NEW YORK (CNNfn) - General Motors Corp. Thursday named Robert Lutz, who helped revive Chrysler with a strong lineup of cars and trucks, as head of product development.|
Lutz, who served as vice chairman of Chrysler, has agreed to a three-year contract in a move meant to help the world's largest automaker reinvigorate its product development, which some industry analysts have called uninspired.
Shares of GM (GM: up $1.18 to $63.85, Research, Estimates) jumped on the news, while the U.S. shares of DaimlerChrysler (DCX: down $1.09 to $48.31, Research, Estimates) fell slightly.
(Source: Exide Technologies)
"Lutz's hiring signals the possibility of a renaissance at GM and heightens our sensitivity to the possibility of more constructive change," said analyst John Casesa of Merrill Lynch. "This is a major change in strategy for GM, which has historically relied heavily on inside promotions."
Lutz, named a vice chairman of GM reporting to CEO Rick Wagoner, will succeed Tom Davis, group vice president for product development, who retires in the first quarter of next year after 37 years with the automaker. Wayne Cherry, vice president of the design center, will report to Lutz, GM said.
"I was incredibly impressed with his (Lutz's) continuing passion and enthusiasm for cars and trucks and the auto industry in general," Wagoner said.
Lutz also will work closely with Ron Zarrella, head of GM North America, in developing products for the North American market, and also will oversee development of GM's global product portfolio.
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Lutz's employment agreement with GM is effective Sept. 1. He is the second top executive from a competitor to join GM since Wagoner became CEO. In December, GM hired John Devine, a former chief financial officer of Ford Motor Co., as chief financial officer.
Lutz, who retired as Chrysler vice chairman in July 1998 – between the time the merger with Daimler-Benz was announced and when it was completed – will continue as chairman of battery maker Exide Technologies Inc. (EX: down $0.72 to $6.75, Research, Estimates), GM said.
-- from staff and wire reports