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Lutz Retiring from GM

By Steven S. Brooks Published: February 10, 2009
General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz (left) and former GM Designer Peter Brock, of Brock Racing Enterprises, listen to comedian/auto enthusiast Jay Leno (right) talk about his latest restoration, a 1,070-horsepower 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado at a reception in Las Vegas Monday, November 1, 2004, in association with the 2004 Specialty Equipment Market Association trade show. The Toronado's extreme horsepower is supplied by a concept engine. The car is equipped with parts provided by GM Performance Parts. The SEMA show runs from Nov. 2-5 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (General Motors/Matthew Minard)

An icon of the automotive industry has announced his retirement. Bob Lutz, 77, Vice Chairman of General Motors has announced that he will transition into the role of senior adviser on April 1 and fully retire at the end of this year.

Lutz is a legendary auto executive who has held senior management positions with all three of the major American auto manufacturers and, earlier in his career, BMW. His flamboyant style and love for fast cars and flying his own fighter jet made him a pop hero among typically staid auto execs. He identified with the buying public and had a genuine knack for knowing what the consumer wanted in new models. Los Angeles Times' auto writer Dan Neil called Lutz "the auto industry's most quotable and charismatic executive in a town where charisma is scarcer than banana tress".

What does this mean to the average car guy*? Unfortunately, we're losing our strongest voice in the American auto industry. Passionate enthusiasts, like Lutz, have been universally replaced by corporate robots; journeymen executives who could care less whether they're in the car industry, the chewing gum industry or the belt buckle business. The industry will continue to become more regulated and cars will be built to a formula based on these regulations. Lutz saw this and decided to leave when he couldn't build fun cars anymore. It's a sad day.

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