Going by the letter

One doesn't take long to decide on whether to eject from a burning aircraft.

Robert Lutz is a man of quick decisions, a trait probably learned as a Marine fighter pilot. One doesn’t take long, for example, to decide on whether to eject from a burning aircraft.

Lutz was head of Opel sales and marketing when the Rekord B was launched in Nice, France, in 1972. On the first day of the presentation, other reporters and I filed into the hall. Looking rather stressed, then-Opel President Alex Cunningham took a seat next to me.

“I hope this presentation will work,” he whispered. “This morning, Bob Lutz pushed a letter under my hotel room door. It said: ‘Sorry, I had to leave early for Munich. Tomorrow I start my job as BMW’s sales vice president.’ I had to get the president of Opel Italy to do this presentation. Would you believe it?”

Two years later, at a BMW presentation, I looked around to interview Lutz before the meeting started. There was no sign of him, so I asked BMW President Eberhard von Kuenheim if he knew Bob’s whereabouts.

“You won’t believe it,” von Kuenheim said, “but he just left a letter on my desk. It said: ‘Sorry, I am leaving to become president of Ford of Europe.’ Would you believe it?”

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