Maximum Bob to retire

March 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

General Motors’ vice-chairman and head of product development Bob Lutz has announced that he will retire – this time, for good – on 1st May 2010.

Lutz, 78, spent 47 years in the auto industry at BMW, Ford and Chrysler as well as at GM, which he joined in 2001, and was responsible for introducing some of the guiltiest gas-guzzlers to the world: Ford Explorer, Dodge Viper, Pontiac GTO and G8, the reborn Camaro and Corvette, as well as the line-up of large trucks and SUVs which left GM stranded and in dire need of government handouts when oil prices rose and North American customer demand suddenly changed. He also oversaw ill-fated projects such as the hugely expensive repeated attempts to launch Cadillac in Europe (whilst leaving Saab, an established premium-level brand, to flounder and wither).

The motoring press and petrolheads around the world have always loved ‘Maximum Bob’ for being a genuine ‘car guy’, always one for more power, more speed, more adrenalin and more testosterone – and for his refreshing candour, directness and lack of respect for political correctness, for which I salute him too.

However,  his late-in-the-day enthusiasm for the Chevrolet Volt was entirely unconvincing. Lutz thought that global warming was “a crock of shit” (full marks for honesty and the courage of his convictions, at least) and told me in an interview some years ago that Americans would “never be interested” in buying small or fuel-efficient vehicles (“you clearly don’t understand about Americans, or American men in particular, young lady”). Nice to have met ya, Bob.

The end of an era at GM, then, and perhaps now it can properly embrace the demands and changing culture of the 21st century.

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