On the legacies of Derrick Kuzak and Bob Lutz

James Treece does an excellent compare and contrast of the impacts of Derrick Kuzak and Bob Lutz on Ford and General Motors in the latest Automotive News.

As much as I admire Lutz, if you look back over his history at and then at GM, it seems that products that emerged during his tenures were largely the result of his shear force of will rather than changing the culture of the organization.

Following Lutz’s “retirement” from Chrysler in the wake of the DaimlerChrysler merger, the products quickly returned to a level of mediocrity that drove customers away.  The problem of course was not at the engineering and design levels, but in the upper reaches of management. Without a commitment to product excellence above all else, the product will always devolve to that lowest common denominator level.

Even his tenure at GM was something of a mixed bag, with excellent products like the Cadillac CTS, C6 Corvette and Buick LaCrosse mixed with misses like the two-mode and mild hybrids, Hummer H3 and Solstice/Sky. As much as I loved the idea of the Pontiac Solstice, it was not well executed and probably should not have made it to production.

The soft-spoken Kuzak on the other hand had 100% support from Alan Mulally and Bill Ford in his efforts to focus the Ford product development process. The Focus has recently started to pick up steam in the US market and new Fusion has the potential to be a huge win for Ford. Even the Flex deserves credit. Despite being a weak seller, it was beautifully executed and remains one of my favorite crossovers.

Having spent time at both companies I remain unconvinced that GM’s future products will retain the level of excellence found in the products released in the last few years. Because of the lead times involved, the vehicles coming in the next 2-3 years will still exhibit the Lutz effect but beyond 2015 it’s hard to say.  The engineering and design ranks can obviously execute, but whether they will be allowed to is unclear.

It’s too early to tell about Ford either, but I have a feeling that when 2015 rolls around we won’t be as concerned about Dearborn’s product direction.

#ford #gm #derrickkuzak #boblutz



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