A BOOK REVIEW: “CAR GUYS vs BEAN COUNTERS”
by Bob Lutz
WHO THE HELL IS BOB LUTZ?
First off, who is Bob Lutz? After getting his MBA from UC Berkeley and his stint as a Marine Corps fighter pilot, Lutz went to work for GM of Europe in the early 60s (1963-1971). He gave them 8 years before leaving for BMW, where he became a VP (1971-1974), during which time he helped to develop the seminal 3-series that completely turned BMW around. From there he went to Ford of Europe, then moved to the USA where he reinvigorated their truck division and helped design the first Explorer, having served in several key executive positions (1974-1986). Next he moved to Chrysler where he helped launch the Viper and the very successful LH cars (1986-1998), credited with helping turn Chrysler around prior to its sale to Daimler. After a briefly running the Exide Battery corporation, Lutz moved over to GM where he became their Vice Chairman of Global Design. He was a huge part of GMs revival and recent product-driven success. Bob Lutz is known industry-wide as a product guy, a true car guy, not a financial or numbers person. During his career, and particularly after his arrival at GM in 2001 (2001-2010), he fought with an almost religious zeal to bring highly-aspirational products (cars and trucks) back into the equation, feeling that for too long accountants (bean counters) have been running the show, and he oversaw a complete product revival at GM.
I prefer paperbacks, because when I’m reading a book this good, I tend to take it everywhere with me, just looking for opportunities to read. Line at the bank? No prob. Got my book. In paperback form, its 242 pages in length. The book is written in Lutz’s self-deprecating and humorous style that makes for a very easy read. He speaks in plane English, and it’s easy to grasp what are actually quite sweeping concepts, in some cases. He goes into a brief but comprehensive history of the American auto industry and introduces you to the important players, not getting bogged down in boring details. He makes strong, solid points that are full of logic and common sense. Fortunately for the reader, but perhaps unfortunately for Lutz, he was at the helm of GM (as Vice Chairman) when the sky fell in 2008, and GM was forced into bankruptcy in 2009. It must have been a grueling experience to live through, but makes for a very entertaining read, especially of you’re interested in cars. Lutz takes you through the gory details, what lead up to it, how it was going through it, and what came after.
WHAT DO THEY MEAN BY ‘CAR GUYS vs BEAN COUNTERS?
Detroit (the American auto industry as a whole) was built by car guys, product men who instinctively knew how to design and build cars. Even as the industry grew and the founders became executives, product men were essential to building the cars, and had great value. Finance people were considered secondary, and there only as an inconvenient necessity to support the production of cars. But after World War II everything changed. Smart “Whiz Kids” fresh out of business school swooped down on Detroit, led by Robert McNamara, and virtually took it over. The Finance Department (known as “bean counters”) quickly moved to the forefront, pushing product into the back seat. Once-revered product men became a dying breed, were pushed out and never replaced. The effect over many decades was an American auto industry being driven by everything but product. Government regs for smog, CAFE and safety; the Unions, the economy, the competition, diversification and a relentless drive for ever high stock prices became the focus, while building great cars became an afterthought. When Bob Lutz arrived at GM, he was horrified at what he found. The bean counters had broken down every step of every process into mathematically-precise methods that were supposed to produce consistent and reliable results. On paper. In fact, they did. The consistently and reliably produced mediocre products that only sold with heavy incentives. Bean-counting wasn’t working.
LUTZ TAKES ON THE SYSTEM
The book “Car Guys vs Bean Counters” details Lutz’s battle to return GM to rational product design, and eliminate layers of needless, or worse counterproductive, managers and executives (more bean counters). In doing so, he returned control over the products GM produces to the product people, where it belongs, and the result have been some stunning successes, including the Chevy Malibu, C6 & C7 Corvettes, Chevy trucks, the entire Buick and Cadillac divisions, and one of Lutz’s proudest accomplishments at GM, the Chevy Volt. There are lots of back stories and inside tracks that only a guy like Lutz can offer, having been so intimately ensconced in the auto industry at the highest level.
BUY ‘CAR GUYS vs BEAN COUNTERS’ HERE
If you’re a car guy yourself, you lived through most of the stuff in this book, it will make sense to you, and will bring a new level of understanding to the things you witnessed over the years. It’s not only a real eye-opener about the car industry, it’s literally an instructional book for anyone getting into business, management, marketing, or product development. And top of all the rest, it’s a very enjoyable read. It’s light, fun, and easy to read and understand. I know I learned a lot about auto design that I never knew before, and it’s fascinating. Please buy your copy here, and enjoy it. It’s one of the ways you can help support this website. I really enjoyed reading ‘Car Guys vs Bean Counters’, so much so that I have read it several times. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.HOW TO ORDER
Please click on the image of the book cover to the right, and you will be taken to Amazon where you can order the book. You will benefit by Amazon’s great shipping and their excellent 30-day return policy. So buy with confidence. Thank you.