First, I start following this Bob Lutz blog. Why? 'Cause I was fascinated to see how a senior executive like Lutz would use blogging, this new direct-to-the-customer communicative channel. I was, to be fair, a little skeptical. But, he kept blogging, and I kept watching.
My secondary interest in Bob's blog was design. I've worked with consumer product designers (in apparel) for the last 15 years, and Bob Lutz has earned his stripes in the design world. So, I was very interested in the role that design might play in GM's recovery.
Then things started going a little sour. Newspaper reports. Bond rating problems. Product change announcements. Ad rag (reg. req'd) questions. Holy moly...is this venerable corporation about the crumble?
Coincidental to these dramatic goings on, the New York International Auto Show opened last Friday at the Jacob Javits Center. Now, the relationship between car design and apparel design has always fascinated me. Several years ago, I took a group of designers to the Nissan USA Design Headquarters in La Jolla to visit with Jerry Hirschberg, who was then head of Nissan Design. Our goal was to explore lessons to be learned from auto designers. We were impressed by what we say. We then had Jerry come to speak to a group of senior apparel designers in New York. The cross-industry connections have remained very interesting.
So, anyway, I decided to go to the Auto Show today to see what I might find. And, boy, was it fascinating. First of all, "bling" is not dead! Every Japanese car company is betting on the continuation of this flashy embellishment cycle for several years to come. Their colors and detailing are all about hot fashion. No return to minimalism soon in their estimation. Second, Europe looks a little stodgy. Only BMW seemed competitively modern. Mercedes, Audi, certainly Volvo and Saab, all looked tired compared to the Japanese.
Third (finally!) Bob's Pontiac Solstice actually looked hot! This car (pictured above) seemed competitive in design, color, fit and finish; certainly no Lexus, but undoubtedly an improvement over current offerings. And the Cadillac looked ready to continue its recovery.
So, after a long day at the auto show I come home to find Bob fighting the good PR fight to keep hope alive. In the face of mounting doubt, leaders must maintain hope. If they despair, all is lost. So, Bob keeps explaining why GM is still a force to be reckoned with, and trying to keep others believing he's neither lying nor bullshitting them.
After what I saw today, I'd say he's not. But the heat is on, and GM better hurry.