Seated at a bleached oak patio table at a racetrack near Nice, France, General Motors' vice chairman regaled journalists with rapid-fire opinions.
He waved a cigar the size of a French baguette, then cleaned his teeth with a Swiss Army knife. Finally, Lutz weighed in on the weighty issues. He talked about Wolfgang Bernhard. The Chrysler 300. His career.
"About 20 years ago, the French made absolutely crappy interiors," he said, licking the knife clean before wiping it on his white jeans. "Whether it was Renault or Peugeot. They were OK cars, but their interiors were terrible. They were even worse than recent GM interiors."
There was a pause as the group waits for his punch line. "By recent, I mean 10 years ago when we suddenly discovered gray plastic."
This is Lutz. At 72, he's in his glory. Like a cocky rooster, he's still in charge. While GM spent four days showing 80 international journalists how it is globalizing its product strategy, Lutz stole the show.
He provided levity and perspective. He provided specifications on the aerodynamics of a German fighter jet that he had purchased. Mostly he provided a little Lutz.
One journalist asked whether future cars would be designed "from the inside out." Lutz demurred. It didn't make sense to design a car's interior first, he said. Then he compared a car with a woman.
"What do you want in a female companion?" he asked. "What is the first thing that attracts you? Her ability to cook and clean house? Or the way she looks? It's not politically correct, and GM hates it when I draw that analogy, but the initial pull comes from the exterior."
Lutz shot down rumors that GM wanted to hire Bernhard, the former No. 2 executive at the Chrysler group. Then he slyly suggested that the journalists spread a rumor that Bernhard would go to Ford Motor Co.
Then Lutz said he didn't particularly like the Chrysler 300. The beltline was too high, the car had a small greenhouse, and he was sick to death about hearing it compared to a Bentley. As for the 300's overall design: "Would I approve the car, or tell designers to go back and work on it some more? I don't think I would have approved it."
Asked whether GM had improved its own products, Lutz said the automaker is "about 80 percent" of the way there.
Lutz got credit for plenty. Designers credited his drive, emotion and passion for the improvements GM has made in its cars.
Bottom line: On a warm weekend in France, Lutz was a breath of fresh air.
Or a gust. Take your pick.