Lutz Leaves Post at Ford to Go to Chrysler
In a surprise move, Robert A. Lutz, one of Ford’s highest-ranking executives and once an heir-apparent to the chairmanship of the No. 2 auto maker, jumped to cross-town rival Chrysler on Tuesday to work for Lee A. Iacocca.
Lutz’s decision to join Chrysler marks another coup for Iacocca. The Chrysler chairman has stolen dozens of Ford executives away from his former employer since being fired as Ford president by Henry Ford II in 1978. Today, virtually every top executive at Chrysler is a veteran of Ford.
Lutz, apparently the victim of bureaucratic infighting at Ford, will become an executive vice president of Chrysler Motors, Chrysler’s car subsidiary, in charge of truck, component and international operations. He will report to Chrysler Motors Chairman Gerald Greenwald, another ex-Ford official who now runs Chrysler’s automotive operations.
“Bob Lutz is a proven executive,” Iacocca said in a statement. “He is an entrepreneur with a strong international background and a wealth of truck product and marketing experience.”
In his most recent job at Ford, Lutz was in charge of the company’s truck operations. But he had earlier made his mark overseas. By 1982, he had risen to executive vice president for international operations and seemed to be in line for Ford’s presidency or the chairmanship.
But in 1984, a series of management disputes and sales problems in Europe forced him to return to a lower-level job as chairman of Ford of Europe. His rise to the top seemed to be put on hold after that; he did not move up when the jobs of chairman and president came open in early 1985. He was named executive vice president for truck operations in March.
Lutz, 54, who will become a member of Chrysler’s board, is the highest-ranking Ford executive to leave the company to work for Iacocca and will immediately be involved in some of Chrysler’s most important projects.
In his role as head of overseas business, Lutz will be in charge of Chrysler’s new U.S. joint venture with Mitsubishi and will supervise the firm’s plans to acquire Maserati, the Italian sports car maker.