76-year old Bob Lutz will be retiring from General Motors at the end of the 2009 calendary year. Effective as of the beginning of April, Tom Stephens will take over Lutz’s position as the Vice Chairman in charge of Global Product Development. Bob Lutz will move into a role as a senior advisor to GM boss Rick Wagoner. The 60-year old Stephens, however, will be reporting to Fritz Henderson, the President and COO of General Motors.
Colourful, somewhat enigmatic, and full of risk-taking both in business and in his personal life, the Swiss-born Robert A. Lutz has been responsible for major undertakings at BMW, Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors with titles ranging from President (Chrysler) to Vice President (Ford) and Executive Vice President (BMW) and finally, Chief Executive Officer (Exide Technologies) before heading to GM.
Lutz has pushed for development of small cars for North America that won’t be seen in his tenure – the Chevrolet Beat/Spark/Trax trio. Cadillac’s CTS and the GM Lambda platform (Buick Enclave, Saturn Outlook, Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia) appear to be successes, without the advantage of hindsight. There was a time when Chrysler’s LH platform with vehicles like the Intrepid and Concorde seemed to be the future. That was a Lutz move, too. Lutz was also an active mover and shaker during the Merkur period at Ford Motor Company..
Bob Lutz was a former U.S. Marines pilot and has, in his hangar, a Dassault/Dornier Alpha Jet. His garage is full of motorcycles. And no, his position on global warming doesn’t seem to match with his UC-Berkeley education.
Tom Stephens has worked for General Motors since 1969. In accepting this promotion, Stephens leaves behind his role as the man in charge of global powertrain and quality.
This transition is, in our modern lexicon, a potential game changer.