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Time’s Running Out for Lutz

Car czar couldn’t see waiting out the recession.

by on Mar.04, 2009

Bob Lutz: 77 is old enough.

Bob Lutz: 77 is old enough.

“The industry may need five years to recover,” says General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, giving his first hint as to why he suddenly decided to retire, last month, after a nearly half-century in the auto industry. “I did the math,” says the 77-year-old executive, “and decided 82 was a little old to be dealing with these problems.

Lutz’s upcoming departure – he leaves his post as “car czar” the end of this month, though the septuagenarian continues in a consultant’s role through the rest of the year – leaves a number of questions about GM’s future. He has been the company’s most active and visible proponent for the development of world-class product. Whether his successor, powertrain chief Tom Stephens, can and will remain such a vociferous auto activist remains to be seen.

Lutz put in a brief appearance, this week, at the Geneva Motor Show, which he recalled was the first show he attended as a car-crazy youngster. While he used this trip to check out the competition’s offerings, the silver-haired former Marine pilot also watched the unveiling of the Opel Ampera, the latest spinoff of the Chevrolet Volt.