Lutz is GM's top marketer

14 July 2009

DETROIT: Bob Lutz has been named as General Motors' marketing chief, taking on the role as the slimmed-down car giant comes out of its 40-day bankruptcy.

Lutz, 77, has also worked at Chrysler, Fordand, briefly,BMW, was General Motors' head of global product development, and had previously been expected to retire this year.

But new chief executive Fritz Henderson says his responsibilities will now extend beyond creative design to include "brands, marketing, advertising and communications. His job is to integrate those activities and provide accountability for consistent messaging and results."

Lutz himself says, "I have always been a vocal critic of much that we do. Maybe one of the reasons I got the job was, OK, you don't like it? Fix it."

Post-reorganisation GM now has just four main brands, Cadillac, Buick, Chevrolet and GMC trucks with some famous brands including Pontiac and Hummer closed or sold.

The company was also expected to concentrate its efforts primarily on producing 'greener' cars in return for $30bn (€21.5bn, £18.7bn) of taxpayers' money.

However Lutz says that, while the company's cars will conform to tighter US emissions standards and it has high hopes for its mostly electric Volt model due later this year, it will continue to make performance cars, sports utility vehicles and large trucks "because that's what Americans want."

Some critics have said that a veteran like Lutz is an inappropriate choice for such a key role because digital media, including social networks like Facebook and Twitter, are vital to companies like GM because of the power of personal recommendation. 

The company spent over 20% of last year's $2.9bn (€2bn, £1.8bn) ad budget on such  'unmeasured' media.

Lutz, a blogger himself, seems undeterred by the critics. "We're going to go from being very defensive and risk averse in communications and become much bolder in getting our story out," he says.

Data sourced from AdAge; additional content by WARC staff