NEW YORK –Corp. will use its global reach as it looks to regain a hold on the passenger car market in the U.S., says Bob Lutz, vice chairman-Product Development.
"We can't be successful until we become a player in the car side of the business again," Lutz tells the International Motor Press Assn. at the kickoff to the auto show here. He promises a fleet of exciting new cars for all of GM’s divisions.
Part of his strategy will be to import cars from foreign subsidiaries that have compelling products. The first of these will be the Australian-built Holden Monaro that will be brought in as a Pontiac GTO next year (see related story: GM Makes GTO Revival Official).
Lutz says there are other exciting cars in the Holden lineup, as well, but there are practical limitations to what can be imported. "Boy we'd love to look at other cars in the Holden line," he says. But "we can't bring in tens of thousands of cars from overseas."
There is no business case to be made for producing the cars in the U.S. either, because volumes would be too low, he says.
The veteran executive, who is considered the ultimate "car guy" in the industry, forecasts a huge rebirth opportunity and a rebound in the car side of the business with other GM products, as well. Evidence of this already is at hand, he says, citing the fast sales pace of the Cadillac CTS and Chevrolet Impala.
The success of the CTS is vitally important for Cadillac because two additional models – a cross/utility vehicle and the ’04 Seville – will be built using the same architecture. Lutz says Sigma will be tapped only for Cadillac products, noting that past Cadillacs suffered from use of generic platforms shared with lesser brands. That mistake won't happen again, he promises. Previous reports have suggested GM would share the Sigma platform with Saab Automobile.
Boosting Cadillac sales with new models doesn't mean Lutz wants GM's flagship to battle Mercedes,and Lexus for volume, however. "I would like to see Cadillac stay in the high end of the business and allow Mercedes and BMW to go down market," he says. "I'm not sure we want to do that." GM has other brands to do that job, he points out.
In addition to developing all-new products, Lutz says he will revamp existing models if they are going to remain in the lineup for another three or four years.
Lutz also defends the appointment of Mark Hogan as a member of his new product development team, even though his background in that area is limited. He says Hogan’s role is to bring other members of the team together, including vehicle line executives and others from design, manufacturing and engineering. Hogan will help other team members determine the best place to build a new product at the lowest cost and the role suppliers will play. That doesn't require a product guy but a good businessman, Lutz says.