General Motors Co. retained former Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, who helped lead each U.S. automaker during the past 48 years, as a part-time consultant.
Lutz, 79, will be available to senior executives effective immediately, the Detroit-based company said today in a statement on its website.
The former U.S. Marine fighter pilot worked two stints at the largest U.S. automaker, the first ending in 1970. In the second, he led GM’s global product development and held other management roles during a nine-year stretch until May 2010.
“I don’t think he’ll ever retire until he’s in a coffin,” Dave Sullivan, a product analyst at Tustin, California-based AutoPacific Inc., said in a phone interview. “He’s a true car guy and he was born to do this. It’s hard for him to cut the cord.”
Lutz already has informally consulted with senior leaders including Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson and Mary Barra, who was named head of global product development in January, said Jay Cooney, a GM spokesman.
“This simply formalizes those discussions,” Cooney said in a phone interview. “He would be available to speak with any senior leader at General Motors about any topic. His knowledge and experience runs the gamut.”
Cooney declined to comment on Lutz’s compensation.
Lutz rejoined GM in September 2001 and later championed the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid car, which began selling late last year. He previously held executive posts at Ford Motor Co., where he helped develop the Ford Explorer sport-utility vehicle, and the former Chrysler Corp., where he oversaw the Dodge Viper sports car and Ram pickup, and PT Cruiser wagon.
He also worked at Bayerische Motoren Werke AG starting in 1972, after his first GM stint. Lutz’s GM career began in 1963.
“His impact at GM is probably bigger than maybe any other automaker he’s been at,” said Sullivan, who is based in Troy, Michigan. “Their product line right now is probably the best it’s ever been. Everything that GM’s coming out with that’s new seems to be doing very well.”
Lutz has said he delayed his retirement from GM in 2009 when he was asked to stay as head of sales and marketing. Then-Chairman Ed Whitacre changed his role to adviser for global design and product development in December 2009, and GM announced three months later that Lutz would leave the company.
Akerson, 62, picked Barra to lead product development earlier this year after she spent about 19 months as vice president of global human resources. Before leading human resources, Barra worked with Lutz as vice president of global manufacturing engineering.
“She has a lot of people that are still upset with GM over getting bailed out by the government,” Sullivan said. “There’s a lot riding on her shoulders to prove people wrong. It’s going to be up to her to continue what has brought about GM’s recent success with the next generation of vehicles.”
GM fell 96 cents, or 4.2 percent, to $22.07 at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.