General Motors' Lutz Says Not Being No.1 Has Benefits

General Motors Corp. Vice Chairman Bob Lutz says the auto maker might find itself in a more advantageous position should it relinquish its crown as the world's largest auto maker to rival Toyota Motor Corp. Having personally worked for companies that are not No.1, I think there is a certain benefit to the internal culture in being No.2, Lutz tells journalists at the North American International Auto

General Motors Corp. Vice Chairman Bob Lutz says the auto maker might find itself in a more advantageous position should it relinquish its crown as the world's largest auto maker to rival Toyota Motor Corp.

“Having personally worked for companies that are not No.1, I think there is a certain benefit to the internal culture in being No.2,” Lutz tells journalists at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. “It focuses the mind; it energizes people.

“(The sales rivalry) sells newspapers, but operationally it makes no difference whatsoever to us,” he says.

GM has held the No.1 title for more than 75 years.

Toyota recently released its manufacturing goals for 2008, and analysts believe the Japanese auto maker will build more cars and trucks worldwide. It's also widely assumed Toyota will overtake GM in global sales in 2008, even though GM outsells Toyota in the U.S. by a wide margin.

While admitting auto makers have a penchant for including titles in their marketing promotions, Lutz says those claims ring hallow with today's consumers.

“Consumers judge the product and the deal,” says Lutz, a 44-year industry veteran who has worked for four of the world's largest auto makers. “Obviously you want to deal with a reputable manufacturer, but I don't think the No.1 claim means that much.”

The No.1 auto maker usually finds itself in the crosshairs whenever controversy arises because there is always hostility towards the big guy, Lutz says.

“It's like the old days at the county fair, when the guy would put his head through the rubber sheet and people would pay to throw mud pies at him,” he adds. “It's time for someone else to put their head through the sheet. We're perfectly willing to relinquish that spot for awhile.”

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