“Racing is one of the few things that can foster innovation faster than war”, said GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz during a bloggers round-table discussion on the eve of this year’s Geneva motor show.
Describing some of the future challenges that will be faced by global manufacturers such as General Motors, Bob lamented the fact that auto racing – a sport with the potential to inspire significant innovation through competition – has become so tightly regulated in order to prevent teams from gaining significant advantages, that from a manufacturer’s perspective it provides little benefit beyond pure marketing.
“I’d like to see alternative vehicle racing,” Bob told us, “where perhaps instead of the 15 second tyre and fuel stop, we would see a 15 second battery change.”
Asked for his opinion on Formula 1’s new rules for 2009, which permit the use of hybrid Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS), Bob had a short answer: “I call that Greenwash. F1 racing still uses a ton of fuel.”
Commenting on statements from politicians to the effect that many of GM’s current problems stem from an outdated product range which fails to reflect the priorities of today’s consumers, Bob was similarly forthright: “Where is the incentive for the American public to buy a more expensive alternative fuels car when gas is $1.80 a gallon?”.
GM is currently betting on battery technology becoming the future, not hydrogen as many in the auto industry believe. Bob believes that hydrogen technology is simply too expensive with current test vehicles costing close to $1 million each. On top of this the basic infrastructure for electric cars is already available.
Where does that leave the petroleum industry? Not very well off – according to Bob “the petroleum industry is even dumber than the auto industry.”
Thanks Bob, great chat!
Editors Note: See Mark’s last post as well (thanks for the coverage Mark!): Opel Unveils New Ampera – And it Looks Really Good