How many times must a man retire before he is truly and totally done?
For Bob Lutz—the man most recently known for his leadership on bringing the Chevy Volt to market—the magic number may be “two.” Today he announced he was retiring. Again. A year ago he announced his places to retire as GM’s Vice Chairman of Global Product Development on April 1st, 2009, and stay on as an advisor. Then in July Lutz came back to GM again. Is it for real this time?
Love him or hate him, Lutz has left an indelible impact on the automotive industry. He has worked for Chrysler, Ford, GM, and BMW at different points in the past. He has spearheaded development on many successful cars like the Dodge Viper and Chevy Camaro, as well as some immediate flops like the Plymouth Prowler and the Merkur brand. He also is said to have worked on development for the Ford Explorer, which helped kick off the SUV craze. We all know how well that went down.
But Lutz’s magic touch has been left on many of the most inspired cars of the past twenty years, and he is credited with creating a “design renaissance” at GM. Too bad it didn’t save them from bankruptcy.
Lutz is known for more than just cars though; he has a habit of making outlandish statements, like calling global warming a crock. Or suggesting that gas taxes need to increase. Or that hybrids are unlikely to ever make up more than 10% of the automotive market. But Lutz has also said the electrification of the car is “inevitable”, and he claims he has been championing the Volt, despite knowing it will lose GM money. In recent months he has also claimed GM execs are being paid well-below their market value, and has said he would quit before he let the government dictate what cars GM should make. Perhaps that is what happened? Or maybe, at age 78, Lutz is finally ready to retire and enjoy his collection of cars and military jets. Yes, Lutz collects jets.
He told the media outside a restaurant in Geneva today that “At some point you have to do something new. It really is time to move on. Early retirement is finally here at age 78.”
Still, even if he does actually retire, I doubt this is the last we’ll hear from good ol’ “Maximum” Bob.