Friday, May 15, 2009

Lucky in Lutz

richard seaman photo

When I came back to Chrysler in 1999, I heard a lot about Bob Lutz. Most said that he was a true car guy, a great boss to work for, someone who would challenge you to do the best without beating you up, someone who made clear decisions and made a great balance between exciting products and profitable cost control. His famous quote is, "Often wrong, never in doubt." Everyone up to and including Vice Presidents talked about his style and skill and how he and Mr. Castaing made Chrysler great.

Now if you listen to the press, you would think that Chrysler never made a decent car, much less an inspirational car, but back in the 90's we were the leaders with innovative and profitable cars (not only trucks). In fact, somewhere back there it said that Mr. Lutz was on the cover of Forbes and Chrysler was the most admired company in America.

By the time I joined in 99, the Daimler crowd was here, Lutz was pushed out and gone to Exide, and the shine on the company was in the rearview mirror.

As it happens, Mr. Lutz lives pretty close to Chelsea Proving Grounds and always had a keen interest in what was going on there. As aircraft collector, he kept his private helicopter at his house and the rest of his planes at Willow Run. While he was at Exide, he would stop by an visit the proving grounds once in while.

It would usually go something like this. I would be out on the Vehicle Dynamics Facility, making a fair bit of noise with tires squealing, etc. and all of a sudden everything would be overcome with a huge roar as a twin engine jet fighter would streak across the pad at about 200 feet elevation. Naturally, that was Mr. Lutz coming to see what was going on. He would usually end up tipping it over on one wing and doing a tight circle around the pad while he checked out the cars out testing there.

Once he went to GM, I guess he thought it wouldn't be right and we didn't see him again. According to K, he started up is visits in Milford at the GM grounds.

I understand that Mr. Lutz has left GM as part of the bailout reorganization. I believe it too, because I was driving out on the oval the other day and saw an old style jet fighter flying low over the VDF. I'm thinking, Mr. Lutz is back.

For me, that is a really good omen. Its a sign that, even though he was away for 10 years, he is still interested and cares what is happening to Chrysler. Cool. I think he may just be our lucky charm.

Now if we could just get Sergio to talk Bob into coming back..........


Yes, that really is Bob in one of his toy jets. Full acknowledgement to Richard Seaman who took the photo at the Yankee Air Show.

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