By Paul Borden
by Angelica Willard and Ron
politicians like to campaign on the theme that they are going to
give you straight talk; but no matter what their party, few, if
any, live up to such promise.
wasn’t the case at the May SAMA luncheon meeting where GM Vice
Chairman Bob Lutz, who has been likened to a “rock star” in
the automotive world, gave a packed ballroom at the Grove Isle
Hotel a message in good old Sergeant Friday (for you old-timers)
fashion: Nothing but the facts.
More than 40
SAMA members turned out for this memorable event that drew a
passel of local GM dealers and area business leaders as well.
the luncheon began, Lutz gave some welcoming remarks in which he
noted that the
market is a key one for General Motors and one that in the past
hasn’t been served particularly well, at least in terms of
quality of product and market share. But Lutz noted that GM has
put things like unexciting vehicles made with low-grade
materials and cheap plastics with body fits not what they should
be, not to mention a general lack of precision and execution, in
can honestly say everything we produce has a world-class
interior, world-class engine, world-class body fits, fabulous
paint – we’ve gone from having perhaps good paint, solid
paint, reliable paint, paint that didn’t fade or chip or peel
off, but it lacked luster. Over the last three years we have
brought the luster of our paints up to where we are ranked
equally with Japanese luxury cars.”
Now the goal
is to get that word across to the buying public, Lutz said.
need really is a little bit of consideration for our
products,” he said. “I realize that is a very tall order,
especially in a place like
when our reputation has been as damaged as ours has been over
the past few years, or decades.”
formal remarks, Lutz touched on several areas of interest not
only regarding GM but the automotive world in general, including
alternative fuels, the impact of increased CAFE standards, the
effect of ethanol on the food industry, and the future of such
performance-oriented vehicles as the Cadillac CTS-V.
talk about energy solutions, we realize that no single solution
fits the huge array of energy challenges,” he said. “So we
are pursuing a number of different strategies, including more
efficient internal combustion engines, alternative fuels such as
ethanol and biodiesel, hybrids, including plug-in hybrids,
electrified vehicles, diesels, and, of course, the hydrogen fuel
typical tell-it-like-is manner, Lutz had a blunt challenge for
Congress and its requirement that manufacturers increase their
fleet average to 35 miles-per-gallon by 2015.
“We cannot emphasize this often enough,” he said. “This is
not going to come cheap. Whether it is alternative materials or
alternative technology, this is going to raise the price of cars
and trucks in the
by five to eight thousand dollars. It’s going to be
interesting to see how willing the public is to pay for it.”
rebuffed critics who blame ethanol entirely for the rise in food
costs, noting that not only is the rest of the world changing
its diet, which is affecting food prices in the U.S. market,
petroleum factors heavily into all areas of the agricultural
industry and thus contributes to the rise in costs.
primary driver of food prices is not the ethanol,” Lutz said.
“It’s plain and simple that the high cost of petroleum is
feeding into everything. Anything that uses energy is going up
in price. It’s called price-push inflation. Food isn’t
isolated. Aluminum cans are not going to be isolated. Plastic
isn’t going to be isolated. Anything that uses petroleum in
its manufacture or transportation is going to go up. That’s
the plain and simple fact.”
warned that unless something is done about the fuel situation we
may no longer see or have available to purchase high-performance
vehicles, GM will still continue to produce higher-power cars
like the Cadillac CTS-V in the near future.
everything we do is going to be green. People say, ‘How can
you produce a 550-horsepower sedan when you’re talking about
conserving energy?’ All I can say is as the nation tends
toward vegetarianism the grocery stores expand their vegetable
sections, but they don’t eliminate their meat counters. And
this [the CTS-V] is pure red meat.”
All in all,
Lutz’ appearance will go down as a special affair for SAMA. We
want to thank GM for providing the group with this special
business items discussed, President Ron Beasley again reminded
members that renewal for annual dues is coming up. Our
membership year runs from July 1 through June 30, and dues are
due by July 1. For information on individual or company or
associate memberships visit the website at <www.samonline.org>.
The next SAMA monthly luncheon meeting is scheduled for June 19
at the Biltmore Hotel in
with Shell Oil on board as the sponsor.