So now Bob Lutz forgoes retirement to run General Motors marketing. As one former GM executive told us, "You couldn't make this stuff up."
But whether Lutz is the right guy or not, CEO Fritz Henderson has identified the right problem. As GM emerges from Chapter 11, the company has to connect with the buying public -- something it hasn't done adequately for more than two decades.
The surviving brands need a fighting chance.
In many ways, GM is where it wants to be. It has cleaned up the balance sheet, ditched legacy costs, fixed quality and improved design. Now it must take specific measures to end the aversion to GM products that so many young car shoppers seem to have. Marketing is the new frontier.
The company needs to hammer away at this issue as earnestly as it has attacked the cost base.
Lutz will shake things up, that much is clear. He dislikes GM's current advertising.
But this is about more than advertising and image. It starts with the product, and that has been Lutz's assignment for the past eight years and will continue to be insofar as design is concerned.
Can Lutz fuse product and image? And is he the right guy to try?
Near euphoria greeted the man's earlier unretirement in 2001, when he became GM's product lord. But his comeback this time has raised doubts. One view is that Lutz was part of the problem and thus can't be part of the solution.
Lutz did upgrade the lineup during this decade and certainly understands what it is he is trying to sell. When GM tried to retool its brands in the 1990s, it relied on marketers from other industries who didn't get it.
Lutz always was a marketing executive. As global head of BMW sales and marketing in the early 1970s, he played a central role in creating one of the world's strongest auto brands. Those were the days when BMW's image began to match its performance-oriented products.
The same has to happen at GM. Image must become symbiotic with product.
At age 77, Lutz will try to reach buyers a half-century younger. This is a much different era from his glory days with a much different media.
But this job needs a Bob Lutz. And once again GM has decided that the real thing will do until the imitation comes along.