Bob Lutz

Retired Vice Chairman, General Motors Corporation
President and CEO, Lutz Communications

A leader and innovator in the development
of the first clean car.

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Biography

Bob Lutz is one of the most experienced and high-profile auto executives in the world. Over the course of almost 50 years in the business, he has left an indelible mark on the auto industry: he held senior leadership positions at BMW, Ford, Chrysler, and most recently GM, from which he recently retired as Vice-Chairman.

He has been the force behind the renaissance of fresh, bold designs and performance engineering in US cars — such as the Pontiac Solstice, Cadillac CTS, the re-designed Chevrolet Malibu, and the Dodge Viper. And as a forward-thinking realist, Bob has been on the forefront of the electric car movement, leading the development of the first battery-powered car, Chevrolet’s Volt.

Known as Detroit’s "ultimate car guy," Bob is passionate in his desire to make his automobiles the best in the world, with unparalleled styling, performance, quality, and technical excellence. He is credited with reinvigorating GM’s previously undistinguished vehicle lineup and spearheading the turnaround of the then-hamstrung Chrysler Corporation in the 1990s.

Bob's latest book is Icons and Idiots: Straight Talk on Leadership. In this management manifesto, Bob profiles the leaders that made the strongest impression on him throughout his forty-seven year career.

His previous book was Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business. Here Bob explores the history of America’s competitiveness through the lens of the auto industry. He argues that, although it’s tempting to structure a business around profits, the most successful ventures are focused on excellence and providing superior value. Car Guys was chosen for the Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Best Business Book of 2011 long list.

Bob Lutz is the president and chief executive officer of Lutz Communications. He chairs or serves on the boards of such organizations as Via Motors, EnerG2, NanoSteel, Transonic Combustion, Alexander Proudfoot, and Current Motor. He is also a partner in VL Productions, LLC with Gilbert Villarreal.

The SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) Foundation named him the recipient of its 2006 Manufacturing Leadership Award, which recognizes individuals who have made meaningful contributions to the development of the automotive industry.

He is a contributor to CNBC, Forbes, and Road & Track.

Credentials

  • Retired Vice-chairman, Global Product Development, General Motors Corporation
  • Chairman of the Board, VIA Motors
  • Former President, Chrysler Corporation
  • Former Vice President, Ford Motor Company
  • Former Executive Vice President, BMW
  • Former Chairman and CEO, Exide Technologies
  • MBA, University of California at Berkeley
  • BA, Production Management, University of California at Berkeley
  • Fighter Pilot, US Marine Corps

Books

Icons and Idiots

Straight Talk on Leadership

Bob Lutz

strategy+business Best Business Books of 2013: Leadership

A management manifesto from the acclaimed author of Car Guys vs. Bean Counters

When Bob Lutz retired from GM, after a forty-seven-year career in the car industry, he was one of the most revered leaders in his field. His previous book, Car Guys vs. Bean Counters, recounted his work to revitalize GM and restore drive and passion to the industry.

Now Lutz profiles the leaders — good, bad, and ugly — who made the strongest impression on him throughout his career. With a collection of shocking and sometimes hilarious anecdotes, he creates an entertaining manual of dos and don’ts for the aspiring leader.

The bizarre foibles and rank stupidity of many of his bosses were hardly unique to the car business. Lutz summarizes the positive leadership principles demonstrated or ignored by his bosses and shows what the rest of us can learn from them.

For instance, here’s Lutz on legendary Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca:

“I find it hard to comprehend a leader who feels threatened by subordinates who offer an honest opinion, who aren’t (dangerous) yes-men, who will steer the boss in the right direction. But beneath the commanding stage presence, the brilliant performances on TV, the boldness of his public statements, there was a side to Lee that was vulnerable and insecure.”

Portfolio Hardcover (June 4, 2013)

Review

'Straight Talk On Leadership'Forbes
The inevitable crashThe Economist

Car Guys vs. Bean Counters

The Battle for the Soul of American Business

Bob Lutz

A legend in the car industry reveals the philosophy that's starting to turn General Motors around.

In 2001, General Motors hired Bob Lutz out of retirement with a mandate to save the company by making great cars again. He launched a war against penny pinching, office politics, turf wars, and risk avoidance. After declaring bankruptcy during the recession of 2008, GM is back on track thanks to its embrace of Lutz's philosophy.

When Lutz got into the auto business in the early sixties, CEOs knew that if you captured the public's imagination with great cars, the money would follow. The car guys held sway, and GM dominated with bold, creative leadership and iconic brands like Cadillac, Buick, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, GMC, and Chevrolet.

But then GM's leadership began to put their faith in analysis, determined to eliminate the "waste" and "personality worship" of the bygone creative leaders. Management got too smart for its own good. With the bean counters firmly in charge, carmakers (and much of American industry) lost their single-minded focus on product excellence. Decline followed.

Lutz's commonsense lessons (with a generous helping of fascinating anecdotes) will inspire readers at any company facing the bean counter analysis-paralysis menace.

Portfolio Hardcover (June 9, 2011)

Reviews

GM's Bob Lutz tells allCNN Money
Why GM Couldn't Be AppleThe Atlantic
Book ReviewSports Car Digest

Guts

8 Laws of Business from One of the Most Innovative Business Leaders of Our Time

Bob Lutz

What do you do with a book that’s filled with controversial, counterintuitive, and downright contrarian statements that stand conventional wisdom on its ear and claim, lightheartedly, to be immutable "laws of business?" If the author is Robert Lutz, you read the book very carefully, probably several times, learn all of the "laws" by heart, and follow them to the letter every chance you get. You also find yourself laughing out loud, shaking your head in wonder, and nodding in agreement.

Revised and updated, this is a maverick’s primer on the business philosophy that revolutionized Chrysler and is now powering dramatic new product development at General Motors. In it, Lutz reexamines his iconoclastic maxims to see how they have withstood the test of time. With hard evidence, hilarious anecdotes, and his characteristic frankness, the high-flying chairman of GM North America challenges his own contention that businesses should deliberately construct a "schizophrenic" corporate culture that combines rock-solid financial controls with a highly creative, no-holds-barred product development process.

Wiley (September 26, 2003)

Topics

Bob tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

Leadership

The U.S. Auto Industry

Feedback

Comments from a national trade association for market funded providers of financial services event:
He was perfect for their event.
Drew largest crowd, some folks from [...] event came too.
Attended Board dinner evening prior, breakfast before he spoke and after lecture he enjoyed talking with people as he walked visiting vendors.
Customer impressed by his level of energy.
Everyone loved him.

An auto industry executives conference:
I can't say enough kind things about Bob Lutz. He is truly a gentlemen, a fabulous spokesman not to mention quite the sense of humor. His presentation was great and our survey results to date show our audience voting it as "excellent". The dinner and VIP lunch was quite a thrill for those who got to share a table with him.