E3 Spark Plugs Recommends: “Car Guys vs. Bean Counters”

Former GM Boss Bob Lutz details the state of the American automotive industry in his latest book.

If you’re a car buff who has ever wondered about the real inner workings of the automotive industry, E3 Spark Plugs has a recommendation for your next read. Former GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz recently released his second book, Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business. And it’s sure to rev a few opinion engines.

Car Guys vs. Bean Counters is essentially Lutz’s educated opinion on today’s American auto industry and a chronicling of the steps he took to change GM during his second decade-long stint with the company. The Zurich, Switzerland-born auto magnate began his business career while flying in the Marine Corps Reserves and selling vacuum cleaners in Walnut Creek, Calif. during the late 1950s and early 1960s. With a bachelor’s degree in Production Management and a Marketing MBA from U.C. Berkely, Lutz entered the automotive industry and rose to its top ranks, serving executive positions at Chrysler Corp., Ford Motor Co., BMW and General Motors. He worked with GM in Europe from 1963 to 1971, then again at GM in North America from 2001-2010. Throughout his career, Lutz initiated or led the development of multiple best-selling brands including the Dodge Viper, Ford Explorer and Chevrolet Camaro.

Bob Lutz speaking in Detroit, Michigan in October 2008. Photo by Ed Schipul via Creative Commons.

In Car Guys vs. Bean Counters, Lutz details the creative rise, financial fall and steep uphill climb of not just GM but the entire American auto industry. It runs from the 1960s when “car guys” held sway, creating top-quality, innovative designs; through the industry’s gradual-but-hostile takeover by the “bean counters” who pushed for less personality, cheaper production and maximized profitability; up through the bankruptcy and bail-out days of late.

“It’s time to stop the dominance of the number-crunchers, living in their perfect, predictable, financially-projected world (who fail, time and again), and give the reins to the ‘product guys’…those with vision and passion for the customers and their product or service,” Lutz writes.

“It applies in any business. Shoe makers should be run by shoe guys, and software firms by software guys, and supermarkets by supermarket guys. With the advice and support of their bean counters, absolutely, but with the final word going to those who live and breathe the customer experience. Passion and drive for excellence will win over the computer-like, dispassionate, analysis- driven philosophy every time.”

Amen, brother!

Have you read Car Guys vs. Bean Counters? E3 Spark Plugs wants to hear your thoughts. Leave us a comment or post your two cents on our E3 Spark Plugs Facebook fan page. In the meantime, enjoy this 2009 clip from Dave Letterman’s Late Nite interview with “automotive industry legend” Bob Lutz.

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