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GM’s Reuss Puts New Products Through the “Knothole”

“Good enough” isn’t good enough anymore.

by on Jan.31, 2011

GM President Mark Reuss: squeezing new products through a knothole to banish mediocrity.

“Good enough” isn’t good enough if General Motors hopes to win back sales and market share, says Mark Reuss, president of the maker’s core North American operations.

So, he says, every new car, truck or crossover will have to pass through a rigid evaluation procedure Reuss has created dubbed the “Knothole Process” — even if that means some models will wind up being yanked from the line-up.

“We’re not going to put cars into our portfolio if they are just competitive,” said the long-time engineer, during an exclusive interview with  Why, he asks, would a loyal Toyota or Honda customer even consider a GM vehicle if the U.S. maker can’t offer something significantly better?

The Knothole Process has already resulted in a number of GM products being delayed or killed off entirely, Reuss revealed.  It was the primary reason why the launch of the U.S. version of the Chevrolet Cruze was delayed – though GM’s bankruptcy also was a factor, said Reuss – and led to the maker deciding not to sell the Chevy Orlando crossover in the North American market.

In its original form, said Reuss, Cruze “wasn’t something anybody would be proud of.”

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At least two other products have been scrubbed because they failed to pass muster, Reuss hinted, declining to name the models.  Others have also been delayed.

The Knothole Process was inspired by former GM “car czar” Bob Lutz, who spent his decade with the giant maker struggling to refocus its product development operations.  One of the steps Lutz took was to bring in a handful of former automotive journalists, such as one-time Motor Trend Editor Jack Keebler, to give the company a less biased view of how General Motors products compare to key competitors.