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Episode 76 – Bob Lutz Retires, Car Czar Named Today?, World’s Worst Driver

February 9th, 2009 at 12:00pm

Runtime 6:27

GM’s Bob Lutz will retire at the end of the year. The rumor mill says today is the day the Obama Administration names its car czar. A 68 year-old South Korean woman has failed her driver’s test 771 times! All that and more, plus a look inside Tesla and its brand new, all-electric roadster.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. GM’s Bob Lutz to retire. The car czar could get named today. And here’s someone who failed her driver’s test 771 times!

Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.

This is Autoline Daily for Monday, February 9, 2009. And now, the news.

BREAKING NEWS HERE. General Motors announced this morning that Bob Lutz will be retiring later this year. He will be replaced by Tom Stephens, who had been running GM powertrain and now becomes vice chairman and reports to COO, Fritz Henderson.

Well the rumor mill says today is the day the Obama Administration names its car czar. And that’s expected to be Steven Rattner, the founder of the investment firm Quadrangle, who also worked at Morgan Stanley and other Wall Street firms, and who started his career as a reporter with the New York Times. He will be assisted by another Stephen, Stephen Girsky, who also was an analyst at Morgan Stanley and who has been an adviser to General Motors and to the United Auto Workers union. And Girsky is the guy who really knows what’s happening in the auto industry.

The Wall Street Journal reports that General Motors will take back a number of Delphi plants (subscription required). These are plants that make parts exclusively for GM. And GM believes it could get more financial help from the government if it absorbs them. Moreover, GM has been bailing Delphi out, and presumably if GM gets the plants that it needs it would no longer provide financial assistance to its largest supplier, which use to be part of General Motors.

Ethanol is less energy dense than gasoline which results in lower fuel economy. WardsAuto.com reports that Ricardo is working on a system to eliminate that efficiency penalty (subscription required). Its Ethanol-Boosted Direct Injection system incorporates turbo charging and direct fuel injection to create big power. Ricardo predicts that cellulosic ethanol will become available in the next few years and this system will help boost demand for it.

Hyundai released a photo of an all-new concept car it will unveil at Salon International de L’Automobile in Geneva in March. This concept, named HED-6 was styled at the company’s European Design headquarters in Germany. And Porsche released the first images of the new model it’s adding to the 911 model series: the GT3, to be unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show. The 911 GT3 goes on sales in Europe starting in May.

California and the 13 other states that want to adopt their own emission standards are one step closer to getting what they want. The EPA released a statement saying “the denial was a substantial departure from EPA’s longstanding interpretation of the Clean Air Act’s waiver provisions”. The agency has set March 5th as the date on a public hearing regarding the states request and will take public comments through April 6th. According to the Detroit News, the California Air Resources Board would immediately put the requirements into effect if it gets approval.

Most folks probably pass their driver’s tests in a couple tries, but that’s not the case for one South Korean woman. Autoblog reports that the 68 year-old has failed her driver’s test an unbelievable 771 times! The test can’t be that hard, you only need to score 60 percent on it to pass, but she typically only manages to get in the 30 to 50 percent range. It costs roughly five dollars to take the test which means she’s shelled out about 3,600 bucks trying to get her driver’s license.

Coming up next, a look inside Tesla and its brand new, all-electric roadster. We’ll be back right after this.

Tesla Motors, the small Silicon Valley startup automaker has been making news with its all-electric sports car. Our west-coast reporter Isaac Bouchard recently got an in-depth tour of the company’s California facilities. Here’s a little of what’s happening on the west coast.

And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. But don’t forget, you can get podcasts, transcripts and a whole lot more on our website, AutolineDaily.com. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

11 Comments to “Episode 76 – Bob Lutz Retires, Car Czar Named Today?, World’s Worst Driver”

  1. roger Says:

    Lutz retirement announcement is a bummer. His leadership and determination brought great products to life, and helped GM tremendously in their product line ramp up. These will be big shoes to fill, that’s for sure.

  2. Deb Mondro Says:

    Nice work John

  3. DC Says:

    Now that we have Rick Wagoner’s biggest supporter leaving GM, I don’t see the CEO making it much longer as an employees at the floundering company.

    Lutz’s departure, along with John Heinricy, and Tom Wallace do have me worried though. All three gentlemen had a knack for performance oriented cars and so it seems that GM will be scaling back its performance divisions in the near future.

  4. DC Says:

    Correction, it should say “employee”.

  5. Tony Gray Says:

    Interesting he is leaving on April Fools Day, the day after the companies apparently have to prove their viability to Congress.

  6. Gerald Kuchera Says:

    He looked good only by comparison to the past design chiefs. Under his oversight, GM came out with better looking vehicles that Nobody would buy!

    He held back Hybrid and electric car development- He killed the one reasonably priced model of cross-over that GM had (Buick Rendezvous) and the redesigned cross-overs aka the Outlook, Tacoma et al, were larger, heavier, get worse mileage have less cubic capacity and cost more than the vehicles they replaced.

    The Chevy Equinox, Pontiac Torrent were stylistically great looking, but had old style interiors and horrible second row seating flip up, removable or fold-in-the-floor functionality. AND new replacements for THEM are inordinately heavy and inefficient because he didn’t believe in climate change and the rapid increase in the world’s consumption of fossil fuel. So he didn’t push for more efficient chassies. Meanwhile, money’s getting tied up in designing the sporty looking two seaters so there’s no money for interior on other more important bread and butter vehicle lines!

    Here’s a guy who wanted V-8′s in Hummer’s H3 for God’s sake!

    The Saturn Astra is another great example of his sort of quick fix-to GM’s lack of high mileage cars–hard riding, poor layout of controls, terrible seats-an Opel that worked okay in Germany where the average commute is ten minutes, but in America, when you sit in this car for a half-hour or more, you will hate this car!

    Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice–I love their look, and would love to have one–except they’re NOT PRACTICAL! But really GM’s got a Corvette and a now a new Camero–who is gonna buy all these two seaters? At least the Camero has a back seat…! GM can’t afford to keep these types of vehicles!!!! They sure look nice, but nobody’s buying them!

    Thanks to him, GM wasn’t even near ready for the crisis of high gasoline prices and the credit lockup. Thanks to him you can kiss Saturn, Pontiac, Hummer goodbye!

    He should’ve left years ago.

  7. Richard Tait Says:

    Honestly, I believe the US government is putting the cart ahead of the horse with the Car Czar. Why is it that the actual car guy has to answer to the economist? That’s what helped ruin the US auto industry in the first place. More of the same, I assure you, more of the same. Especially with the ultimate car-guy “Maximum” Bob Lutz retiring. It’s all over now.

  8. pedro Fernandez Says:

    Bob Lutz said in an interview he had with John about 18 months ago that Americans would never stop buying big trucks and SUV’s. Maybe he should have retired sooner.

  9. Darryl Heidel Says:

    The attitude that “buying anything North Amercan, not only cars, is not good for the ego”, has and will continue to damage the North America contintent finacially and mentally. The big three gained and surpassed the imports on quality, performance and style, while the imports get away with problems like Toyota and the sludge problem. Never heard of it, most people haven’t. The media kept it quite. Pray for our continent.

  10. ctorrie Says:

    It is very laudable for California to want to cut CO2 emissions, something that is very much tied to fuel consumption. But California’s waiver is trying to mandate supply instead of stimulate demand. Rather than create a separate standard, which admittedly is very costly for manufacturers, it would be easier to make people want to buy more efficient vehicles by making them cheaper. While a an increase on the gas tax would do much, it doesn’t look good politically. My solution is to tie the cost of registration to EPA fuel economy estimates. The more fuel efficient the vehicle, the lower the registration fee. Gas guzzlers and older vehicles would have higher yearly registration fees. This would allow consumers to buy less efficient vehicles if they really need them or really want them without forcing certain classes out of the California market, like trucks.

  11. Drew Says:

    So, PUTZ helps drive GM into the ground and then leaves…wonder what kind of Golden Parachute he got!!