In Race, Cadillac CTS-V Beats Out The Best

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Earlier this year, Robert Lutz, General Motors vice chairman of marketing and communications, challenged anyone to beat the Cadillac CTS-V on the racetrack using a comparable vehicle. Now Lutz, driving the CTS-V, raced against nine other drivers in a time-trial competition — and won. Lutz says the experiment was devised to show that the new CTS-V could do more than be the fastest car in a straight line.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block in California.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel in Washington.

It makes sense that our next item should come on a day when the new GDP numbers tell us the recession is over despite unemployment that keeps rising toward 10 percent.

Not only are bonus-paying banks acting like bonus-paying banks again, our biggest automaker is even acting like a big automaker again. Today in Monticello, New York, GM Vice Chair Bob Lutz, a one-time Marine pilot who used to commute to work by helicopter, took to the track at the Monticello Motor Club in New York's Catskill Mountains.

Lutz challenged other drivers, including some auto writers, to a race. They could drive their cars. He and some others from GM would drive the Cadillac CTS-V over a three-and-a-half mile course and then see who would win.

Who did win, Bob?

Mr. ROBERT LUTZ (Vice Chairman of Marketing and Communications, General Motors): Well, the fastest time of the day was indeed posted by a Cadillac CTS-V, not driven by me. I'm afraid I would have needed an age-related handicap, but it was - all of the fastest times were posted by Cadillac CTS-Vs with the exception of one 21-year-old with a BMW M3 who did a just absolutely remarkable time.

SIEGEL: Now, we should say you're now 77 years old. And while you didn't finish in the top three, you did have some pretty good drivers from GM out there. These were experienced men.

Mr. LUTZ: Oh, yes. But you know, some of the people who showed up here with their cars were also race-experienced drivers.

SIEGEL: Why didn't you do this out at Yucca Flats in the, you know, in the West?

Mr. LUTZ: Well, I don't think that would have proved our point. In the first place, not many people would have shown up because it's not terribly interesting. And secondly, Detroit cars have always had a reputation of being able to go fast in a straight line, and we wanted to prove that the new Cadillac CTS could do a lot more than that.

SIEGEL: This sounds like something out of - somehow out of decades ago. It sounds like something that the old cocky General Motors would do on a track, not the recently humbled GM. Are you trying to send a message here?

Mr. LUTZ: No, we've got to change the mindset out there that GM cars aren't very good, GM cars use a lot of fuel, GM cars do this, GM cars do that. It's all false familiarity, and we've got to break those stereotypes.

SIEGEL: That Cadillac you were driving, I saw it has a base price of about $63,000.

Mr. LUTZ: Yeah, that's about it. I mean, properly optioned, it would go out at 60, but that's another message we don't mind getting out. All of the similar German cars are, like, 80 and 90. So, you know, you save a lot of money by buying ours.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: Okay. Well, I did read in USA Today before this event took place, you said, and I quote, �If I don't have the fastest lap, I'll blame it on my age.�

Mr. LUTZ: That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

SIEGEL: Thanks a lot for sharing it with us.

Mr. LUTZ: Okay, bye-bye. Thanks.

SIEGEL: That's Bob Lutz, vice chair of General Motors, who staged the CTS-V Challenge today on the track in Monticello, New York.

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