, and that increased gains in volume and efficiency would offset projected retiree care costs. Lutz also rakes G.M. for over-expanding plants and hiring (the latter by about 40,000), then acerbating the situation by also accepting the 'Job Bank' concept (full pay for idle workers - the UAW saw this as a means of keeping jobs in America). Lutz believes UAW leaders understood the situation was not economically sustainable, but unfortunately its members were overly-optimistic about the invincibility of the U.S. and its workers.

Many of G.M.'s problems had nothing to do with labor. Quality miscues occurred because we tried converting engines designed for gas power to diesel power - without requisite strengthening of components. The 4-6-8 cylinder design failed, per Lutz, because of inadequate electronics at the time - a euphemism for design and testing blunders. Buying foreign brands generally failed because of a lack of common components and overhead cost sharing; conversely, the Cadillac Cimarron etc. failed because of excessive commonality. Saturn's isolation, and being limited to a single line, saddled that line with excess overheads. Excessive automation increased both support labor and Job Bank costs. Meanwhile, stifling bureaucracy grew like cancer - sopping up expenditures and monopolizing management time. (Thanks should also be given to management professors of the time - idolizing complex structures - eg. Matrix Management, whole-job tasks - eg. Volvo, that added to the problems.) Saab and Subaru acquisitions did not fit into the G.M. product line, and potential savings from commonality of parts were not pursued.

NUMMI (New United Motor Manufacturing a joint-venture between Toyota and G.M. - reopening a previously closed, troublesome G.M. plant from 1984 to 2010, with the same staffers, building identical Corollas and Chevrolet Prizms, should have provided G.M. with hands-on experience for rising above its problems, but did not. Toyota brought the opportunity to G.M. to learn hands-on about its vaunted and revolutionary Toyota Production system - including the way Toyota approaches relationships with workers, its systems for goal-setting, plant and process layouts, job classification system, inventory and quality control, product-line flexibility, etc. Eventually G.M. pulled out of the partnership, along with the opportunities to learn. Lutz' accounting of this missed opportunity fails to recognize this as a major, major, major G.M. management blunder that Lutz apparently participated in. (Consumer Reports at the time noted that buyers paid a premium for the Corollas vs. the Prizms - based on their different overall quality reputations; Lutz simply whines that buyers were biased towards Japanese cars.)

G.M. did hit some good notes, thankfully. Its success in China with Buick (something Lutz doubted at first) helped revise G.M. today in the U.S. And Lutz helped bring simplification of organizational structure and goals - quickly noting, for example that when he first came to G.M. the chief of design had very limited impact on design processes and selection, and that enormous time and effort was wasted in detailed planning - the assumptions of which never occurred. Then there were the useless arguments over transfer pricing. G.M.'s eventually learned there were cost variations of as much as 3X in purchasing identical components for different car programs.

Readers curious about Lutz' vision of the ideal car company management style can probably conclude that Ferdinand Piech, Chairman of VW's Supervisory Board, represents that leader. Piech, per Lutz, pushed advanced technology, made design decisions, and was overflowing with self-confidence. Hmmm - guess who that sounds like, formerly at G.M. and Chrysler? (Piech was not infallible - eg. the $100,000 VW Phaeton was a major flop.) (Lutz' support for autocratic manufacturing bosses is also an interesting indirect endorsement of China's anti-democratic government, and a condemnation of America's bureaucratic, ineffectual government.)

Lutz notes with disappointment that the improved culture of customer focus and product excellence he helped bring to Chrysler didn't 'stick' after the Mercedes takeover. The 'good new' is that he's much more optimistic about that happening at G.M. (A 3/15/11 WSJ article covering on-going bureaucratic problems within G.M. suggests Lutz' optimism is ill-founded.) The 'really bad news,'however, is that Lutz' material contains far too many ignorant, whiny, excuses for our failures, instead of learning from them. And that is the real cause of not just America's manufacturing, but also its economic, and world leadership declines.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Worth Reading, June 27, 2011
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This review is from: Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business (Hardcover)
Well worth reading for what's between the lines as well as the ideas presented. The insight into the structural problems at GM is piercing and fascinating. What I found as interesting are Lutz's blind spots. He points out absolutely correctly that customers don't care that the project manager met his schedule and product cost goals; the customers care about the car in front of them, and for Lutz, that means the car's being appealing inside and out. Much good discussion of interiors, paint, proportions, etc. But only the most passing mention of what it's like to DRIVE the cars... after all, customers do more than just admire the lovely beasts. The "unfair shake" the automotive press gave GM was based on more than anti-GM prejudice; it was based on quality, durability, erratic ergonomics, and in the cognoscenti's magazines, on the driving experience. The forward unbalanced muscle cars like the GTO that didn't much care for stopping or turning were sneered at, as were the general family cars that rode smooooooth, but didn't much care to turn, and when they did, did so with excessive lean, and the occasional lurch. As time went by, the technical naivete of the cars became a constant topic in the enthusiast press... live rear axles, when independent rear suspension was available on imports; carburetors when fuel injection was available elsewhere; too many models with drum brakes long after discs were obviously better; bias ply tires when others supplied radials on new cars. Pointing this out may have been too easy, but it wasn't unfair. And the enthusiasts who read about this stuff were often the opinion-shapers that competent marketing folks try to cater to but whom Detroit denigrated.

Detroit didn't need higher gas prices to spur the development of smaller cars; remember the Corvair, Vega, Tempest, Pinto, and the Valiant? The Valiant was a long lived solid car, but the others suffered from fundamental engineering problems or shoddy construction, or both. By the time of the CAFE standard, the public had given up on GM's small cars, and so had GM. It didn't help that when GM fought hard to prevent the adoption of CAFE that GM had already fought hard and reflexively, against EVERY mandate, including requirements for safety belts, padded dashes, decent headlights,(complex story there) and had, as a result, no remaining credibility. These blunders preceded the era of high medical and retirement costs; they later added injury to injury, but the rot had set in much earlier. It's true that the yen was undervalued; but the Deutschmark was not, and the Germans have had their successes regardless.

Incidentally, when GM recently delivered, from what I've seen, the mainstream press responded with a relieved "at last!". I've read very warm reviews of the Malibu, the exotic Caddy, and the Volt. So I think that his complaints about the press were just more examples of Detroit's insularity and denial.

So, a fascinating book; what he gets, he gets full well, and what he doesn't, he doesn't even suspect.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Car Guys vs. Bean, July 19, 2011
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This review is from: Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business (Hardcover)
As 38 year Auto worker, I can tell you what he has written about is mostly fact. GM had the best most advanced cars on the road in the 50's,and 60'their market share was over 50%.
Then the thinkers were replaced with the money men and cost cutters and that was the beginning of the end of GM.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Even better than I thought it was going to be..., July 5, 2011
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This review is from: Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business (Hardcover)
There are so many general business lessons in this book. The fact that the examples are based on the car business makes it a bonus if you like cars. This book offers an insiders perspective on the structure of GM through time, and how decisions were made in each era - fascinating and fun.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars He should rethink the title, September 22, 2011
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This review is from: Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business (Hardcover)
The title caught my attention since I am both a Car Guy and a Bean Counter. I was interested to learn the full extent of my inner turmoil according to Bob Lutz.
After reading the book I have found that Bob Lutz considers "Bean Counters" as anyone that has a job that requires analytic thinking, and does not display any creativity.
While the book is entertaining at times, and Bob does make some good points. He spends most of the time complaining about why GM failed, and why it wasn't GM's fault (mainly the fault of unfair outside forces, and a culture within GM overly influenced by those pesky, non-creative, "Bean Counters")
I have always had respect for Bob Lutz and I still do, but after reading this book I must say I have lost some of that respect.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Car Guys vs Bean Counters, July 3, 2011
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This review is from: Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business (Hardcover)
Author Lutz is a true "car guy" that has a unique feel for the industry from design to marketing. Most of all, he understands that great product rules, and that great product seldom comes from committees. Creating great product is more art than science. No shrinking violet he, giving credit to several of his contemporaries that got short-sheeted, shows that the man did not let his ego drive this book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read this, June 13, 2011
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This review is from: Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business (Hardcover)
This is a great book that every american should read.. car lover or not. It's part business strategy, part car enthusiasm, part just raw truth from what I can tell.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very blunt assessment., July 4, 2011
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This review is from: Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business (Hardcover)
In "Car Guys vs. Bean Counters" Mr. Lutz clearly establishes himself as a car guy. There are likely not too many people around today with the expertise, experience or background to be able to chronicle the decline and fall of General Motors as he has done. At the same time Lutz does hold out hope for the future not only of GM but for the domestic auto industry as well. I do not agree with some of his ideas, for instance taxing gasoline to make the retail price on a par with Europe. However, he is blunt, presents his thoughts in a straight forward manner, and leaves little doubt as to what he thinks of "bean counters". All in all this book is a must-read for anyone associated with or an interest in the auto industry.
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