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New Film Reveals the Reality of the Auto Bailout

“Live Another Day” – but at what cost?

by on Sep.12, 2016

Storm clouds over Detroit. At the depth of the recession, two of the three US makers went bankrupt.

The economy was collapsing more rapidly than during the Great Depression, and nowhere was that more apparent than in Detroit, where the Big Three automakers faced the very real prospect of going out of business – destroying a million or more jobs in the process.

Ford Motor Co. was able to survive by mortgaging everything; not only its factories, but even its Blue Oval logo. General Motors and Chrysler didn’t move fast enough to secure equity lines. They had to be salvaged with the help of the largest federally funded bailout in history. It broke precedent and, many would argue, broke the law. The rescue effort may also have saved the economy, according to its proponents.

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Was it good or bad? “It was something in-between,” contends Bill Burke, suggests Bill Burke. He’s a media industry veteran and co-producer of the new documentary, “Live Another Day,” which has received strong praise on the film festival circuit and which will open at theaters nationwide on September 16th.

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First Owner Takes Delivery of VLF Destino, World’s Fastest Four-Door

Project pairs designer Henrik Fisker and “Maximum Bob” Lutz.

by on Jun.08, 2016

The first VLF Destino, the 200-mph sports car powered by a Corvette V8, was delivered to its owner.

Billed as the world’s fastest four-door, there have been plenty of questions about whether we’d ever actually see one of the sleek VLF Destino sedans other than at an auto show. But the project, which teams former General Motors “car czar” Bob Lutz, and Danish designer Henrik Fisker, has actually come to fruition, the first owner taking delivery this week.

First shown in concept form at the Detroit Auto Show in 2013 – with a near-production model returning to the Motor City event this past January – the Destino reportedly can tip the 200 mph barrier thanks to a V-8 engine borrowed from the Corvette.

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“I’m over the moon with how the car turned out dynamically — steering, brakes and, of course, Corvette ZR-1 power, coupled with the convenience of a paddle-shifter automatic,” proclaimed “Maximum Bob” Lutz. “I’m really happy with color and trim, as well as the spectacular proportions.” (more…)

Update: Lutz, Fisker Partner On New VLF Force 1

When is a Dodge Viper more than a Viper?

by on Jan.13, 2016

The VLF Force 1 went from little more than a sketch to driveable prototype in just 10 weeks. Photo Len Katz

(This story has been updated with new information about the VLF Force 1.)

Two automotive industry veterans are planning to make a return to the market, Danish designer Henrik Fisker and former General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz serving as two of the key partners in the new VLF Automotive.

They’ll be joined by industrialist Gilbert Villarreal in the venture, which will present its limited-edition supercar, the Force 1, at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week.

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“I’m honored to become a partner in this automotive ‘Dream Team’,” said Fisker, who served as the chief designer at Aston on projects like the DB9 before setting up his own venture, Fisker Automotive. That plug-in hybrid maker went bankrupt in 2013.

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Auto Veterans Lutz, Fisker Team Up

Partner with industrialist Gilbert Villarreal to form VLF Automotive.

by on Jan.11, 2016

The "dream team" of Villarreal, Lutz and Fisker team up for the VLF's Force 1 supercar debuting in Detroit.

Two automotive industry veterans are planning to make a return to the market, Danish designer Henrik Fisker and former General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz serving as two of the key partners in the new VLF Automotive.

They’ll be joined by industrialist Gilbert Villarreal in the venture, which will present its limited-edition supercar, the Force 1, at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week.

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“I’m honored to become a partner in this automotive ‘Dream Team’,” said Fisker, who served as the chief designer at Aston on projects like the DB9 before setting up his own venture, Fisker Automotive. That plug-in hybrid maker went bankrupt in 2013. (more…)

Old Problems Still Likely to Dog New GM CEO Mary Barra

Behind Barra’s unlikely ascent from shop rat to chief executive.

by on Jan.16, 2014

GM's new CEO Mary Barra celebrates while watching GM sweep the 2014 North American Car and Truck of the Year awards.

General Motors moved into a new era this week as its first woman chief executive took over the reins from Dan Akerson, the gruff graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, who guided GM out from under government control.

GM veteran Mary Barra will likely face a level of unprecedented scrutiny, said her mentor and predecessor, as she assumes a control of a global company with both newfound momentum and an assortment of serious challenges – among the need to continue regaining share in its home market, a European subsidiary that has been operating deep in the red for 14 years, and increasing competition in the critical Chinese market.

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However, the 51-year-old Barra is no stranger to hard work. When she joined GM as an 18-year-old co-op student at GM’s new-abandoned Pontiac Motor Division, she followed her father, a die-maker and member the United Auto Workers Union, into the factories in Pontiac, Michigan.

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Icons, Idiots — and Bob Lutz

An enjoyable, one-way conversation, says our book reviewer.

by on Jul.03, 2013

Bob Lutz describes some of the most memorable leaders he's works with in a 60-year career.

How many current or former auto executives have the experience, talent, charisma — much less the cojones — to write an entertaining, informative book about one’s bosses and inspirational leaders? There’s only one and, you’re right, it’s Bob Lutz.  Okay, so he’s an octogenarian – but he is not over the hill – far from it. He is sharper, clearer and more focused than some of today’s wannabe CEOs and COOs.

Lutz’s multi-decade experience covers the best of times and worst of times in the contemporary auto history from the sixties through GM’s 2009 bankruptcy.  Along the way he made history and rewrote some, made some good decisions, some not-so-good, had c-suite executive positions with major auto brands in Europe and America – and at every milestone along the way in an enviable career he’s worked for and been inspired by some very unique leaders and characters.

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Icons and Idiots, his just published review of the eleven leaders and inspirational forces that shaped and molded his business career and life is an interesting read. I’d turned the pages in his previous book, Auto Guys and Bean Counters, but found it less readable because of the ‘here’s what went wrong and why” focus. The new work from the ultimate car guy is analogous to having a private conversation with him after a good dinner, some excellent wine and maybe a Cohiba.

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Lutz Looking to Buy Fisker

Former GM “car czar,” Chinese supplier reportedly offer $20 mil for failed plug-in maker.

by on May.24, 2013

Former GM car czar Lutz meeting with reporters at the Detroit Auto Show.

General Motors’ former “car czar” and Vice Chairman Bob Lutz reportedly is part of a group making a bid to purchase the assets of fast-failing plug-in carmaker Fisker Automotive.

The $20 million offer would be part of a pre-packaged bankruptcy deal, according to the Reuters news service. Fisker, which produces the $100,000 Karma plug-in hybrid sports car, laid off three-quarters of its staff in April and senior executives subsequently told a Congressional committee that a Chapter 11 filing was quite likely to follow.

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Credited with the original concept that eventually became the Chevrolet Volt plug-in, Lutz did not return a request for comment. But he recently expressed his interest in Fisker through a bylined column on the Forbes blog.  He described the Karma as “quite possibly the most beautiful four-door sedan ever,” and referred to its underlying technology as “ground-breaking.”

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Former GM Car Czar Bob Lutz Again Aims to Steal the Limelight at Detroit Auto Show

Lutz will lend his presence to battery-truck start-up Via Motors.

by on Jan.08, 2013

Bob Lutz, former vice chairman of General Motors,with one of Via Motors' trucks.

With his fast quips and tradition of stunts — like driving what was then the new Jeep Grand Cherokee through a plate glass window with former Detroit mayor Coleman Young in the passenger seat — Bob Lutz has been an irrepressible spirit at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) right from its birth as the world premier auto show back in the late 1980s.

This year promises to be no different. Lutz is in line to pick up a new honor on Tuesday during the Eyes on Design awards ceremony – and though he “retired” from General Motors in mid-2010, Lutz has remained an active force in the industry and will be on hand to unveil a new vehicle from his partnership with VIA Motors during this year’s Detroit Auto Show.

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Barely a month shy of his 81st birthday, Lutz will unveil an electric 800 horsepower truck and 100+mpg electric Escalade during the NAIAS, according to a twitter feed from VIA. ”Fisker & #Tesla are close to becoming household names, #ViaMotors is 3rd player in #EV market,” Lutz declared from his Twitter feed.

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Lutz Joins Board of Creator of New Steel Alloy

Lutz’s former employer, General Motors, has invested in maker of nano-structured steel.

by on Oct.11, 2012

Bob Lutz has joined the board of a company that is developing a new nano-structured steel.

He may be approaching his eighties, but former General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz is showing no sign of slowing down.

Among an assortment of board seats and other assignments that give lie to the idea of “post-retirement,” the former Marine pilot has joined the board of a small start-up firm that has created a new alloy that some believe could revolutionize the steel industry.

Lutz, renowned for his efforts to overhaul GM’s hidebound product development process, said NanoSteel Co.’s technology could replace other high-strength steel. The Rhode Island hopes to license its unique nano-structured steel to steelmakers for use in the auto industry.

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In August, GM’s new venture capital investing arm took a stake in the privately owned steel technology company.

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No Exit? Mulally Not Ready to Leave

But is lack of timetable actually hurting maker?

by on May.11, 2012

CEO Alan Mulally and Chairman Bill Ford at Ford's 2012 shareholders meeting.

It is the question that won’t seem to go away – even if Alan Mulally insists he isn’t planning to leave anytime soon.

During the maker’s annual shareholders meeting and during a subsequent Q&A session with reporters the topic of Ford Motor Co.’s succession plan was again the hot topic.  And, once again, the CEO insisted he is not counting the days until retirement.

While that may be good news for many folks who believe Mulally is the best man to keep the company on track, might his reluctance to set a timetable and name a successor be working against Ford, particularly in its bid to drive up its stock price?

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“We have a robust succession plan for every member of the team,” said the 66-year-old Mulally, echoing comments he has made, seemingly ad nauseum, over the last several years.

Ford Chairman Bill Ford Jr. tried to deflect the latest round of questioning with a little humor.  As to when the company would be willing to let Mulally stay on, he responded, “Well, we said 2025, maybe 2030.”

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