Bob Lutz. His name alone is enough spark heated discussions amongst us four-wheel loving types. But aside from being "Maximum" and getting GM to construct the Lutz 'Ring and using little more than personal chutzpah to push projects like GM's ill-fated Kappa platform through the General's special brand of extra-thick red tape, have you ever stopped and thought about the jet fightin', cigar chompin' uber car dude's credentials? If you guessed engineer or designer you would be wrong. Turns out that Lutz is little more than a (much) glorified marketer. Says Bob, "I had been practicing medicine without a license."
But he's a really good marketing guy. Lutz was instrumental in not only reviving the ailing BMW brand, but successfully introducing the Roundel to Americans in the 1970s. In fact, he saved the Roundel – BMW wanted to ditch the logo but Lutz said, "Nein." In 1971, BMW CEO Eberhard von Kuenheim lured a 39-year-old sales and marketing exec named Lutz away from Opel. See, after WW2, BMW had tried producing big luxury cars like the 503 and 504 (and the super fly 507), but soon learned that no one in Europe had any money. Then it turned to bubbly Isettas that were neat but hardly mass market stuff. Lutz's job was not only to revive the moribund brand, but get some traction in the plum U.S. market with good products like the 700, the 2002 and the guibo-laden Bavaria.

Since BMW was the underdog, Lutz went with an underdog ad agency called Ammirati & Puris after being impressed by their Fiat ads. Ammirati & Puris came up with the tag line, "The Ultimate Driving Machine," and Lutz had the good sense to green light the campaign. In the early 1970s, Baby Boomers were out of college, making money and ready to start spending that money, especially on premium products. And it's hard to argue with a tag line like "Ultimate Driving Machine," especially for people whose fathers owned sloppy Buicks for the last two decades. Lutz's gamble paid off, as no yuppy worth their salt in the 1980s drove anything less than a 320i. Now, the question becomes: does Lutz have enough left in the tank at 77-years-old to pull a similar stunt for General Motors as the recently bankrupt automaker's chief marketer? We shall wait and we shall see.

[Source: Automotive News - Sub. Req'd | Photo: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty]

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