Car Guys Appeals to More Than Auto Lovers

March 23, 2012

Anyone interested in the history of the auto industry may be familiar with author Bob Lutz not for his writing, but rather for his long association with car manufacturers, including stints at Chrysler, Ford, and BMW in addition to his best-known position as the Chairman of General Motors North America (he was aptly nicknamed “Maximum Bob” for his full-throttle style both behind the wheel and in the board room). Although he began his career as an automaker with GM back in the 1963, staying for several years before doing the rounds at other companies, he eventually decided to retire due to the changing corporate climate that promoted a “bean counter” mentality that his business ideals simply couldn’t abide. However, he was lured back to the company he started with in 2001 when flagging sales caused GM to rethink their strategy. Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business is his opus to the industry he loves and a cautionary tale about the evolution of corporate America.

One thing listeners will love about Maximum Bob is his total fearlessness when it comes to saying what’s on his mind. And more often than not his opinions are spot on, mimicking the way many people feel about the soullessness embodied by the corporate mentality. The auto industry was once dominated by guys like Lutz, “car guys” who simply loved automobiles and wanted to create innovative vehicles that would grab the attention of the public. This creative atmosphere of automotive excellence dominated for years. But eventually, rising costs and competition forced automakers to look more closely at the bottom line, and eventually the pendulum swung towards the bean counters with terms like “acceptable margin of loss” leading to disasters like the brake issues recently (and memorably) experienced by Toyota.

When Lutz returned to GM it was with the goal of recapturing the essence of an earlier era, with an emphasis on excellence in the automotive industry, and it seemed that the company was firmly behind him. Although the economy later tanked, resulting in bailouts of several Detroit automakers (GM included), Lutz continued to promote a vision of change that included the introduction of electric vehicles (namely the Chevy Volt). Along every step of his journey this man has impressed with his common sense approach to business and his desire to create products that companies can be proud to sell and consumers can be proud to own. But while this audio book is something of a biography, it is also a foray into the downfall of American business as a whole, based largely on the growth of the bean-counter mentality.

Lutz’s insider knowledge of automakers over the last fifty years combined with his personal analysis, insight, and opinions concerning the changing face of the automotive industry provide for an engaging listen that is certain to delight not only those who have a soft spot in their hearts for car culture, but also those who are interested in the metamorphosis of American business. So if you happen to love cars, you should definitely take a listen. If you’re more interested in the future of American companies in the global economy, Lutz can give you a lesson or two on what has gone wrong and how it can be turned around.

Sarah Danielson is a contributing writer for Car Rentals – car hire Portugal, the best online car rental supplier with over 4,000 locations worldwide.

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