Of all the auto executives I have covered, GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz may be the one who generates the most spirited response from viewers and readers.
His fans love him.
Critics think he gets too much praise.
But nearly everyone agrees that when Lutz talks, the auto industry listens. And not just because of the candor of his comments. In the last 40 years, he is perhaps the most influential executive in an industry where few have had staying power.
And now, 37 years after starting his career, Bob Lutz is finally retiring.
He is leaving a General Motors that is far different than when he joined it 9 years ago. When former CEO Rick Wagoner brought Lutz out of retirement General Motors had 9 brands, a largely forgettable line-up of cars, and was guilty of being run to support its balance sheet, as opposed to having a vision for growing and attracting buyers. In short, it was a mess. Lutz was brought in to breathe life into the stable of GM brands that were adrift.
How bad was it? Just think of the Pontiac Aztek.