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Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business | [Bob Lutz]

Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business

In 2001, General Motors hired Bob Lutz out of retirement with a mandate to save the company by making great cars again. He launched a war against penny pinching, office politics, turf wars, and risk avoidance. After declaring bankruptcy during the recession of 2008, GM is back on track thanks to its embrace of Lutz's philosophy. When Lutz got into the auto business in the early sixties, CEOs knew that if you captured the public's imagination with great cars, the money would follow.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Bob Lutz is at his best when recounting specific anecdotes that shed light on the American car industry's recent history and predicaments. One particularly funny story that does much to illustrate his general point of view is about properly sealing new cars. To test the quality of the seal, engineers would put a cat in a recently finished car overnight. If the cat was lethargic the next morning from lack of fresh air, the seal was good. If the cat was energetic, the seal was bad. In General Motor's cars, Lutz jokes, the cat was missing.

Although Lutz occasionally digresses into overly-political or self-centered diatribes about media bias and global warming, he does have intensely interesting things to say overall. Car Guys vs. Bean Counters succeeds in the moments that are focused on the dichotomy between the two main characters in this story. The bean counters, with their metrics-based cost-cutting corporate culture approach, are left scratching their heads as customers run screaming from the shoddy GM cars they've produced. Meanwhile, the car guys, frustrated and powerless, are tasked with trying to figure out last ditch solutions to the problems that this numbers-based approach has caused. Lutz's push, which is ultimately effective, is to put common sense solutions into practice, from the beginning to the end of the manufacturing process.

Narrator Norman Dietz is the perfect conduit for these lessons. Lutz's grandfatherly wisdom calls for a seasoned, austere tone. Dietz's performance delivers this element effortlessly.

Lutz's most salient point is to remember to keep thinking objectively, regardless of whatever story the numbers might be telling. Weird corporate metrics-focused ideology, like GM's overly analytical and complex "Culture of Excellence," is a useless deadweight that the company must drag around through a bad economy, shaky union negotiations, and a number of increasingly competitive Japanese companies.

As numbers become more and more fundamental to the general decision-making process, things get more and more absurd. One entertaining example of this is a test drive Lutz takes with a new computerized voice-recognition car, which, predictably, doesn't work at all. Lutz's common sense point: if the technology hasn't caught up to the concept, the product is doomed to fail. No matter how many focus groups or algorithms predict success, when it's a bad idea, it's just a bad idea. —Gina Pensiero

Publisher's Summary

In 2001, General Motors hired Bob Lutz out of retirement with a mandate to save the company by making great cars again. He launched a war against penny pinching, office politics, turf wars, and risk avoidance. After declaring bankruptcy during the recession of 2008, GM is back on track thanks to its embrace of Lutz's philosophy. When Lutz got into the auto business in the early sixties, CEOs knew that if you captured the public's imagination with great cars, the money would follow. The car guys held sway, and GM dominated with bold, creative leadership and iconic brands like Cadillac, Buick, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, GMC, and Chevrolet. But then GM's leadership began to put their faith in analysis, determined to eliminate the "waste" and "personality worship" of the bygone creative leaders. Management got too smart for its own good. With the bean counters firmly in charge, carmakers (and much of American industry) lost their single-minded focus on product excellence. Decline followed. Lutz's commonsense lessons (with a generous helping of fascinating anecdotes) will inspire readers at any company facing the bean counter analysis-paralysis menace.

©2011 Bob Lutz (P)2011 Tantor

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    Reader 06-19-11
    Reader 06-19-11 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Boring and self-involved."

    This is a book about General Motors history and personal ramblings and self-promotion. In spite of the "sample" listen it is not about "policy" or the "bean counter vs. car guy," it is about Bob Lutz. I was expecting a good discussion of "the soul of Ameican Business" finance guys vs.design guy and the impact on US economics. This was breifly mentioned in but not sustained. If your totally into the political nuances of General Motors, (what this guy did vs. this guy), or GM car nostalgia, you will love it. But little on American Business Soul.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas Hamburg, NY, United States 09-05-11
    Thomas Hamburg, NY, United States 09-05-11 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Disappointment"

    I was only able to finish about 5 chapters - I just couldn't listen anymore. The book felt like it was written by the PR department at GM. The narration was the worst in any Audible book i've read. Maybe it gets better, but there are just too many enjoyable books to listen to one as disappointing as this.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Parks Boulder Creek, CA USA 06-23-11
    Michael Parks Boulder Creek, CA USA 06-23-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Opinionated and one-sided"

    I used to respect Bob Lutz as a "car guy" that was in a position to make a difference at some of the worlds largest automakers, and I agree with the idea that the company leader needs to come up through the engineering ranks, not accounting. So I was looking forward to a reasoned dissertation on the merits on producing the best product vs. the cheapest one. What I got was "my gut reaction is better that all those educated liberals". Bob should keep his politics out and stop quoting the conservative republican sound bytes about how all of our problems are caused by "liberals who love socialism" and denies the existence of global warming. By his own admission, GM was beset with a crushing bureaucracy that made very bad decisions and even worse cars, yet seems to blame the downfall of the '80s on "the liberal media" and Japan's manipulating the yen. He seems to revere the Harley Earl "excess to the extreme" style of car design and thinks that is the reason why GM was such an industrial giant of the '50s and '60s. He seems to conveniently forget that following WWII the US's automotive industry was at the top of their form, while the rest of the world's industry had just been bombed to rubble. His book is filled with contradictions and half-truths - and he is convinced that the American public is a bunch of stupid children that really want big, heavy, gas-guzzling monsters - they just have to look sexy. He keeps taking cheap shots at "liberals" yet by his own estimation says they make up 70% of the educated public. He claims that the need to supply health care to it's workers puts such a cost burden on GM that they become uncompetitive, yet can't quite bring himself to support "socialized" health care.
    I'm not one of the "import loving - American hating liberals" he rants about. I drive a Corvette and own a Sierra Pickup, and my wife drives a PT Cruiser. They are all good vehicles and are excellent values in their class. Like the cars he loves, Bob is a relic of the '50s

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jack Benadon LA, CA 09-13-13
    Jack Benadon LA, CA 09-13-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Clearly mistitled book"
    What did you like best about Car Guys vs. Bean Counters? What did you like least?

    I liked understanding the car industry over time and how it evolved and changed. However, Lutz was clearly talking about his own career and the title should have been something like "My life in the car industry" so you understood that it was his personal experience (and opinion).
    His rants about "the liberal media" the "misdirected right" was too much opinion for the book the way it was represented.
    He clearly was jealous of how the Japanese (and their car companies) were "idols" and later how Ford was the "darling" of the media.

    he claims to have predicted most things correctly and makes himself to be a hero in this story--again, mistitled story


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    change the title to be more representative of what it is and delete the ending chapter where he writes about how he would have done things differently


    Do you think Car Guys vs. Bean Counters needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    NO--at least not by this egomaniac


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bruce Raleigh, NC, United States 05-08-13
    Bruce Raleigh, NC, United States 05-08-13
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    5
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    "Didn't expect the whine with my book."
    What did you like best about Car Guys vs. Bean Counters? What did you like least?

    There is good insight into the demise and rebirth of GM that the media either didn't report or got totally wrong, both of which I had completely anticipated and was why I bought the book. However, there was too much whining about Toyota, the press, and left wing lunatics making it difficult for GM to compete. Come on - did you really need a crystal ball to see higher gas prices coming? Was Ford's smart management really dumb luck? Is climate change really a figment of Al Gore's imagination? Is Fox News the only news outlet to get it right? Tolerate the politically partisan BS and it's a pretty good listen.


    Would you be willing to try another book from Bob Lutz? Why or why not?

    Maybe.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The Chevy Volt info was pretty interesting.


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    No


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Allen Plainwell, MI, United States 12-07-12
    Allen Plainwell, MI, United States 12-07-12 Member Since 2010
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    "Somewhat disappointing"

    I think Bob Lutz is the absolute best car gar guy on the planet with product development and making car companies great through the product they produce. He is in many ways a hero, and I remember being thrilled when I heard GM had him on board - I still hold a high opinion of the man - just not as a writer.

    This is a decent account of Bob Lutz's GM experience leading up to the Gov't bailout/takeover, but it seemed more like the focus was on Bob Lutz padding his resume more than story telling. A guy at his level has a right to be arrogant, but it ruins the story and gets in the way. It also does not get into the level of detail or talk much about other key players in the company like I had hoped.

    If you are interested in this story, a much better book around similar subject matter is "American Icon". The two stories are incredibly similar with two different outcomes. the Ford book is a third person story telling and much more thorough than Bob Lutz's first person account here. Although I am a "GM guy" the book about about Ford is a much better read. I was disappointed that a book about and from one of my heroes did not measure up to my expectations.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cindy BOISE, ID, United States 10-25-12
    Cindy BOISE, ID, United States 10-25-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Lutz Seems a Bit Full of Himself"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    Anyone interested in the car industry


    Any additional comments?

    Lutz portrays GM as a company that just can't catch a break. He claims that they were first with many technologies and Toyota is the "darling" with the media. Bottom line, GM managed themselves into this position, if they don't like it fix it! Stop whining about not getting a fair shake and do something about it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    bill Waterford, MI, United States 06-01-12
    bill Waterford, MI, United States 06-01-12
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    "Inspiring and informative"
    What made the experience of listening to Car Guys vs. Bean Counters the most enjoyable?

    Bob Lutz's unabashed perception of the auto industry were very inspiring and informative. I was very interested to learn Bob Lutz's point of view on events at General Motors back to the sixties.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    Not much for story there was not really a plot to the book. It is a historical editorial.


    What does Norman Dietz bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    I wanted to hear Bob Lutz narrate his own book, but I know that'd never happen, after the first few chapters the reader's voice kinda melded into that of Lutz in my mind.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. Casey Fort Worth, Tx 03-06-12
    S. Casey Fort Worth, Tx 03-06-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    5
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    "WAY too political"
    What would have made Car Guys vs. Bean Counters better?

    The radical right wing ranting of this book made it unbearable. I bought this book because I am interested in cars. I turned it off because the political ranting got to be too much. I can handle a little difference of opinion if it doesn't get in the way of a good book (P.J. O'Rourke), but this was WAY too much.


    What about Norman Dietz???s performance did you like?

    The reader is good. No problem there.


    You didn???t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    Didn't get far enough to know.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brandon Lincoln, NE, United States 01-30-12
    Brandon Lincoln, NE, United States 01-30-12
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    "Intersting insight into the car business"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Car Guys vs. Bean Counters to be better than the print version?

    It was interesting to learn about how the car business works and get a peek behind closed doors at GM. I didn't really like how he said the failure was due to the credit crisis and I found his arguments that they deserved to be bailed out duplicitous for a free market guy.


    What does Norman Dietz bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    He has a great voice and I enjoyed listening to him immensley.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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