With Lutz gone, will it be 'in with the old?'
Edward Lapham is executive editor of Automotive News.
Welburn told me he didn't want to think about what would happen after Lutz's departure from General Motors.
No wonder. As GM's product czar, Lutz has been a great ally to Welburn, who built and breathed life into a global design network that has turbocharged product development. Welburn's global network also has made GM more efficient by enabling design centers around the world to develop expertise in designing different types of cars and trucks.
Lutz used his swagger and sway within the corporation to re-enfranchise and unleash the automaker's designers.
Welburn told me the changes Lutz inspired at GM have been much more than just improving the products. Lutz changed the culture, he said.
"There is no more back stabbing or any of the other political stuff that used to go on," said Welburn, who has been a GM designer since he graduated from Howard University in 1972. "We have great camaraderie now."
Welburn said that inside the company, Lutz's direct reports in product development refer to themselves as the Gang of Six.
That's great, I admitted, but what happens when Bob Lutz isn't around anymore? Will the jungle reclaim the airstrip?
Welburn looked me square in the eye.
"Interesting way of putting it," he said. "There are those in the company that have really changed. I think Bob has had an incredible influence on the people as well as the relationships between the people and the organization and the structure of the organization."
But will it be a different company without Lutz?
"It definitely will be," said Welburn. "But the foundation is in place."
We're about to find out.
You can reach Edward Lapham at firstname.lastname@example.org.