GM's Lutz Says Task Force Should Be Permanent; Expresses Doubt About Fiat-Opel Deal.

Posted by: David Kiley on May 29, 2009

GM’s vice chairman Bob Lutz said Thursday that he hopes that the White House auto industry task force becomes a permanent entity in some form. “It’s the first time in a long time that the industry has had the ear of the administration.”

Lutz noted that China has an auto industry ministry and that Europeean countries, Korea and Japan have industrial ministries with auto industry sections. The vice chairman, who is retiring this year, said “it’s not as if we can go to NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Admninistration) or EPA with issues and problems…those are regulatory agencies.”

“That has left the industry to go from pillar to post trying to get Congresspeople and Senators who have auto plants in their states to listen to us. Lawmakers who do not have auto industry assets in their states are not much interested in the issues of the auto industry.”

Lutz also said he would not assume that Italian automaker Fiat is the odds on favorite to strike an alliance with GM on its European Opel division. Though Fiat has been talking to the German government and GM about conditions for Fiat’s investment in GM, many analysts have wondered how such a deal would work because Fiat will be running Chrysler, and GM and Chrysler remain rivals.

Lutz said that a deal for Opel would not be a sale no matter what, but rather a deeply integrated product development alliance with a partner holding equity in Opel. “That would be very complicated to do with Fiat,” said Lutz.

Reader Comments

Paul Todd

May 29, 2009 8:52 AM

I have to agree with Mr. Lutz here, and admit that the idea seems obvious now that he has proposed it. The mission of the Department of Commerce is "to foster, promote, and develop the foreign and domestic commerce" of the United States. That sounds like the place to put an Automotive Desk to be an advocate for the idustry and to coordinate government policy. Before anyone shouts "Socialism!", look up the Japanese agency formerly known as MITI (now METI)- Toyota and Honda are as strong as they are today because of good management and an effective industrial policy beginning in 1949. For all the horrible publicity GM and Chrysler have gotten, the one bright spot is that it has forced Washington to realize that we need a strong, viable auto industry.

Phil

May 30, 2009 12:27 AM

The auto task FARCE is a terrible thing. It amazes me that the governemt will give the banks 20 times what they gave the auto with no questions or strings attached, but then they take over the auto Industry for much less. Plus they say they will give banks even more. Obama said the only thing less popular than giving the banks money was the auto industry. Who is he kidding. I wonder if the unions are kicking themselves in the a$$ now that their so called savior is letting their industry die. They will put us in tiny little boxes that will not even make it out of my driveway in the winter. Obama says the auto industry did not make cars people want. Then why is the biggest sellers trucks and SUVS. This is what people wanted!!!! I would like to see Obama try to even make it in my driveway in the winter. Lets all just drive electric vehicles, that's the answer (although most electricity is made from fossil fuels ;-( )

Paul (Vw)

May 30, 2009 2:32 PM

>>> Lutz said Thursday that he hopes that the White House auto industry task force becomes a permanent entity

Coming from a guy who is retiring (if GM goes bankrupt, what happens to his pension?), I wonder how meaningful this statement really is.

I'd be more interested in knowing what the executives who actually have to run the company with/despite a governmental task force.

Do the Chinese/Euro/Japanese auto ministries dictate to their respective car companies what kinds of cars they should make? (maybe they do)

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