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'Shocked' Lutz tight lipped on Fritz

Sad: GM vice-chairman Bob Lutz says he is sad at CEO Fritz Henderson's departure - but he won't discuss the circumstances.

Bob Lutz fills in as LA show speaker but refuses to fill in gaps on GM CEO departure

3 Dec 2009

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in LOS ANGELES

OUTSPOKEN car industry veteran and General Motors vice-chairman Bob Lutz today expressed sorrow at the sudden departure of former GM CEO Fritz Henderson.

Replacing Mr Henderson as the guest speaker on the first press day of the 2009 Los Angeles Auto Show, Mr Lutz said he had been both shocked and saddened at the turn of events.

However, Mr Lutz made it clear that he would not discuss or entertain speculation with the assembled media on why his former boss left so abruptly just under 24 hours earlier.

“I have to apologise because there’s not much news coming out of the General Motors Corporation lately,” he joked.

“I know we’re doing very little to fill in the pages of newspapers and the TV screens.

“But I know that all of you want the inside story of what truly transpired at General Motors yesterday ... and I am not going to give it to you ... but I will say this:

 center imageLeft: Bob Lutz and Fritz Henderson in happier times.



“I think all of us were surprised and the whole General Motors team is genuinely saddened at what may have transpired.

“Fritz is without question a great executive – one of the absolute finest executives I have ever worked for.

“He is given to an enormous intelligence, a broad knowledge of the business, exceptional common sense, and he guided General Motors through perhaps the most difficult journey in its whole history, called bankruptcy and emerging from bankruptcy.

“I knew him personally and on a personal basis am very sad to see him go.

“But meanwhile, we’ve got a large, great corporation to run with new shareholders, and we are going to do our hardest to keep our focus on the products, because at the end of the day that is what’s going to save the company.

“So when it comes to questions please keep to that stuff because I will definitely be Mr Teflon when it comes to the Fritz subject …” Mr Lutz went on to speak about GM’s future product plans, and chose to focus on the progress of the Volt range-extender electric vehicle and how it was on time for a late-2010 release to both retail buyers as well as companies.

He also discussed GM’s better-than-expected financial position in the post Chapter 11 bankruptcy period as a result of the huge cuts in jobs, models, brands and factories that had to occur over the last year.

When an American journalist asked a question about the circumstances surrounding Mr Henderson’s hasty exit, the 77-year-old Lutz smiled wryly and then after a brief pause said: “Next question!”

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