Looking for some face time with recently-retired General Motors' Vice Chairman of Global Product Development and savior of a brand turned, Bob Lutz? Well, steer clear of the factory because Lutz is most likely to be found on his sprawling family farm in Michigan putting the finishing touches on his latest project, a charming pet mansion that more closely resembles a fairy-tale cottage than your typical doggie digs. The hands that built this lovingly constructed edifice have been around the world and back again, they've patted the hoods of thousands of cars, they've even flown fighter jets with the Marines.
They are the same hands that 75-year-old Lutz gestures with as he explains that in a world filled with wealth, success and fast cars, he must focus on the facets of life that cannot be addressed in a board room. "As much as I like cars," he says, "They are after all not real objects. Every time one of them gets damaged, I tell myself it's something material and money will fix it. Where as when there is something wrong with a dog or cat that you love, or a horse or human, money cannot always fix it. That's much more serious."
One thing Lutz could fix was a company he found in a tight spot in 2001. After being hired out of retirement by General Motors, Lutz realized that the number crunching, spreadsheet dependent methodology of the auto industry was a negative departure from a past that emphasized and honored innovative ideas and a quality product; a phenomenon discussed in his recently released book, "Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business." Like a true animal lover, Lutz knows that the key to success is in the soul. By focusing on a brand that the customer can develop an emotional relationship with, Lutz nearly single handedly reinvigorated an industry that had seemed all but doomed.
Of course, Lutz is no stranger to a bit of doom and danger as he served as a jet-attack aviator in the United States Marine Corp. from 1954 to 1965, has had a distinguished career with the former Chrysler Corporation and with Ford Motor Company finally settling into his current role at General Motors. But that's not to say the automobile mogul doesn't occasionally break from his vast responsibilities at GM to unwind on his farm with his animal friends, who he and wife Denise consider part of the family. And though his keen intellect and long list of accomplishments in an industry characterized by streamlined steel could lead some to suspect otherwise, the Swiss-born businessman reserves a soft spot for his pets--a gaggle of dogs, cats and horses that all share living space on the Lutz family's farm in the Detroit area. He explains, "The dogs serve as a source of joy and reinforcement and that is part of the reason why I work,"
He's a worldly man with worldly pets. Don't believe us? Ask Scooter, Lutz' Jack Russell Terrier who can boast of having ventured across the Atlantic eleven times.
Lutz and his wife are currently building a multi-cat colony alongside a complete renovation of their dogs' kennel. And Lutz should hope this next pooch palace is as nice as the last as he has agreed to live "In the Dog House" until he raises an impressive $5000 for the Michigan Human Society for the second year running! Just like all of us, Lutz is addicted love, and he's discovered that there's no better cure for the stress accompanying hard day's work than a healthy dose of puppy love.
For more information, and to see other articles written by Wendy Diamond, please visit www.animalfair.com.