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Filed under: Hirings/Firings/Layoffs, GM, Autoline on Autoblog

Can His Arsenal Survive New Management?



When Bob Lutz ran General Motors' product development efforts, he did something that no other car company has done in the history of making cars. He hired four automotive journalists to assess all of GM's new vehicles before they were OK'd for production. And their word was law. Everything had to be developed to their satisfaction.

That didn't go down well with GM's traditional engineering staff, at least not at first. They didn't like the fact that four outsiders, four media critics with no product development experience, could force them to make changes on a new-car program. But because the journos reported to Lutz, they had all the protection they needed.

[Lutz] personally asked me not to write anything about them. That's how much of a competitive advantage he felt they brought to GM.
Lutz hired them as full-time employees because he wanted an independent, third party voice to evaluate GM's cars as they went through their development stages. "These are four guys who made a living out of critiquing cars," Lutz says, "and they made a pretty good living at it." Since the four didn't hold any allegiance to the design, engineering or manufacturing staffs at GM, they could feel free to critique any car just as they would when they were full-time journalists.

Lutz tells me they were his secret weapons. He credits them with the reason why GM's cars are now tuned to world-class standards. These guys didn't design, engineer or develop any vehicles. That was done by GM's long-standing employees. But the journos brought an enthusiast magazine mind-set to the evaluation process to make sure there would be very little for the press to pick apart.

I've known about Lutz's secret weapons for several years. But he personally asked me not to write anything about them. That's how much of a competitive advantage he felt they brought to GM. He didn't want to see any other car company copying this approach. Since these guys are friends and colleagues whom I've known for years, I also didn't want to jeopardize their jobs. So I didn't write about them. Until now. And now I think it's important that I do.

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John McElroy is host of the TV program "Autoline Detroit" and daily web video "Autoline Daily". Every week he brings his unique insights as a Detroit insider to Autoblog readers.
Continue reading How Bob Lutz made four auto journalists his "Secret Weapons" at GM

How Bob Lutz made four auto journalists his "Secret Weapons" at GM originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 25 Jan 2011 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.



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