When I asked Manoogian if he thinks there’s another Lutz-like driving force within GM right now, he said, “I think the short answer to that is: yes. Certainly there’s Mark Ruess, the product guru right now, and there is a deep bench with plenty of talent.”

“What worries me,” he continued, “is that it’s so easy for the corporation to revert back to its bad state. It’s easy to lose focus. I hope that someone, somewhere in the organization can take a step back and say, ‘I see why you’re doing this for a multitude of reasons but we need to make sure that we’re not hurting ourselves.’ There are so many ways, as we all know, that things can head south very quickly.”

Manoogian said he’s convinced Mary Barra is a very smart person and hopes she’s got one foot firmly grounded in the product development end of the business. “If that goes away,” he said, “and it reverts back to the way it was in the ’80s and ’90s, they’re going to go through a low all over again.”

To illustrate the point, I’ll again call your attention to the 2004 Grand Prix. Remember Manoogian had previously said it received… “a lot of help.” He later said, “There were many opinions as to what the car should be and, as a result, there were too many voices vying for attention. The end result was a ‘design by committee’ car. Never a good strategy!”

One of the prominent people during the development of that car was Ron Zarella. “Ron had no background in the automobile business,” Manoogian said of Zarella’s experience. Although described as a likeable fellow, Manoogian said he knew very little about the vehicle development process. “When John Smale was chairman of the board and Zarella was president of the company, [Zarella] brought in a cadre of outside packaged goods/product gurus that had very little automobile experience. Building and selling cars and trucks was light years away from selling diapers, soap and cookies.”

About those special 2nd-gen CTS models…

Manoogian had mentioned earlier that the award-winning second-generation CTS was planned and approved as a sedan only. So, how did the Coupe and Wagon come to be? He explained.

“What happened was, in the Cadillac studio I was running—this was back in 2005—I said, ‘Think about the Cadillac showroom in 2020 and think about the kinds of vehicles that need to be there.’ So, one of my designers, Bob Munson, did a sketch. And it was a really cool sketch.

“Later, my boss, Mike Simcoe, and Ed Welburn looked at it and said, ‘That’s a great sketch. Why not do a scale model?’ So we did the scale model, and then everyone said, ‘That’s a pretty cool scale model. Let’s go to full-size clay.’ So, we did a full-size clay. Around the corporation no one knew this activity was taking place; all we had been commissioned to do was the four-door sedan.” Gotta love skunk works.

“Then, Bob [Lutz] saw it and he said, ‘Wow, what are you guys working on?'” Lutz was briefed.

“So, one Friday morning, Bob and Rick [Wagoner] were in the auditorium at a weekly management meeting. They came out on the patio and we had the Coupe clay on the turntable; the sun was just coming up. Rick said to Bob, ‘What is that?!’ And Bob said, ‘The studio has been looking at some different entries to add to the CTS lineup, and this is one of them.’

“Rick turned to Bob and said, ‘We can’t afford not to do this.’ After Rick left, Bob turned to Ed, Mike Simcoe and myself and said, ‘We’ve got to do this and that’s the car—I don’t want you to change one thing.’ We then started to develop a production version and simultaneously produced a fiberglass model, which would become the show car concept.

“Working with the Engineering team, we developed a feasible production version. We had to flatten the rear bumper a bit and change some things to make it suited for production. But about 90 percent of the original concept made it to production.

“The Wagon was the same thing,” he said. “At that point, I figured I was on a roll.” Indeed. “One of my guys, Colin Phipps, put this beautiful sketch together of a CTS wagon. Bob saw that and he said, ‘A wagon, huh? If we’re going to be competitive in Europe, and taken seriously, we’ve got to have a wagon in the Cadillac portfolio.’

CTS Wagon pre-production digital rendering

“Then, the product planning team weighed in. They said, ‘American’s don’t buy wagons. You can’t do a wagon. You already have an SRX in the portfolio. Why would anyone want to do a CTS wagon?’

“Bob said, ‘You know, we’re going to do it because we can and it makes sense for the Cadillac portfolio.'” God bless Lutz. Manoogian continued, “He said, ‘It’s coming down the same line. All we have to buy are the side rings, quarter panels, tailgate, tail lamps, rear fascia and a roof.’ He said, ‘We just need to do this.’ And we wound up doing the Wagon against everybody’s wishes. And, of course, in hindsight, they were right.”—wait! Who did he say was right?

Continue to page 10, below.

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