Biography: Bob Lutz's Long Road

Bob Lutz Biography

Bob Lutz Biography

the 1960s

1962: Graduates from Berkeley at age thirty with an MBA, then goes to work for General Motors in New York City. He mostly conducts research and prepares reports.

Mid-1960s: Transferred to Opel in Europe as a lowly "assistant to the assistant director" but soon ingratiates himself with designers. Having discovered drawings for what would become the Opel GT, he helps sneak a concept into the 1965 Paris and Frankfurt auto shows. It's a hit, but his GM bosses aren't pleased.

the 1970s

1971: Frustrated with the GM system, he leaves for freer air (and much better pay) at BMW AG, where he becomes head of sales and marketing. During his reign, BMW takes over its disparate network of independent auto importers, greatly increasing its overseas profits. Lutz also nurtures the company's motorcycle business and claims credit for the development of the first 3-series and 6-series.

1974: Realizes he "wasn't going to go anywhere" at BMW since another young man, Eberhard von Kuenheim, had recently been named CEO (Kuenheim served in that capacity until 1993). Lutz moves to Ford, where's he's soon put in charge of its European operations.

the 1980s

1982: Divorces and soon remarries.

Early 1980s: Moves to Ford's U.S. operations, where he initiates a major hit (the Explorer) and is responsible for a major flop (the Merkur brand).

1986: Moves to Chrysler, which is facing its second crisis in ten years. Lutz reorganizes product development around small "platform teams" responsible for an entire car. He also empowers designers. Payback is huge when the swoopy, cab-forward LH sedans (Dodge Intrepid, Chrysler Concorde, Eagle Vision) and the macho new Ram hit the market in 1993 and '94, respectively.

1988: Conceives the idea for the Dodge Viper halo sports car while driving around in his Mark IV Cobra (a Shelby Cobra replica featured on the cover of our May 1986 issue). The resulting concept debuts at the 1989 Detroit auto show and is rushed into production.

the 1990s

1992: Ego clashes with Lee Iacocca. Lutz is widely considered the lead candidate to replace Lido, but Lutz doesn't help matters by mocking Iacocca behind his back. Bob Eaton is named CEO.

1994: Third marriage.

1998: Sees the writing on the wall and "retires" after Chrysler merges with Daimler-Benz.

1998: Releases Guts, a memoir/business manifesto that includes "Lutz's Immutable Laws of Business." Among them are, "The customer isn't always right," and "Too much quality can ruin you."

1999 Takes over troubled battery maker Exide and soon thereafter launches his own carmaker, Cunningham Motor Company, with Briggs Cunningham III. Exide soon goes bankrupt, and CMC goes belly up.

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