GM’s Lutz a clutch player
AUSTRALIA has a lot of reasons to be thankful to Bob Lutz. The product chief at General Motors provided a lifeline to Holden and helped forge the international ties that made it more than just a local carmaker.
From the early 1990s Lutz was keen on everything Holden was doing, and occasionally attacked the Lang Lang proving ground during his flying visits from Detroit.
He was instrumental in forging the original export deal for the Holden Monaro and the latest program, which has turned the VE Commodore into a Buick.
If Lutz had his way, the Commodore ute would also be going to American showrooms.
But now he is going. The former fighter pilot is getting older (77 is next on the clock) and will slide into retirement at the end of the year after a spell as special adviser to GM chief Rick Wagoner from April 1.
He is unlikely to fade from the scene, but persistent back trouble that has caused the ramrodstraight Lutz to stoop and the cash cuts and turmoil in the US motor business have probably made his retirement choice a little easier.
Lutz has had all sorts of nicknames during an engineering career that has included time at Ford, BMW, Chrysler and GM, but my favourites are ‘‘Maximum Bob’’ and the ‘‘Lutzinator’’.
He earned both because of his ability to cut to the heart of a challenge and get things done.
‘‘Bob Lutz unleashed the creative power in GM Design and Engineering that enabled the unfolding of the product transformation you see today,’’ GM Holden chairman Mark Reuss says.
Lutz has made a huge difference at General Motors, energising many people on everything from design and engineering to future model programs and advanced technology.
He has done some of the test driving and feedback work on the forthcoming Chevrolet Volt, which leads GM’s future car attack.
Lutz loves cigars and fast cars, collects landmark cars and still likes to fly. He will be followed into the top job on the product side of GM by Tom Stephens, a gifted engineer who heads the company’s powertrain work.
Bowing out: Bob Lutz will retire and (inset) his replacement, Tom Stephens.