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Winter 2003 CalBusiness  
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GM Chairman Continues to Transform US Auto Industry

Bob Lutz is a classic car guy – he has built his career taking risks and making hot automotive design a priority. Now at GM after a short attempt at retirement, he is continuing to shake things up. As the chairman of GM North America, vice chairman for product development, and the man behind Chrysler’s PT Cruiser and Dodge Viper, Lutz now hopes to revitalize GM’s product line by aggressively pushing a new design vision, and by changing how decisions are made within the company. Consumers will be able to see first examples of his work at the 2003 auto shows.

Born in Zurich, Switzerland, Lutz became a US citizen in 1943. He first came to the Haas School after receiving his bachelor’s degree in production science from UC Berkeley in 1961 and initially chose Berkeley because of the value, reputation, and location near the Marine Reserve Air Base (NAS Alameda), as he had already distinguished himself as a fighter pilot and officer with the US Marine Corps. His best memory of the Berkeley MBA program is “Hard work, great professors, and having a quantitative orientation.”

After Haas he went to Europe to work for General Motors, BMW, and Ford, eventually returning to the US. Lutz is best known for his work at Chrysler, where he helped revitalize the company with hot-selling cars and trucks that were unique and fun. His 12 years at the company are chronicled in his 1998 book, Guts: The Seven Laws of Business that Made Chrysler the World’s Hottest Car Company. Lutz’ unconventional seven laws of business are:

  • The customer isn’t always right
  • The primary purpose of business is not to make money
  • When everybody else is doing it, don’t!
  • Too much quality can ruin you
  • Financial controls are bad
  • Disruptive people are an asset
  • Teamwork isn’t always good

Lutz acknowledges that his Berkeley MBA helped him succeed in his career. “My studies provided the rigor and knowledge I needed to complement drive and creativity,” he said. “The courses I took in Sociology and Psychology were key to consumer understanding in the auto market.”

In addition to his passion for cars, and granting press interviews, which he has been doing a lot of lately, Lutz is also dedicated to his wife, kids, education, and sports. When he is not at home or at work, one might find him flying military jets. He still flies a privately owned McDonnell-Douglas MD-500E jet helicopter and an ex-Soviet Air Force L-39 “Albatross” jet aircraft.

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Robert Lutz
Robert Lutz
BS 61, MBA 62

Chairman, North America, and Vice Chairman, Product Development, General Motors, Detroit, MI
 
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