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Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business Hardcover – June 9, 2011
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“This book should be required reading for every young person who seeks a business degree. That applies equally to the current management of GM.”
—David E. Davis, Jr., former editor and publisher of Car and Driver
“This is exactly what you’d expect from Bob Lutz: no holds barred, no punches pulled, and no stone left unturned. It’s a true insider’s perspective and a great read.”
—Stephen J. Girsky, vice chairman of General Motors
“Car Guys vs. Bean Counters is the best book written by an auto industry insider since Iacocca in 1984, and deserves to be shelved alongside Alfred P. Sloan’s management classic, My Years with General Motors.”
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.
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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.
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.