Robert Lutz has spent a lifetime keeping major car companies in the black. Now, he’s determined to turn them green. As Vice Chairman of Product Development for General Motors the 75 year old is the driving force behind their latest initiatives. And he told Growing Bolder he has big plans.
“We’re pushing e85, an ethanol based fuel as an immediate solution. And in the next two years, we’re launching nine hybrids including full-size sport utilities and pickup trucks. We’ve announced the plug-in hybrid, and in the case of Chevrolet, we’ve announced that we are going into production with the Chevrolet Volt, which is a pure electric car with a small internal combustion engine that can get you home if you run out of batteries. So we’re totally committed to reducing dependence on oil.”
Those are big plans and a bold new direction from a man who was forced in to retirement 10 years earlier. He was an executive with Chrysler Corporation until mandatory retirement shut him down at 65. It only lasted four months. He couldn’t take just sitting on the sidelines.
“My dad still went to work at 93. I certainly don’t feel my age.” He doesn’t act it either. He told Growing Bolder he loves to ride his motorcycles and even pilot helicopters.
“I don’t feel any different than when I was 30. And in learning a little about Growing Bolder, I think your message is very apropos. I agree that age is a question of attitude also.”
He’s got plenty of attitude. His push toward greener cars surprised many in the industry. After all, Lutz is considered the father of the Ford Explorer, Dodge Viper, Chrysler Prowler and the 1000 horsepower Cadillac 16. Hardly the work of someone concerned with fuel efficiency. So, what sparked the change? He insists all he’s doing is building what the public is demanding.
“I’m for whatever works. And whatever the direction technology is headed, I’m there. I’m not going to get in to the science of global warming, which is dubious at best, but hey, if the nation and the government has decided it’s a priority to reduce CO2 emissions I salute that. There are all kinds of reasons for reducing dependency on oil and I dare say I believe GM is doing more than any other car company.”
He spoke to Growing Bolder from his vacation home in Switzerland. He said the price of gasoline there is anywhere between $7 and $8 per gallon and has been for years. He says even though he’s 75 years old, he can see the challenge of automobile industry’s future quite clearly.
“Ultimately, we have to get to the electrification of the automobile and get away from petroleum.”