Bob Lutz has just turned 80. The Swiss-born U.S. citizen, who has held leading positions at General Motors, Chrysler, Ford and BMW during a long auto industry career, has been enjoying semi retirement since 2010.
But Lutz is still managing to stay very busy, he told me on Sunday, as he prepared to fly to Florida to meet his wife, Denise, who celebrates her birthday today, the day after his own birthday.
As well as writing a blog for Forbes, he is a television pundit for CNBC and works as a consultant for GM and Group Lotus. He also does lecture tours from time-to-time and sits on the boards of a number of small technology start-ups.
Lutz is an industry icon who over the years has been loved and, on occasion, heavily criticized. During his time with GM, the 'resident rock star,' as he was known helped to oversee the production of a number of legendary cars such as the Chevy Camaro and the Cadillac Sixteen concept.
A glance in the garage of this multimillionaire shows that he still has a soft spot for classic automobiles. His collection includes an Aston Martin DB2, a Hummer H3, Pontiac Solstice and a Jeep Grand Wagoner, to name just a few.
And it isn't just cars that interest him. Lutz has two private fighter jets and two helicopters that he continues to pilot himself. "Flying is a expensive hobby. This is one of the reasons that I still have to work," he told me during an interview on his 76th birthday. These days, he tries to fly the jet at least once a week. "The helicopter less in winter, more in summer," he says.
Lutz is on his third marriage and has a total of five daughters and eight grandchildren.
An industry icon he may be, but Lutz is not flawless. He made mistakes, such as green-lighting products that were not a great sales success. At times he was a hard boss to work for, but that doesn't change the fact that, in my mind, he's certainly a candidate for the title of "greatest automotive entertainer of all time."
Lutz always had the courage to speak out when others would have stayed quiet and he was never afraid to ruffle feathers.
If you need any reminding of what Lutz stood for in the industry, take a look his book Guts: 8 Laws of Business from One of the Most Innovative Business Leaders of Our Time. The book was published in 2003, but has lost none of its relevance or entertainment value.
Personally, I only disagree with rule 5 of the following business laws that Lutz outlines:
1. The customer isn't always right
2. The primary purpose of business is not to make small money.
3. When everybody else is doing it, don't!
4. Too much quality can ruin you
5. Financial controls are bad
6. Disruptive people are an asset
7. Teamwork isn't always good
8. When you inherit a really big rat's nest, don't try to lure them out with food. Use a flamethrower.
I really hope that Lutz manages to follow the example of his father who stayed healthy in old age and was still working as a banker into his early nineties.
Happy birthday Bob!