Bob Lutz

_Popular Science_Why do you have such a passion for design?

Bob LutzThe exterior is the first contact a potential buyer has with a car. If a person falls in love with the exterior, they’ll go to a dealership, look at the interior, inquire about pricing-they’re already on their way to buying it. Twenty or 30 years ago, people would say, “It’s not very good looking, but the engineering is great and the quality is good.” But now everything is great. Everything handles wonderfully. Everything has great brakes. So design and value become huge differentiators.

Over time, the interior assumes a bigger role, because it’s where the customer lives.

PS So a nice interior encourages repeat customers?

BL A thoughtful interior will provide huge long-term owner satisfaction. What we forget is that cars and trucks are marginally about moving people from point A to point B. Almost anything will do that. A seven-year-old, $2,000 used Cavalier will do that. Our vehicles become expressions of our personalities. If you don’t meet people’s psychological needs, you’re dead.

PS What do you make of the “crossover” phenomenon?

BL Personally, I’m skeptical. Minivan owners aren’t wandering to crossover vehicles-they’re wandering to sport-utilities.

And though you can call the Acura MDX or the Lexus RX300 a crossover vehicle, in their minds customers are buying an SUV. But we’re certainly going to try some-we can’t afford to be absent.