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Bob Lutz: Kiss the good times goodbye

Bob Lutz: Kiss the good times goodbye thumbnail

It saddens me to say it, but we are approaching the end of the automotive era.

The auto industry is on an accelerating change curve. For hundreds of years, the horse was the prime mover of humans and for the past 120 years it has been the automobile.

Now we are approaching the end of the line for the automobile because travel will be in standardized modules.

The end state will be the fully autonomous module with no capability for the driver to exercise command. You will call for it, it will arrive at your location, you’ll get in, input your destination and go to the freeway.

On the freeway, it will merge seamlessly into a stream of other modules traveling at 120, 150 mph. The speed doesn’t matter. You have a blending of rail-type with individual transportation.

Bob Lutz is a former vice chairman and head of product development at General Motors. He also held senior executive positions with Ford, Chrysler, BMW and Opel.

Then, as you approach your exit, your module will enter deceleration lanes, exit and go to your final destination. You will be billed for the transportation. You will enter your credit card number or your thumbprint or whatever it will be then. The module will take off and go to its collection point, ready for the next person to call.

Most of these standardized modules will be purchased and owned by the Ubers and Lyfts and God knows what other companies that will enter the transportation business in the future.

A minority of individuals may elect to have personalized modules sitting at home so they can leave their vacation stuff and the kids’ soccer gear in them. They’ll still want that convenience.

The vehicles, however, will no longer be driven by humans because in 15 to 20 years — at the latest — human-driven vehicles will be legislated off the highways.

The tipping point will come when 20 to 30 percent of vehicles are fully autonomous. Countries will look at the accident statistics and figure out that human drivers are causing 99.9 percent of the accidents.

Of course, there will be a transition period. Everyone will have five years to get their car off the road or sell it for scrap or trade it on a module.

The big fleets

CNBC recently asked me to comment on a study showing that people don’t want to buy an autonomous car because they would be scared of it. They don’t trust traditional automakers, so the only autonomous car they’d buy would have to come from Apple or Google. Only then would they trust it.

My reply was that we don’t need public acceptance of autonomous vehicles at first. All we need is acceptance by the big fleets: Uber, Lyft, FedEx, UPS, the U.S. Postal Service, utility companies, delivery services. Amazon will probably buy a slew of them. These fleet owners will account for several million vehicles a year. Every few months they will order 100,000 low-end modules, 100,000 medium and 100,000 high-end. The low-cost provider that delivers the specification will get the business.

These modules won’t be branded Chevrolet, Ford or Toyota. They’ll be branded Uber or Lyft or who-ever else is competing in the market.

The manufacturers of the modules will be much like Nokia — basically building handsets. But that’s not where the value is going to be in the future. The value is going to be captured by the companies with the fully autonomous fleets.

The end of performance

These transportation companies will be able to order modules of various sizes — short ones, medium ones, long ones, even pickup modules. But the performance will be the same for all because nobody will be passing anybody else on the highway. That is the death knell for companies such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. That kind of performance is not going to count anymore.

In each size vehicle, you will be able to order different equipment levels. There will be basic modules, and there will be luxury modules that will have a refrigerator, a TV and computer terminals with full connectivity. There will be no limit to what you can cram into these things because drinking while driving or texting while driving will no longer be an issue.

The importance of styling will be minimized because the modules in the high-speed trains will have to be blunt at both ends. There will be minimum separation in the train. Air resistance will be minimal because the modules will just be inserted into the train and spat out when you get close to your exit.

The future of dealers?

Unfortunately, I think this is the demise of automotive retailing as we know it.

Think about it: A horse dealer had a stable of horses of all ages, and you would come in and get the horse that suited you. You’d trade in your old horse and take your new horse home.

Car dealers will continue to exist as a fringe business for people who want personalized modules or who buy reproduction vintage Ferraris or reproduction Formula 3 cars. Automotive sport — using the cars for fun — will survive, just not on public highways. It will survive in country clubs such as Monticello in New York and Autobahn in Joliet, Ill. It will be the well-to-do, to the amazement of all their friends, who still know how to drive and who will teach their kids how to drive. It is going to be an elitist thing, though there might be public tracks, like public golf courses, where you sign up for a certain car and you go over and have fun for a few hours.

And like racehorse breeders, there will be manufacturers of race cars and sports cars and off-road vehicles. But it will be a cottage industry.

Yes, there will be dealers for this, but they will be few and far between. People will be unable to drive the car to the dealership, so dealers will probably all be on these motorsports and off-road dude ranches. It is there where people will be able to buy the car, drive it, get it serviced and get it repainted. In the early days, those tracks may be relatively numerous, but they will decline over time.

So auto retailing will be OK for the next 10, maybe 15 years as the auto companies make autonomous vehicles that still carry the manufacturer’s brand and are still on the highway.

But dealerships are ultimately doomed. And I think Automotive News is doomed. Car and Driver is done; Road & Track is done. They are all facing a finite future. They’ll be replaced by a magazine called Battery and Module read by the big fleets.

The era of the human-driven automobile, its repair facilities, its dealerships, the media surrounding it — all will be gone in 20 years.

Today’s automakers?

The companies that can move downstream and get into value creation will do OK. But unless they develop superior technical capability, the manufacturers of the modules, the handset providers, if you will, will have their specifications set by the big transportation companies.

The fleets will say, “We want a module of a certain length, a certain weight and a certain range.”

They will prescribe the mileage and the acceleration and take bids.

Automakers, if they are smart, may be able to adapt. General Motors sees the handwriting on the wall. It has created Maven and has bought into Cruise Automation and Lyft.

It doesn’t want to be the handset provider. It wants to be the company that creates the value and captures the value, and it is making the right moves to be around when the transition occurs.

I think probably everybody sees it coming, but no one wants to talk about it. They know they will be OK for a few years if they keep providing superior technology, superior design and have good software for autonomous driving.

So for a while, the autonomous thing will be captured by the automobile companies. But then it’s going to flip, and the value will be captured by the big fleets.

This transition will be largely complete in 20 years.

I won’t be around to say, “I told you so,” though if I do make it to 105, I could no longer drive anyway because driving will be banned. So my timing once again is impeccable.



86 Comments on "Bob Lutz: Kiss the good times goodbye"

  1. makati1 on Tue, 7th Nov 2017 11:32 pm 

    Some here are so focused on techie dreams that they cannot see reality. Driverless vehicles are NOT going to catch on. Anything can be diverted or just hijacked, will be. Amazon is a good target. Wait and see. LMAO

  2. makati1 on Tue, 7th Nov 2017 11:33 pm 

    Anything … that … can be diverted or just hijacked, will be.

  3. makati1 on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 2:27 am 

    “America Breaks Down: The Anatomy of a National Nervous Breakdown”

    “Clearly, America is in the midst of a national nervous breakdown.

    Things are falling apart, and the inmates in the asylum are starting to turn on each other. …

    How do you keep a nation safe when not even seemingly “safe places” like churches and rock concerts and shopping malls are immune from violence?

    The government’s answer, as always, will lead us further down the road we’ve traveled since 9/11 towards totalitarianism and away from freedom. …

    This breakdown—triggered by polarizing circus politics, media-fed mass hysteria, militarization and militainment (the selling of war and violence as entertainment), a sense of hopelessness and powerlessness in the face of growing corruption, the government’s alienation from its populace, and an economy that has much of the population struggling to get by—is manifesting itself in madness, mayhem and an utter disregard for the very principles and liberties that have kept us out of the clutches of totalitarianism for so long.”

    And the police state grows…

  4. Davy on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 4:39 am 

    “Not hiding anything. Zerohedge, ABC news, the NYT, and speak for themselves. Try using Google. Even most grade school children find it to be extremely easy.”
    Funny how you didn’t chastise mad kat for being over at ZH so often. LOL double standard widdle?? Nope, widdle, this is about clearly showing the titles and links and even better the words to support assertions. If you don’t you are being intellectually lite and I am going to call you out. The extremist here like disguised intellectual dishonesty. It is very hard to stretch and distort the truth for a purpose so hence the disguises. You are part of it by supporting the extremist. It is not my job to follow up the integrity of the extremist comments here with a google “intel” checking. My personal effort tis to moderate and neuter people like them and you hate that. You are just flanking the scum here widdle that puts you in the same ugly light.

  5. Davy on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 4:44 am 

    “And the police state grows…”

    We are fine mad kat. Yea, the police here are getting more like the 3rd world you live in all the time. My point has always been if you are up to no good then you will find trouble with the police, if no tyou will generally not have a problem. I have no problems and I live here. You are across the planet reading extremist literature what would you know? Mad Kat is that why you left the US? Was it tax troubles or worse some kind of legal problems? You are always going off topic with police state stuff. This is about AI vehicles. Dumb

  6. Anonymouse1 on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 9:07 am 

    Who are trying to convert this week cloggen-fraud? And no, not referring to Yahweh, your *other* religion, the church of flying , electrically powered robo-cars.

    Rabbi: Saul Cloggen-fraud presiding. Membership KenZ…and…..thats it. Just KenZ. Other than him, your endless prosteilzing hasn’t, and won’t ‘convince’ anyone. But, like the make-believe, ‘true believer’ you are, you don’t give up. Give you that much clogged-sphincter.

    And no, it hardly matters if Bob Putz has a big bankroll, its in his job description to sell people impossible dreams, like the endless growth of FF powered mobility he used to get paid to sell. Now, he’s selling an equally absurd fantasy, about endless streams of robo-bubbles zipping along a freeway(in amerika of course), at 150 mph.

    Like I said, he gets paid to flog shit like that, highly paid. At least he has an excuse, what’s yours clogg-tard?

  7. GregT on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 9:29 am 

    “Funny how you didn’t chastise mad kat for being over at ZH so often. ”

    I didn’t say that I agreed with all of the articles coming mainly from the U.S. MSM, now did I. I did mention that Zerohedge appears to be one of your favourites, as you link to it on an almost daily basis. Why not write them and lodge a formal complaint against their ‘extremism’? Or do you prefer to cherry pick their articles to suit your personal sino-phobic agenda? And furthermore, Makati1 didn’t write any of those articles, he merely provided links to them. Credit where credit is due.

  8. Davy on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 9:46 am 

    So what are you saying widdle? Spit it out. It is a bitch to wake up to an ass kikin?. Widdle, you are the one that never says anything. You specialize in stalking and pricking. I offer multiple reads for the board. I can tell you don’t care for them becuase it shows. I can wade through the shit unlike you and Mad Kat that have to stay safely on your extremist sites. Go walk your dog

  9. GregT on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 9:55 am 

    “I can wade through the shit unlike you and Mad Kat that have to stay safely on your extremist sites.”

    You are the one here who is constantly linking to Zerohedge. I don’t read their self admitted disinformation. All you offer to this site is long winded meaningless diatribes, childish rhetoric, American extremist exceptionalist drivel, name calling, and personal attacks. You are the sole reason why this site has become so dysfunctional.

  10. GregT on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 10:00 am 

    And constant emotionally charged delusional accusations.

  11. Davy on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 10:22 am 

    Widdle, how many times do I link ZH and what percentage and drum roll who cares lol. You offer next to nothing of interest except stalking and pricking Americans. IOW, you are a Mad Kat gimp. You flank him with support. When you went awol he got his ass kicked bad. Is that why you came back? You didn’t answer my question the other day. Did your therapist tell you to stay off Internet forums becuase they were causing you personality issues? I knew you would be back becuase your addicted to being an asshole.

  12. GregT on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 10:34 am 

    I could care less which tax farm you were born into. It makes no difference to me what so ever. I get that you are incapable of understanding that.

    As pointed out by myself and many others before, your emotional and psychological issues are as transparent as glass. You are the main reason for this site being transformed from an open discussion forum where people can freely express their opinions, into a self proclaimed personal internet battleground. You are one messed up individual delusionalist.

  13. Davy on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 11:01 am 

    Lol, widdle, your idea of a forum with open discussions is a double standard. For you it means you and
    the gang talking anti-American shit and you stalking and pricking as the flanker. You know the G in widdle is for gimp. Please widdle stop talking Nonesense. While you were gone the site was much less extreme. Your stalking and pricking is such a noise makers and distracts from real discussions. You are little more than a trouble maker. You are dumb as a box of rocks with the issue. Tax farm BS. You are a hyper nationalistic West Coast Canadian anti-American scum bag. Go play in the greenhouse.

  14. GregT on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 11:07 am 

    More of your usual paranoid delusions. No basis in reality.

    Get help before you hurt yourself, or somebody else.

  15. Davy on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 11:13 am 

    LMFAO, that all you got widdle. I wish I had a penny for
    every time you barfed that. Widdle shut up and say
    something. What a dumbass. Give something to the board that stimulated the mind not your whining and crying.

  16. Apneaman on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 11:18 am 

    This is what you get when the good times are gone, except for the 20%.

    Majority of young Americans prefer socialism or communism to capitalism

    “According to the poll, which was carried out by the international polling firm YouGov between September and October, 51 percent of those Americans currently between the ages of 21 and 29, defined in the report as “Millennials,” would prefer to live in a socialist or communist country over a capitalist country.

    A majority of Millennials (56 percent) also reported that they would not be offended if someone accused them of being a communist. Significantly, a similar percentage of this age group (53 percent) reported that they feel that America’s economic system is working against them.”

  17. GregT on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 11:24 am 

    You are the main reason for this site being transformed from an open discussion forum where people can freely express their opinions, into a self proclaimed personal internet battleground.

    It that doesn’t stimulate at least a couple of those dormant neurons, nothing ever will.

  18. Davy on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 11:36 am 

    Widdle say something of substance stupid. Are you capable of actually posting an idea or is stalking and pricking all you do? What a waste of a life.

  19. Cloggie on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 12:10 pm 

    “Majority of young Americans prefer socialism or communism to capitalism”

    Opinion probably strongly correlated with the color of the interviewee.

    Apneaman will gladly volonteer to help set up a US version of communism, it’s in his blood after all. The villan this time will be the “evil white capitalist execising his white privilege all day”.

    Fortunately an army of Soros subsidized SJWs, BLM activists and armpit stinking Antifas will be around to enforce the correct opinions.


  20. Apneaman on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 12:20 pm 

    Widdle Davy, you’re all alone on this board just like your country is all alone in this world.

    Syria signs Paris Agreement – leaving US only country in the world to refuse climate change deal

    The Paris accord was first signed by nearly 200 countries in December 2015

    Trump pulls out of the Paris accord and yesterday he has the gall to ask/beg the world to join together to fight the threat of N Korea.

    Oh and now it’s looking like there was Russian meddling and collusion with Trump & his cancer crew.

    Throw all the anti anti American temper tantrums you want, but it won’t make reality or the criticisms or mocking go away. It’s what always happens when mighty bully braggarts fall.

    Your anti American crusade is phony and not about America at all- it’s about you. You fears and insecurities.

    If you really loved your country you would do something other than rant away on the internet all day every day.

    You could get involved in local politics or help the homeless get back on their feet or, like millions of environmentalists, clean up a stream or illegal dumping site or rescue wild animals. Volunteer at church.

    There are literally a thousand things you could do to make your country a better place and mental ranting at other trolls on the internet ain’t one of them.

    Seriously Davy, this is poison to you. Hell it was obvious that you were somewhat content and lighter when you spent more time farming and less ranting.

    The decline and fall of America is not about you, so why make it and take it soooooooooooooooooo personally?

    Are you a masochist or sumthin?

  21. Apneaman on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 12:24 pm 

    PHILOSOPHY – The Stoics

  22. Apneaman on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 12:28 pm 

    clog I knew you would bite and in record time too. I wish I could play the guitar half as good as I can play you.

    You’re like a Snoopy guitar – just wind the handle and it makes the same noise every time.

  23. Davy on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 12:48 pm 

    Wow, Ape, well lookie at you. Are you flanking your widdle BC buddy. You can’t stand to see a fellow Canadian get his ass wiped. Lol. I know it sucks when your gang is widdle g and Mad Kat. Ape, Your personal solution you promote is suicide. You were almost there once weren’t you. Ape, did you peer over that cliff! I offer people living solutions that you would be wise to follow.

    You West Coast Canadians should learn not to be so stuck on yourselves. Not talking about Paulo. He is first class. You all can’t be internet rock stars. You have to start looking at your contribution to the mess instead of always blaming the big bad Americans.

  24. Cloggie on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 1:04 pm 

    “clog I knew you would bite and in record time too. I wish I could play the guitar half as good as I can play you.
    You’re like a Snoopy guitar – just wind the handle and it makes the same noise every time.”

    Some would call it character and consistency of views, others an older guy stuck in his opinions.

    Record time? Just finished an afternoon drive through boring Flanders to Calais, France. The television ne fonctionne pas, the little electric heating device powered by some nearby nuclear power station struggles to live up to its specification and a clock ticks. Very existensionalist and all. Where is Sartre when you need him.

    Missed the opportunity for my favorite outdoor pasttime, now that I’m past sixty, sitting in a warm car, at an elevated height overlooking the sea, with stormy wind and grey clouds. Top locations: dike of West-Kapelle, or Maasvlakte, both in Holland or the cliffs south of Calais in France, observing dense shipping and white cliffs of Dover, if you are lucky. Tomorrow morning, apres mon deux croissants.

  25. Cloggie on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 1:07 pm 

    The site is about to morph into another facebook.

  26. antaris on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 2:51 pm 

    And they will call it “5 old men arguing with each other”

  27. DerHundistlos on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 4:44 pm 

    Bob “The Putz” Lutz proudly proclaimed to Bill Maher two years ago come hell or high water his McMansion in the Florida Keys will remain standing regardless of the AGW hoax. I’m curious to know how things have worked out since the hurricane…….

  28. Boat on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 4:49 pm 


    Trump pulls out of the Paris accord and yesterday he has the gall to ask/beg the world to join together to fight the threat of N Korea.

    So in a sense of fairness, every country in the world should have nukes and the missiles to reach every corner of the world. WTF? Commonsense has been neutered.

  29. fmr-paultard on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 5:47 pm 

    We just lost a supertards hotdodging in fl

  30. makati1 on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 5:52 pm 

    Antaris, this blog would not exist if all there was to discuss was petroleum. The oily topic is boring. The only oily news, for years, has been…:

    “Yuge … million barrel puddle found in ….”

    “Tomorrow oil will go up/down/sideways … maybe.”

    “We are running out of oil, but if….”

    Not many hits/clicks if a half dozen oily ‘investors’ drop in to agree with each other occasionally is there”

    Whereas, there is an interest in talking about the real world outside oil. Anyone, with two brain cells that still function, can see that the outside world controls what is happening in the oily realm. Pull out the financial props that are holding the petroleum industry up (subsidies/low interest/free money) and it would not matter how many billions of barrels are left. They would stay in the ground, while civilization would crash in the 1st world and regress in the rest.

    Peak Oil is an interesting site because it allows wide differences of opinion and has included a wider spread of topics to discuss. If that stops, I will just do something else as will all of you. The internet is not forever.

  31. Sissyfuss on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 6:35 pm 

    Clogosophy, where is Schopenhauer when we really need him. Hell, I’d even settle for Kierkegaard.

  32. Apneaman on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 7:13 pm 

    boat, speaking of sense, your comment is nonsensical.

    Boat, if you are going to comment regularly, why don’t you work on your gammer and spelling? That way others can understand what you are trying to communicate instead of writing you off as a fucking retard.

    Since about half of your comments make some kind of sense, I am assuming you are not a fucking retard, but are either too lazy to do a little bit of work on your spelling and grammar or are unaware that one is never to old to learn. Christ boat, I’m talking a few hours work here.

    You may scoff and dismiss my suggestion, but the truth is that many readers will not take any of your ideas or arguments seriously when riddled with poor grammar and spelling. This is not just my opinion, it’s a fact. It don’t matter if it seems wrong or snobbish or elitist, it’s how the human social monkey hierarchy goes.

    Like it or not, spelling and grammar count.

    And your anti intellectual stance is stubborn and silly and is only supported by the ignorant (I only consider you half ignorant). True there are many problems with academia and science, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. Much of that wonderful technology and shit you wrongly credit capitalism for actually comes from the human mind and most of the core learning come from intellectuals over thousands of years from many different cultures with many and varied economical systems – standing on the shoulders of those who came before us.

  33. Apneaman on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 7:18 pm 

    clog, here’s some more bait for you & Kunstler too.

    Virginia elects transgender woman to state legislature

    Danica Roem, a former journalist and member of heavy metal band, beats Republican who sponsored bathroom bill

    ROTFLMAO…..omg, I got cramp laughing so hard.

    Admit it clog, you find her hot.

  34. makati1 on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 7:47 pm 

    “US Has Killed More Than 20 Million In 37 Nations Since WWII”

    This rabid dog needs to be put down and soon!

  35. Apneaman on Wed, 8th Nov 2017 8:09 pm 

    “The site is about to morph into another facebook.”

    “And they will call it “5 old men arguing with each other””

    “Antaris, this blog would not exist if all there was to discuss was petroleum.”

    Me & you and the dog named Boo are just a troop of electronically jacked up social chatter gossip monkeys pushing and shoving for a higher branch on the social monkey tree. Same for all social media. Dominance jockeying and tribal cheer leading. All meaningless.

    Let’s all learn sumthin.

    How Social Media Makes Us Angry All the Time | Molly Crockett – 7 min

    “Published on Oct 30, 2017

    Social media has been, without a doubt, one of the biggest explosions in connectivity in human history. That’s the good part. The bad part is that the minds of the people within these companies have manipulated users into an addictive cycle. You’re already familiar with it: post content, receive rewards (likes, comments, etc). But the staggering of the rewards is the habit-forming part, and the reason most moderately heavy social media users check their apps or newsfeeds some 10-to-50 times a day. And to add to the problem — these algorithms have been strengthened to show you more and more outrageous content. It genuinely depletes your ability to be outraged by things in real life.”

    Nothing will stop it. It will just keep going because like everything else they do, the humans are not in control of themselves. Humans + technology is just a temporary and soon to be over evolutionary experiment.

    Oh, and the only thing new is the medium.

    Writing on the Wall

    Social Media – The First 2,000 Years

    “Social media is anything but a new phenomenon. From the papyrus letters that Cicero and other Roman statesmen used to exchange news, to the hand-printed tracts of the Reformation and the pamphlets that spread propaganda during the American and French revolutions, the ways people shared information with their peers in the past are echoed in the present. After decades of newspapers, radio, and television dominating in dissemination of information, the Internet has spawned a reemergence of social media as a powerful new way for individuals to share information with their friends, driving public discourse in new ways.

    Standage reminds us how historical social networks have much in common with modern social media. The Catholic Church’s dilemmas in responding to Martin Luther’s attacks are similar to those of today’s large institutions in responding to criticism on the Internet, for example, and seventeenth-century complaints about the distractions of coffeehouses mirror modern concerns about social media. Invoking figures from Thomas Paine to Vinton Cerf, co-inventor of the Internet, Standage explores themes that have long been debated, from the tension between freedom of expression and censorship to social media’s role in spurring innovation and fomenting revolution. Writing on the Wall draws on history to cast provocative new light on today’s social media and encourages debate and discussion about how we’ll communicate in the future.”

    Nothing new because humans evolved into a super social species.

  36. joe on Thu, 9th Nov 2017 9:50 am 

    The problem is the assumptions being made about consumers. Ok fine, let’s allow bots to do our research and tell us about profit and loss and let’s allow them to manage the skies and trains and stuff but a.i. and tech can’t replace what people do fundamentally. I have no doubt in my mind that when the real choice is between allowing 50%-70% of the current work force to be unemployed or letting bots do everything, I believe that legislation will be used to save jobs, just like the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan did recently.

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