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How the Pontiac Aztek Came to Be a Reality (and Mistake)

Industry News / 64 Comments

Former GM exec Bob Lutz tells all.

Mistakes happen all the time in this business, but the Pontiac Aztek, even nine years since it was discontinued, remains the subject of mockery. But how and why did GM ultimately decide to build it in the first place? Former GM vice chairman Bob Lutz recently detailed the story for Road & Track and mainly put the blame on the automaker's past culture of "complete acquiescence and intimidation led by a dictator who wants it that way."

Although the Aztek's design and production was signed off on before Lutz arrived on the job, he still realized immediately it was a mistake as an outside observer. Noting that the Aztek failed even early on in market research (but GM built it anyway) Lutz stated that his predecessor was "an old-school guy from the tradition of shouts, browbeating, and by-God-I-want-it-done. He said 'Look, we all made up our minds that the Aztek is gonna be a winner. It's gonna astound the world. I don't want any negative comments about this vehicle. None.' " And speaking of market research, Lutz added that respondents said things like "Can they possibly be serious with this thing? I wouldn't take it as a gift."

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Lutz admits that the first time he saw it at the Detroit show he thought it was a joke, wondering "how could a group of people who call themselves automotive professionals do something that bad?" After Lutz joined GM, he spoke with one of the Aztek project managers who stated that not only was he proud of the Aztek, but also "that was the best program we ever did at GM. We made all our internal goals." And people wonder why GM went bankrupt.