Lutz spotted in L.A. -- and, yes, he still has opinions

LOS ANGELES -- Walking the L.A. Auto Show this morning, I overheard a tall older man point out to a Ford Motor Co. employee that the hood on an Explorer SUV on display was misaligned.

The Ford worker said the vehicle is likely an early build, where such mistakes can happen.

The older man retorted: “Normally you check for stuff like that before you get it to the show. If this were a GM car on the stand, I'd have somebody's ass for that.”

That's Bob Lutz. And he was OK being quoted. The 78-year-old former vice chairman of General Motors is here. He's now on the advisory board of Lotus and working as a CNBC contributor.

“They want me to expound on various topics, and, as you know, I like to expound,” Lutz said while laughing at himself.

Before joining Chrysler and then GM, Lutz spent 12 years at Ford, including stints as head of truck operations and Ford of Europe. Not shy about sharing an opinion, Lutz walked the Ford display with me.

He thinks Ford is riding the momentum of good press for not taking federal bailout loans more so than really having a slew of “great” products. GM will close the image gap with Ford soon, he said.

Lutz told me he plans to buy the “maximum” IPO shares that GM will allot him.

As for Lincoln, Lutz said the brand needs significant redesign to make it stand out in the market. He dislikes the brand's signature waterfall front grille. Put diplomatically, he said, “If I were Mr. Mulally and the Ford guys in design, the first thing I would ask myself is, ‘Isn't there a better front-end option than that one?' ”

Some things never change. But as Lutz left to find breakfast on his own, without the usual entourage of handlers I've so often seen him with in the past, I realized some things do.