Robert A. Lutz
As an auto executive, Robert A. Lutz is a car guy with gasoline in his veins. Lutz, the product-development genus and iconoclastic leader behind Chrysler’s second renaissance, provides his insight on three facets of automotive and business management in Guts. He explains how in the early ’90s, Chrysler recovered from a second near-death experience and went on to become a partner with Daimler-Benz to extend automotive innovation throughout the world. During his 30 year trek in the automobile industry, Lutz formulated his “Immutable Laws of Business.” He then goes on to share his four “Corollaries,” which can be applied to improve our schools, service industries and business leadership.
A key item which he calls “Lutz’s Law of Life,” he borrowed from a Rolling Stones song:
“You Can’t Always Get What You Want–But If You Try Sometime, You Just Might Find, You Get What You Need.” His message here is that you can’t totally separate the objective from the subjective. Accept your fate and make the most of it.
Guts is also full of history about Chrysler. For example, one item that contributed to Chrysler’s business renaissance in the early ’90s was the implementation of platform teams. Their first product of a platform team was the LH cab-forward designed automobiles. As Lutz states, these “right-brained cars” were the only kind of products that stood a chance of truly standing out in the supersaturated auto market crowded with more than 300 nameplates. Platform teams as implemented at Chrysler integrate many production functions like design, engineering, procurement and supply, manufacturing, and sales all in the process of building a particular car platform. The LH platform team shrank the traditional development time from the usual four or five years to 39 months. Platform investment dropped from $2.5 to $1.5 billion.
About the same time as implementation of the first platform teams Bob Lutz conceived the Viper as high-performance image-enhancing sports car. The Viper became a symbol of the new culture inside Chrysler, and the car’s success further validated the merit of platform teams. Viper casts a halo over Chrysler’s other products by generating sales for many of the company’s other products.
With his type of success behind him, the recently retired vice chairman of Chrysler outlines the “Immutable Laws of Business.” Lutz demonstrates that life and business is the art of balancing opposites. In the auto industry, it’s balancing left-brain with right-brain thinking. This balancing act also means giving customers products that they didn’t know they need, and going counter to industry trends and introducing a category-buster product like the minivan takes guts. He also shows how the continuing quest for quality can reach the point of diminishing returns.
Lutz also maintains that competition improved Chrysler and demonstrates how it might improve areas like America’s education system and its service industries. As part of his “Leadership is all about common sense” corollary he poses the qualities of a leader, including: flexibility, communication, courage and tenacity, integrity, and fairness. He goes on to point out that a change agent’s job is twofold: he must overcome his organization’s disinclination to change and he must be ready to exercise different sets of leadership skills.
Guts is a must read for the auto enthusiast as well those interested in business management. Lutz includes insights from his life on two continents and more than 30 years in the automotive industry working at General Motors, BMW, Ford, and Chrysler. It’s more than a business book – it’s about a car guy living out his dreams.
Guts: The seven laws of business that made Chrysler the world’s hottest
car company, Robert A. Lutz, New York, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., © 1998, ISBN 0-471-29561-2
Peruse Guts: The seven laws… at Amazon.com
Back to: Book Review – reviews of current and other auto-related books