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Auto exec who overhauled GM lineis retiring

DETROIT - Bob Lutz, the longtime auto industry executive who led nearly a complete overhaul of General Motors' lineup, will retire May 1.

Lutz, 78, confirmed his retirement in an e-mail to The Associated Press Wednesday.

"My work is done here," Lutz wrote from a restaurant at the Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland. "The whole organization, top to bottom, now has absolute product superiority as the highest objective which enables all others. So, I can retire in peace."

Lutz, GM's vice chairman and a former U.S. Marine aviator, has been responsible for overhauling design at GM and has held senior positions at three other automakers. He has called the Chevrolet Volt, the gas-electric sedan that can go up to 40 miles on battery-power alone, his proudest achievement.

Lutz is also credited with leading crosstown rival Chrysler Group Llc to great success in the 1990s and spent time at Ford Motor Co. and Germany's BMW AG.

"Nobody had better call this 'early retirement,' " Lutz told the AP.

Lutz said recent vehicle successes at GM, including the Buick LaCrosse, Cadillac SRX, GMC Terrain, Chevrolet Equinox and Chevrolet Camaro, played heavily into his decision to retire. Chairman and chief executive Ed Whitacre praised Lutz's influence on GM.

"I, along with many other men and women in GM and throughout the industry, have greatly benefited from his passion, wisdom and guidance," Whitacre said in a statement.

Lutz began his career at GM in 1963 in sales and marketing. In the following decades he worked at Ford, BMW and the former Chrysler Corp. Through the late 1980s and into the 1990s, he held senior positions at Chrysler, leading all of its automotive activities including sales, marketing, product development and manufacturing.

During his time at Chrysler, the automaker came out with the new, more aggressive Dodge Ram pickup truck, which vaulted Chrysler to a larger market share. At GM, Lutz pushed the Chevrolet Malibu and Cadillac CTS, two top sellers and symbols of the next generation of GM products. He also upgraded GM's vehicle interiors, making them more competitive with Japanese models. Lutz was named vice chairman of GM last December, assigned to advise Whitacre on design and global product development. - AP

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