DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- Bob Lutz will become a senior adviser to General Motors Corp. on April 1 and retire at the end of the year as vice chairman, the automaker said today.
The outspoken 76-year-old industry veteran, who oversees global product development, will be succeeded by Tom Stephens, 60, who is currently exec VP-global powertrain and global quality.
"Bob Lutz was already a legendary automotive-product guy when he rejoined GM in 2001," Chairman-CEO Rick Wagoner said in a prepared statement. Mr. Wagoner credited Mr. Lutz with "leading the creation of a string of award-winning vehicles for GM during his time here" and called his 46 years in the global automotive business "invaluable" to GM.
Started career in Europe Mr. Lutz, who was born and grew up in Switzerland, started his auto career at GM in Europe in 1963 before joining BMW in Munich in 1972 as exec VP-sales. He also spent 12 years at Ford Motor Co., where he rose to chairman of Ford in Europe. Mr. Lutz left Ford for Chrysler Corp. in 1986, where he led all auto operations, including marketing and sales. He rose to vice chairman but left in 1998 after Germany's Daimler acquired Chrysler.
'Unapologetically proud' of Big Three
Mr. Lutz, a former Marine jet pilot, poked fun at boxy vehicles earlier this decade, comparing them to toasters. At a speech in Manhattan in 2006 to the Swiss American Chamber of Commerce, he said, "I am intensely and unapologetically proud of what we're doing at GM, and also of what all of the so-called Big Three are doing these days. And I'm allowed to be: I've worked for all of 'em."
Mr. Lutz was a cheerleader for Detroit and the importance of its three automakers to the national economy. "People who think it doesn't matter who owns our auto industry are flat wrong," he said in that same 2006 speech. "They think it doesn't matter because the Japanese and Germans and Koreans are 'producing' in the states now. But they're not producing; they're assembling. The parts are mostly brought from overseas, and the profits for reinvestment don't stay in the U.S."