Bob Lutz is perhaps America’s best known auto industry executive, and a living legend in auto circles the world over. At age 80, he is not done yet and is offering to take over the recently failed Fisker Automotive and breathe life back into the car and company.
Lutz is part of an investor group putting together a $20 million offer for the failed luxury electric car company. The offer would be part of a pre-bankruptcy deal, according to Reuters, that would pair the remnants of Fisker with Lutz’s boutique car company VL Automotive and Chinese auto parts supplier Wanxiang Group.
Lutz was most recently vice chairman of General Motors in charge of product development. He went to GM in 2001 when most believed he was retired from auto companies after stints at Chrysler, BMW, Ford and a previous job at GM.
“There is only one Bob Lutz in the auto industry,” says AOL Autos editor-in-chief David Kiley. “He fills up a room with his presence, knowledge and credibility and has forgotten more about how to make exceptional cars and trucks than most other executives know.”
Lutz’s stardom has crossed over from the auto industry into mainstream media as he has appeared on The Tonight Show, The Daily Show and NPR’s Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me.
Lutz was squeezed out of GM after the bankruptcy in 2009 and government takeover which resulted in executives from the telecommunications industry taking over management of the automaker.
Credited with the original concept that eventually became the Chevrolet Volt plug-in, and a makeover of GM’s standards for interior design and build quality, Lutz did not return an e-mail at press time. He recently expressed his interest in Fisker through a column he wrote for Forbes.com. He described the Karma as “quite possibly the most beautiful four-door sedan ever,” and referred to its underlying technology as “ground-breaking.”
Lutz was also showing a car from his new company at the Detroit Auto Show last January that was a Fisker Karma adapted with a gasoline engine. The Karma as designed by Fisker was built to run as an extended-range electric vehicle. The Karma runs on a lithium-ion battery, backed up by a gas-powered motor that powers the battery when the electric charge runs out.
“The only thing wrong with this car is that it is not really practical as an extended-range plug-in,” said Lutz in an interview last January.
The Destino, as Lutz named the re-fitted Karma, comes with a 638-horsepower supercharged LS9 V8 transplanted from a Chevrolet Corvette ZR1.
It’s a car that every auto reviewer would be dying to test and write about.
Fisker burst on the scene around the same time as Tesla Automotive a few years ago, both trying to sell luxury EVs, and taking advantage of the availability of cheap government loans to fund such ventures. While Tesla is soaring, Fisker faced a series of recalls and service actions, including one to deal with a potential fire hazard involving a cooling fan and another to replace defective battery packs produced by Fisker’s supplier, A123 Systems. It also lost hundreds of vehicles to Hurricane Sandy.
Fisker Automotive laid off its staff earlier this year, and was in negotiations to sell its assets to a number of interested parties but none stepped forward to make a deal. Bankruptcy has been expected for weeks. Fisker borrowed $171 million from the Department of Energy, which is not expected to be paid back.