MotorCities National Heritage Area
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By: Robert Tate
Photos courtesy of the National Automotive History Collection
Posted: 01.25.2016

file 20160125155524 Robert Lutz A great car guy
Robert Lutz is one of the most well respected and charismatic auto experts in history and has stood as a giant in the field for many years.

He was born Feb.12, 1932 in Zurich, Switzerland. He served as an aviator in the United States Marine Corps from 1954 to 1959 where he attained the rank of Captain.

Lutz received his Bachelor’s of Science Degree from the University of California in 1961, and at the time he was active in his fraternity Phi Beta Kappa.

In 1962, he had received his Master’s of Business Administration with many great and high honors, from the University of California-Berkeley.

Soon after graduating, Lutz started his great automotive career at General Motors Corporation in 1963 where he held a variety of senior positions in Europe.

file 20160125155638 Robert Lutz A great car guy
Later, in 1971, he served three years as Executive Vice President of Sales for BMW and as a member of that company's Board of Directors. Lutz was also involved with the Ford Motor Company and was a member of Ford's Board of Directors from 1982 to 1986. After Ford, Lutz joined the Chrysler Corporation on June 3, 1986 as Executive Vice President-Chrysler; he was also later elected to the Chrysler Corporation’s Board of Directors on June 12, 1986.

On January 25, 1988, he was named President-Operations and later that year was appointed President-Chrysler Motors on November 10, 1988. And on Jan. 1, 1993, Lutz's great and extraordinary career would continue with his appointment of becoming President and Chief Operating Officer for the Chrysler Corporation.

Throughout his great career, Lutz had built and created such a great team work environment for the Chrysler Corporation and other manufactures as well. As the Chrysler Corporation was changing its direction of new automotive designs of products throughout the 1980s, Lutz had this to say about the new and exciting programs “We ran the LH program just like AMC, we didn't know it but we were doing platform groups. Shortly thereafter Chrysler formed the Neon or the small Car Group. Then it carved the large car group from the carry-overs and took what was left to form the Minivan Platform. The results showed up almost immediately.”

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Another important vehicle that Chrysler introduced because of Lutz’s great ideas and vision was the Dodge Viper, which the project included Francois Castaing along with the talented Tom Gale. Lutz also oversaw the Chrysler minivan project which was one of the most popular and successful vehicles that made automotive history.

Chrysler had started to win confidence in the American consumer market with the demonstration of strong sales which included the Chrysler Minivan. Lutz said, “We're capitalizing on American strengths, with a can-do spirit and empathy with the customer.”

file 20160125155846 Robert Lutz A great car guyFor a number of years, Bob Lutz was the No. 1 car guy in the industry who created and demonstrated his talents as a skilled marketer who made things happened.

As Lutz’s career would continue at General Motors, he became involved with many great projects for the company that introduced the great looking designed of the Chevrolet Malibu and Equinox crossover models. He also oversaw the manufacturing of the GMC Terrain along with the sporty Pontiac Solstice design.

Lutz had felt that General Motors was on the right track as far as developing new products and great ideas for the consumer market that most consumers thoroughly had enjoyed. Lutz also worked with the talented Vice President of Design, Ed Welburn for many new and exciting designs.

file 20160125155921 Robert Lutz A great car guyTo highlight his resume, Lutz was once the Chairman of the Highway Users Federation for Safety and Mobility. He also once served as a trustee of the Michigan Cancer Foundation and director of the National Association of Manufacturers, Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association and the United Way for Southeastern Michigan and author of several books.

In conclusion, Bob Lutz was a great car guy with many great turnaround ideas that helped to shape and build upon the automotive industry. At his retirement from General Motors on May 1, 2010, Lutz had established a great career in the global auto industry for 47 years. As vice chairman of General Motors he said “Being an irritant and pointing out deficiencies in the company and the way it operates doesn't always make you very popular in the short term. But I did it with my whole career, and it worked for me.”

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