GM's Vice Chairman Will Step Down in May

Robert Lutz retires after 47 years in the auto industy.

General Motors on March 3 announced its vice chairman and industry veteran Robert Lutz would retire in May, amid a shakeup of the firm's senior managers.

"Lutz will retire effective May 1, 2010, capping a 47-year career in the global auto industry that included senior leadership positions at four of the world's leading automakers," GM said. Lutz, 78, rejoined GM on September 1, 2001, as the head of product development after serving in top positions at BMW, Chrysler and Ford.

"The influence Bob Lutz has had on GMs commitment to design, build and sell the worlds best vehicles will last for years to come," GM chief executive and chairman Ed Whitacre said.

He had postponed retirement last year in an apparent bid to maintain continuity at the largest U.S .automaker, which emerged in July from bankruptcy protection. Lutz has been part of the GM inner circle that guided the firm though the economic crisis and a massive government bailout that supported the bankruptcy reorganization.

The announcement came a day after GM announced a major reshuffling of its North American sales and marketing team and hours after the top U.S. automaker named a new vice president for global communications.

Lutz said he decided to retire now in part because he is confident that a "product-focused mindset inside the company is in place for the long term" and because he is satisfied with GM's current lineup of "hot-selling" vehicles.

"I can confidently say that the job I came here to do more than nine years ago is now complete -- the team I have been fortunate to lead has far exceeded my expectations," Lutz said. "Our product lineup is as strong as it has been in GMs history. The perception of our products and brands is beginning to catch up with reality. And most importantly, the absolute commitment to being a product-driven company is ingrained throughout the organization."

Lutz was tapped by Whitacre last December to also serve as advisor on design and global product development. He is expected to continue in his advisory role until he retires May 1.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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