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He’s Baaack! Bob Lutz Returns to GM as Advisor

Maximum Bob will rejoin maker in part-time capacity.

by on Sep.02, 2011

Maximum Bob reporting for duty.

Old soldiers don’t die, and in the case of Capt. Robert A. Lutz, USMC-Ret., they don’t even fade away.

“Maximum Bob,” as many have come to call him, will be rejoining General Motors as a part-time consultant and those who know him say that despite his 79 years of age, the outspoken executive is planning on a long stay.

Until early in 2010 GM’s vice chairman and “car czar,” Lutz has spent more than 40 years in the auto industry working with a whos-who of automakers, the list including not only GM but Ford, Chrysler and BMW.  He also had a brief stint as chairman of battery maker Exide and, after being nudged into a semi-retirement by former GM Chairman Ed Whitacre, Lutz has served on a variety of boards, including British automaker Lotus, while also penning his second book, “Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business.”

The Inside Story!

In a terse release, GM noted, “Lutz will be available to executives on a part-time consultancy basis effective immediately. He brings a wealth of experience built over the course of more than 40 years in the industry, including two stints at GM.”

The first began in 1963, shortly after he left the Marine Corps., where he served as a pilot – beginning a life-long addition to flying that he nourishes today with a small personal fleet of jets and helicopters.


Bob Lutz Joins List of Chrysler Creditors

Some surprising companies and people stand in a long line of those with unsecured claims against bankrupt Chrysler.

by on May.11, 2009

Bankruptcy lightning has already stuck twice at companies Lutz has led. GM will make it thrice.

Bankruptcy lightning has already stuck twice at companies Lutz has led. GM will make it thrice.

The list of creditors that are owed big money by bankrupt Chrysler LLC includes many of the usual companies that are suppliers to the auto industry. But not all of them are immediately obvious, even to veterans of what remains of the auto supplier’s beat. So it’s not surprising that Johnson Controls is owed $50 million, or Continental Automotive, $46 million, or Cummins Engine, $44 million. These are all large, global companies that have been in the auto arena for decades or more, and are among the biggest creditors that would lose the most money if Chrysler doesn’t revive itself.

It’s puzzling that Chrysler’s ad agency, BBDO Detroit Incorporated, is the second largest creditor, at $58,055,133.44? Who would have thunk it! Well maybe it’s like American beer, the advertising and promotion cost more that the production of the stuff inside the can. Still, this is more money owed for advertising than steel, since U.S. Steel Corporation is owed only $16,182,772, as of April 30. 

Subscribe to TheDetroitBureau.comThen we have an order entered Saturday by the Honorable Arthur J. Gonzalez, the presiding judge in the Chrysler bankruptcy matter. It grants a motion for admission to practice pro hac vice, or for the occasion, to Michael S. Leib, a member in good standing of the bar in the State of Michigan to practice in this one case before the Federal court in New York for a $25 fee. This without question is going to be much smaller than the fee he charges his client, creditor Robert A. Lutz.   (more…)

Lutz Leaving GM

But why is this old soldier fading away?

by on Feb.09, 2009

Shooting from the Lip, Bob Lutz and his L-29 Fighter

Shooting from the Lip, Bob Lutz and his L-29 Fighter

“Old soldiers don’t die,” began General Douglas MacArthur, “they just fade away.” For many years, one had to wonder what would ultimately happen to that one-time Marine fighter pilot, Bob Lutz, when his half-century career in the auto industry finally came to an end.

The 76-year-old son of a Swiss banker seemed to have more lives than a cat. Over the decades, he’s worked for BMW, Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Corp., the battery manufacturer, Exide, and, of course, General Motors – for whom Lutz came out of retirement, in 2001, to take over product development.

“At times, we really wondered if he would ever step down,” says a senior GM colleague, who admits being awed by the stamina of the septuagenarian, who more than occasionally flies himself to work in a private helicopter – part of a fleet of aircraft that includes a Czech-made L-29 Albatros fighter/trainer jet.

But, it seems even Lutz has his limits, and this morning, in a surprise announcement, GM revealed that its Vice Chairman will effectively hand over the reigns, at product development, on April 1, and formally retire at the end of 2009, his duties going to Tom Stephens, currently the tall and lanky overseer of GM’s powertrain operations.


Q&A: “Maximum Bob” Lutz

Why battery power matters...even to those who don't believe in global warming.

by on Jan.30, 2009

Maximum Bob Lutz, getting ready to strafe the competition

Maximum Bob Lutz, getting ready to strafe the competition

To friends and foes alike, he’s “Maximum Bob,” and there’s little doubt that in a half-century career, Robert A. Lutz never shies away from an opportunity to push things to the limits – whether helping develop a new product or racing it. His resume reads like a Who’s Who of Automakers, with names like BMW, Ford, Chrysler and, now, General Motors, where he serves as vice chairman and “car czar,” reporting directly to CEO Rick Wagoner.

The Swiss-born former U.S. Marine fighter pilot would likely see his tenure at the automaker’s downtown Detroit headquarters as the toughest fight of his career. He’s struggled to break through GM’s well-entrenched bureaucracy and get the company to refocus its efforts on making the world’s best cars and trucks. There’ve been some rewards, with newer products, like the Chevrolet Malibu, winning rave reviews. And the Chevy Volt, an “extended-range electric vehicle,” has become a symbol of the industry’s evolution from gas-guzzling SUVs to high-mileage hybrids, plug-ins and pure electric vehicles.

We had the chance to speak with Lutz about a wide range of topics, including the Volt and electric technology. It’s a curious topic for a discussion with the septuagenarian executive because Lutz is an outspoken skeptic when it comes to global warming, but he’s also hot on the subject of battery power.

Q: Any guess, by 2020, what percentage of your vehicles will have a Volt-like powertrain?

Lutz: No, it depends on whether we get a national energy policy, a stable price for fuel, which would permit for planning. Every six months, we’re stupid idiots because (prices change radically and) we should have planned in the other direction. We were stupid when we didn’t plan to build for light trucks. Then we were stupid when we didn’t see fuel hitting $4 a gallon. Now, you can’t give hybrids away, and dealers are saying, “Enough, but we’ll take a few more Tahoe (SUVS).”

Q: You used the Detroit auto show to reveal the battery supplier for your new Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle. What makes one supplier better than another?

Lutz: Oh, it’s suitability of the chemistry, experience in producing that type of battery, energy storage, speed to market, willingness to accept warranty responsibility – and last and probably least, price. We weighed a huge number of variables as we always do.