Could Lutz be preparing for Plan B at Toyota?
GM exec gives Toyota truck thumbs up (Mike Hunter Take Note)
DETROIT (CNNMoney.com) -- The new Toyota Tundra, the Japanese automaker's
first entry into the full-size pickup market dominated by U.S. automakers,
got a positive review from an interesting source Tuesday: General Motors
Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, who heads the automakers' product development
Lutz, meeting with reporters at the North American International Auto Show,
said he was impressed with the new Tundra, which is on display at the show
and is now hitting dealer showrooms, and that he has no doubt that Toyota
(Charts) will meet its sales target of 200,000 of the vehicles a year.
Detroit auto show highlights
"I took a good look at it today," Lutz said. "I think it's a very, very,
very well executed large truck. It's got good styling, great interior. It's
a very nice truck."
Toyota has had a pickup under the Tundra brand name back to the 1990s, but
the truck had never been considered part of the full-size market by U.S.
The new Tundra clearly is part of that market, and is a competitor to the
new GMT 900 series pickup trucks, such as the Chevrolet Silverado, which
debuted last fall, as well as to the Ford F-Series pickup, which is the
best-selling U.S. vehicle.
But Lutz said that he believes the new Tundra poses more of a challenge to
Japanese automaker Nissan (Charts), which introduced the Titan full-size
pickup in December 2003, than it does to GM, Ford Motor (Charts) or
GM tries to change image to Green Motors
"My theory is there's a lot of interaction within Japanese brands," Lutz
said. "My personal belief is that the other full-size Japanese pickup truck
is going to get severely dented in this process.
"Tundra has always had 100,000 to 125,000 sales. So they're going to get
75,000 extra," Lutz continued. "Of that 75,000 extra, I think Nissan is
going to be the major furnisher of numbers. That's going to leave 30-40,000
to be split between Dodge, Ford and ourselves. To be honest, I don't think
we'll feel it."
Lutz has a reputation for being outspoken, and sometimes outrageous, making
statements that can stir up the industry and GM (Charts) dealers.
A couple of years ago he stirred a hornets nest at the New York auto show
when he referred to Buick and Pontiac as "damaged brands" and suggested that
if they didn't get better, GM might need to drop one or more.
Tuesday, in response to a reporter's question, Lutz said he's confident that
GM will not be dropping any brands. But when asked if he was ready to
declare that Buick and Pontiac are no longer damaged, he would not give them
or other GM brands a clean bill of health.
"Damage is such a negative term. But let us say, clearly neither General
Motors nor any of General Motors' brands are in the minds of the American
public where we believe we now deserve to be based on the excellence of our
product. It's what I call the reputational whack."
GM sweeps auto show honors
He said until GM starts hearing from more customers that they are not
shopping at competitors and coming to GM because of the quality of the
product, "we have to tell ourselves, 'There's still a lot more work to do.'"
Asked how far GM was from that point, he responded, "I'd say we're at the
end of the beginning."
The brave might not live forever but the timid do not live at all