As for dealers, Lutz merely forecast "the demise of automotive retailing as we know it."
No single article in my three-decade tenure at 1 Automotive News Tower has created such a stir. The last time I checked, the story had 795 comments. Partly that's because when Lutz postulates a belief, he doesn't clutter it up with qualifying words like "maybe." But something else made Lutz's literary effort compelling.
"I was always a huge fan of science fiction, and I think reading good science-fiction novels opens your mind," he said. "A better name for science fiction is actually 'speculative fiction,' which is, 'what if?' I've read some excellent authors who just opened up their minds to it. All you have to do is look at the logical progress of the last 25 or 30 years and project it out, and if you do that, you arrive at the conclusion that technology robots, etc., they are going to do everything."
Lutz may have been the most radical of the seers and sages in our series, but his vision of the future is not that far removed from the consensus. One thing becoming clear is that the future will revolve around autonomous, electrified fleets — fleets run by ride-hailing giants, fleets run by automakers that compete with ride-hailing giants, fleets run by the likes of Amazon that buy and self-brand massive production orders from today's carmakers, and fleets of varying sizes that are managed and monetized by today's big dealers.
Also apparent is that change will not be limited to AVs, EVs, car-sharing and connectivity. There's stuff like 3-D printing, too, which is set to transform manufacturing. Oh, and all that cool stuff that hasn't been invented yet.
So count on the fact that what we think we know today about the future will revert to mystery in a couple of weeks. Every time we have a timetable fixed in our heads, the pace seems to pick up. Suddenly, GM is talking about commercializing autonomous vehicles in this decade. So is GM way ahead of Waymo and far ahead of Ford? Hey, another company could gain first mover advantage next week.
No one knows who will be the nobility in mobility in 2030 because it's so far off and new competitors are flying in from everywhere.
Which may explain the angst at Toyota. The last 12 years went nothing like the company planned — in some ways, even less according to plan than GM's last dozen years.
In 2006, Toyota was growing such that Lentz's predecessor, Jim Press, was thinking he might need to add an assembly plant a year in North America. By 2018, Toyota was expected to lap the field in this country.
It didn't happen. Indeed, Akio's angst is probably well-founded. Embrace the future, and fear the heck out of it.