General Motors dealers generally applaud “Car Czar” Bob Lutz, but with some reservations.
“I support him,” says Mike Delehanty, a Pontiac dealer in Flushing, MI. “But we'll have to wait to see how the G-6 and Solstice do. That's when his Pontiac story will be written.”
Allen Black, owner of James Black Pontiac Cadillac in Ebensburg, PA believes GM will feel the full impact of Lutz's tenure in the next five years. “The vehicles we have today were designed five years ago,” says Black. “Lutz hasn't been around long enough for us to really see what he can do.”
Black wonders if Lutz has had more influence on Pontiac than Cadillac. “There were rumors that he didn't like the new CTS,” says Black. “But it has been successful and Cadillac's other products are on the CTS platform, so I'm not sure how much of a mark he has made on Cadillac.”
He does like what he sees thus far for Pontiac. “There are touches of Bob Lutz all over the new G-6,” says Black. And it is the same thing for the Solstice, still a year from hitting showroom floors. “It is a huge improvement for Pontiac from what we had before,” he says. “There has been a buzz about it from the beginning. I have customers already asking for it.”
Both Black and Delehanty like what Lutz has done with the new GTO, despite the poor sales figures for the sports car. Neither blames Lutz for the vehicle's less-then-exciting exterior.
“Lutz knew we needed a performance vehicle,” says Black. “The GTO is just the first step in what is a replacement for the Trans Am. I think the vehicle will be more exciting in the future.”
Delehanty thinks the GTO needs a “modern skin” but says “driving it is as much fun as one can have in a car.”
He argues: “The poor sales are a reflection of a poor marketing effort. It's the only car on the block without an incentive. GM is sitting on this thing like it is going to sell itself.”
Although Delehanty does not fault Lutz for the GTO marketing, he does think it is part of Lutz's story. “He's a good guy — a real rock star. But you can't let marketing fail you.”
Peter Brandow, a Philadelphia Chevy dealer, questions Lutz's drive to attract “enthusiasts” and argues that real vehicle differences have less to do with innovation and more about ownership.
“We had better be able to appeal to ‘Joe Lunch Bucket,’ who has given up the idea of owning a rocket car and wants only a decent ride at a fair price,” says Brandow, a Ward's Dealer Business columnist. “Is there enough economy left for the enthusiast cars to move the market? Lutz, who is a car enthusiast, may have appealed to an earlier era.”