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GM’s Lutz Extends Stay, Enforces Whitacre’s Monday-Meeting Plan

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GM’s Lutz Extends Stay, Enforces Whitacre’s Monday-Meeting Plan

By Jeff Green

Dec. 14 (Bloomberg) -- General Motors Co. Vice Chairman Bob Lutz said he extended his eight-year stay to help Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ed Whitacre run the largest U.S. automaker and he’s “fine” with his new role at the company.

Whitacre’s Monday-morning strategy meetings with his direct reports set the agenda for the week, Lutz, 77, said in a Dec. 11 interview. Lutz said he takes his cue from those sessions and ensures the former AT&T Inc. chairman’s wishes are carried out by the product development, design and engineering teams.

“I’m fine with the role, because by his own admission, Ed really doesn’t know the mechanics of the business,” Lutz said.

Whitacre is relying on Lutz and director Steve Girsky as counselors after assuming the CEO duties with the Dec. 1 ouster of Fritz Henderson. Lutz was reassigned on Dec. 4 to his new role as an adviser without direct reports after running Detroit- based GM’s marketing, prompting speculation he might leave.

“It’s the same disclaimer I’ve made for the last 10 years,” Lutz said in an interview from a conference room near his design office in Warren, Michigan. “I will stay as long I feel that I’m making a contribution, that I’m being listened to, that I can genuinely move the needle and I continue to have an important role in the company.”

Plans Change

Lutz joined GM in 2001 to revive the automaker’s product portfolio. He was on a three-year contract that was extended by one year and then left to run indefinitely, he said. He had planned to retire this month until agreeing to delay the move to take the sales and marketing job under Henderson in July.

Before coming to GM, Lutz worked at Ford Motor Co. and the former Chrysler Corp. His new post as Whitacre’s adviser on design and global product development builds on his role as design chief before taking the top marketing job.

Lutz was among about a dozen executives given new roles after a four-hour meeting between Whitacre and senior management on Dec. 2 to lay out the new structure. The reorganization put Mark Reuss in charge of the North American unit, emphasized younger executives and installed more women in top jobs.

Whitacre, 68, has told employees and reporters that GM must abandon its old corporate culture and hasten efforts to cut costs and regain market share. The Obama administration’s auto task force appointed him in June to run a revamped board once GM left a $50 billion, U.S.-backed bankruptcy in July.

GM hired executive search firm Spencer Stuart to seek a permanent CEO, a person familiar with those plans said last week. Whitacre told employees Dec. 2 a search may take months or as “long as a year.”

GM also said today that Chief Financial Officer Ray Young will become vice president of international operations over finance on Feb. 1. Whitacre said Dec. 8 that a successor to Young, 47, would be named in two or three weeks.

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