The new Lutz? Not me, says Marchionne
Edward Lapham is executive editor of Automotive News.
There has been some talk around Chrysler that CEO Sergio Marchionne has an eye for styling and design details and likes to get involved in the vehicle design process -- even occasionally suggesting changes -- the same way Bob Lutz did.
It's rare for execs at the top of the food chain to enjoy getting their fingers right down into the styling clay, so there's a chance the "talk'' could be Auburn Hills hallway gossip. You know, like in grade school: "Psssst. Sergio is a super macho car guy, just like Bob Lutz. Pass it on.''
Only one way to find out.
I asked Marchionne about it: Are you the new Bob Lutz?
Marchionne smiled and answered without needing to stop and think about it.
"He's better than I am,'' Marchionne said. "And Bob Lutz flies a helicopter.''
OK. Asking Marchionne if he is the new Bob Lutz probably wasn't fair to either man. Even so, there are some obvious similarities.
Marchionne and Lutz both have dual European and North American cultural roots as well as trans-Atlantic business experience. Both men appreciate swell automobiles and seem to enjoy driving themselves when practical.
Lutz and Marchionne are delights to interview because they both have strong opinions, aren't afraid to share them and can deliver memorable quotes.
Still, it's tough to compare talented executives because there are always differences. For example, Marchionne smokes cigarettes, Lutz smokes cigars.
Lutz prefers well-tailored suits while Marchionne wears black sweaters in winter and black golf shirts in summer.
And Lutz may be a pilot, but Marchionne is a lawyer and an accountant.
Everything else aside, they're both highly motivated, dedicated, demanding and seemingly tireless -- Marchionne has a double-barreled job that doesn't leave enough time to sleep, and Lutz just can't stay retired.
How would you like to be compared to Bob Lutz? Or Sergio Marchionne?
You can reach Edward Lapham at firstname.lastname@example.org.