General Motors made the auto industry take notice last week with the hiring of Robert Lutz as vice chairman in charge of product development. We asked attendees at the Management Briefing Seminars on Monday what Lutz's top priorities should be:
|2001 Management Briefing Seminars index|
Shah Firoozi, CEO, PAC Group: "Integration is probably one of the biggest challenges — integration of the entire (development) process. Often in design; sometimes (it leads) in manufacturing processes. Integrating the entire process into a cohesive approach is probably one of the biggest challenges. The other area, not just for GM, is recognizing the diversified needs of customers and the rapid change in customers' expectations. That requires providing vehicle designs that can be profitable even at limited, low-volume production, where as GM has traditionally been a high-volume business.
Michael Flynn, director of the Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation at the University of Michigan: "The first priority is to help them identify enough new product opportunities that they get a couple of hits. The way to do that is to energize the troops, try to give a boost to the product development people. The other part is getting those new product approvals through the GM decision-making structure."
Dan Sperling, experience manager, Accenture: "He needs to give GM a differentiated product that will move itself off the lot."
Steve Hanley, systems integration group vice president, Dana Corp.: "He's got a mandate from his company to look at product offerings that they currently have and apply some of that Lutz magic to it. It's such a big job from a corporate standpoint that he ought to be looking at which model and which area to focus on. If he goes after everything, he is maybe going to accomplish a lot less than he sets out to do. I think he could have the most impact at GM probably on one of the car lines. Looking at new ways to involve suppliers in his business. Some of the opportunities to move quickly on new models will depend on how quickly the supply base can respond."
Mike Felix, production area manager, Ford Motor Co.'s Romeo engine plant: "I think it will probably be quite good for GM because I think he has a dynamic ability to energize creativity in the design group. He's got to change the design. GM's too stuck in the mud, and his main priority has got to be to re-energize that."
Dean Decker, GM labor relations representative, Lansing Car Assembly Body Plant: "GM needs to continue to get more daring with its designs of the cars and try to do a better job of appealing to consumers, and he has quite a history at Chrysler of doing that."
Neil De Koker, Original Equipment Suppliers Association managing director: "It has got to be product design, a focus on the customer. Second, the can-do attitude. The hell with the bureaucracy. This is what we've got to do, now let's get going. Third, that entrepreneurial personality. He will help bring a sense of ownership back."