Bob Lutz, a legend of the American auto industry, visited Eastern Michigan University on June 4 to promote his new book, “Icons and Idiots: Straight Talk on Leadership” and to share his experience with strong leaders throughout his career in the auto industry.
“We are a Michigan school, and Michigan is based on the auto industry,” EMU president Susan Martin said before the event. “Bob’s career experience is what many of our students aspire to.”
The evening with Bob Lutz was hosted by EMU, the American Foundry Association and EMU’s College of Technology.
“The object was to bring industry leaders in to see EMU and what we have to offer,” said Betty Stremich, director of corporate and foundation relations at EMU.
Lutz logged an impressive 47-year career in the auto industry, with jobs at GM, Chrysler, Ford and BMW over the years. Many of his roles were rooted in development, making Lutz a major innovator in the auto industry’s history.
Lutz’s most recent role in the industry was as vice chairman and special advisor of design and global product development at General Motors Co.
He said his last 10 years at GM was his favorite time in his career.
“I was over 70 and I had my reputation and a very senior rank,” Lutz said. “Developing the Chevrolet Volt was without question my favorite.”
Lutz shared excerpts from “Icons and Idiots,” entertaining the audience with his knack for story telling and his quick wit. The readings were followed by a short question and answer session, which Lutz said is always his favorite part of the evening.
During the question and answer, one audience member asked Lutz to share his opinions on the controversial faulty GM ignition switches, which have been connected to at least 13 deaths.
Lutz thinks the faulty ignitions were a result of the high turnover at the company at the time the ignitions were developed, and the lack of communication between different departments.
Lutz said he thinks each department knew small aspects of the problem, but employees never came together to see the big picture and understand the scope of the problem.
All proceeds for the evening with Bob Lutz event went towards supporting scholarship opportunities in metal casting or materials science curriculum for students in the area.
“It sounds trite, but strive for excellence,” Lutz said.
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