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Former General Motors product czar Bob Lutz has never been shy about sharing his opinions on the industry he’s worked in for decades.
So it’s not surprising that he has a few thoughts on one of the biggest news stories of the past month.
That would be, of course, the ongoing Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal.
Volkswagen’s situation can be blamed almost entirely on the actions of former chief Ferdinand Piëch, Lutz argues in a recent Road & Track column.
Lutz claims Piëch — who wielded immense power as head of the Volkswagen Group before being deposed in a boardroom coup earlier this year — established a “diesel dictatorship” that put far too much emphasis on diesels.
Whether Piëch was actually involved in the creation of software that allowed diesel cars to cheat emissions tests is “immaterial,” Lutz says.
Piëch’s leadership of Volkswagen was a “reign of terror,” Lutz suggests, during which everyone beneath him was driven to perform through intimidation.
So when Piëch decided to emphasize diesels in the U.S. to comply with corporate average fuel economy rules, the argument goes, his goals had to met at all costs.
Whoever is ultimately found responsible for Volkswagen’s deception, whether the claimed small group of engineers or a much wider circle including executives, the scandal is likely to reverberate for years.
And Lutz believes the company will feel its consequences for a very long time.
Echoing comments from other analysts, he said modifying cars and dealing with angry customers will be a long and complicated process.
He called the scandal “the disaster that keeps on giving.”
And even after all of that is addressed, there’s still the matter of Volkswagen’s public image.
“The whole Clean Diesel campaign, as the foundation of the VW brand, cannot be resurrected,” Lutz writes. “It’s history.”
Several analysts have argued that fallout from the VW scandal will lead to the demise of diesel cars, or possibly a surge of interest in electric cars.
But while Lutz is essentially declaring diesel dead for passenger cars in the U.S., he recently expressed some equally dour opinions of Tesla.
Looking at its finances, Lutz says the company will be “doomed” unless it dramatically lowers production costs, adopts a traditional franchised-dealership sales model, and perhaps even sells a plug-in hybrid very much like the Chevy Volt.
Taking these recent comments together, electric-car advocates may prefer to take a “win some, lose some” view on Lutz’s collected opinions.
This story originally appeared on Green Car Reports. Copyright 2015
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