If there was one certain way of getting a GM-related story or a controversial quote at a motor show, it was to doorstep Bob Lutz.
Lutz could invariably be found on the show stand just after some new car or other had been unveiled. Us hacks would cluster around, in thrall.
Whether it was his skepticism about man-made global warming, or a few choice indiscretions about future model plans, Lutz never disappointed.
He was, perhaps, unique in that during his 46 years in the car industry he held senior positions at Ford, Chrysler and GM as well as a spell at BMW.
Lutz had an instinct for bold products and was often found in thick of company turn-around. He was at Ford when the company took a chance on the Sierra. And he was at ailing Chrysler when they developed the LH-series of mid-size cars (nicknamed ‘Last Hope’) that helped turn the company around.
His impact at GM was arguably even more profound, as he cajoled the company towards building far better road cars at a time when the US industry was concentrating on SUVs.
But his big contribution will probably been seen as pioneering GM’s global platform strategy which will see the same basic three platforms used for GM family cars in all global markets.
Indeed, Lutz also saw the potential for shifting production of related cars around the world to counter exchange rate movements.
But Lutz was so out-spoken (in the best sense of the phrase) he was eventually given a personal PR minder. But that didn’t stop him.
A couple of years ago, I got a lucky audience with him at the launch of Hydrogen-powered Sequel and learnt more about the car industry in one evening than in the previous 12 months.
I had ended up on a small table with Lutz and his PR minder, who promptly fell asleep. Lutz got stuck into explaining the strategy behind the new Epsilon 2 global platform and told me that GM had just held the mass-pitch exercise for component manufacturers.
He then told me about the pitch to supply the EP2 seat frame and just how much GM was going pay per unit.
Lutz’s retirement will leave motoring hacks less well informed about the industry.
But, more importantly, the industry will be without a man who had the intellectual and politic muscle to make some of the world’s biggest car companies change direction for the better.