Bob Lutz retires….hasta la vista, Bobby!

I suppose you’ve already come across the news that GM’s guy-in-charge-of-product-development-and-quoteable-quotes has announced his pending retirement.

Bob Lutz will hand over his duties as Vice Chairman for global product development on April 1st (insert witty fool’s day joke here) but will stay on as a senior consultant until the end of 2009.

He’s getting out while the getting’s still reasonaby good but to give him credit, he’s staying on to help steer the ship, unlike some other retirement candidates who have simply pulled the pin and left.
BobLutzAnthonyLoSaab.jpg Bob Lutz should – quite rightly – be remembered as a guy who bought quality, design and a ‘car guy’ mentality back to General Motors as a corporation. Many of us complain about beancounters getting too much input into car design and Bob’s a guy who tried to swing the emphasis by incorporating good design in a way that didn’t blow the budget. GM have reorganised their design centers and now boast a flexibility that should serve them well as a mainstream manufacturer for years to come, should they survive.

Unfortunately, Bob’s going to be remembered in Saab circles as a guy who killed off a number of model developments at a time when Saab could have really used them. Various sources in Sweden have mentioned to me in the last few years that the vehicle to be based off the original Saab 9-3x concept, as well as other variants that would have come into the Saab 9-3 range around five years ago, were cancelled on Lutz’s say-so.

Similarly, a replacement for the Saab 9-5 was cancelled around mid-decade, resulting in the Dame Edna revision we got in 2006.

If Saabs are seen as long in the tooth and in danger of extinction, then some of the responsibilty for that sits at Bob Lutz’s door.

Still, Saab may also benefit from his work, too, and in ways that we’ll never know. His input on the Saab Aero-X is unknown, but I’m sure he saw the drawings prior to it going ahead. That vehicle signalled a continuing existence for Saab and will influence production Saabs for some time to come.

Bob, I’d like to be able to put my hand on my heart and say thanks for services rendered to Saab, but I can’t. That you helped GM improve overall and thereby lended a hand to Saab surviving is a good thing, so I guess I’ll take the middle ground and settle for saying thanks for the entertainment, and have a happy retirement.

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