Bob Lutz isn't all right

Marine Corps chest thrust out, chin jutting forward, Bob Lutz livened up the Q&A at his speech to the J.D. Power International Automotive Roundtable by biting the hand that feeds him.

He is sick of “good enough” being the quality mantra at GM. And it's his mission to get rid of that sort of thinking. Fondly recalling his Swiss upbringing and years spent in Europe, Lutz used this opportunity to savage mediocrity-impaired Americans.

This wasn't some 78-year-old curmudgeon ranting about the good old days. This was the roar of a lion meant to wake up the cubs.

I won't use quote marks, because it's a paraphrasing and a summary of a much longer diatribe. Take a deep breath, and feel free to let fly with your best, gravely Bob Lutz impersonation …Compared to Japan and Europe, everything here (in America) is a little ‘It's allll riiiiight.' But you go to Switzerland, and there's no rust on the train platforms. The stop signs aren't crooked. Everything is galvanized and anodized. But you look at our facilities and they are a mess. Maybe it comes from our British ancestors, where it's, ‘Ooh, eet's awwright. Eet's chahming.' We are too tolerant of imperfection. I got to GM and looked at the interiors and said, ‘Look at this mess. Look at this ugly plastic.' And they'd say to me, ‘The instruments work. They show the right speed.' But it has got to be beyond function. There has to be an aesthetic joy. If there's a 12-millimeter door gap, but the door still opens, they were saying, ‘What's your problem?' The flushness, the crispness was missing. I am worse than a Swiss high school teacher who gives you an ‘F' if your margin wasn't quite straight. We need that European-Japanese drive for perfection. Almost-good-enough isn't good enough. If senior management only looks at cost, you will get these substandard-looking automobiles.Ahem.

Bean counters, consider yourself warned. Bob is on the warpath.