updated 3/3/2010 2:45:16 PM ET 2010-03-03T19:45:16

Bob Lutz, the longtime auto industry executive who led nearly a complete overhaul of General Motors' lineup, will retire May 1.

Lutz, 78, confirmed his retirement in an e-mail to The Associated Press on Wednesday.

"My work is done here," Lutz wrote from a restaurant in Geneva at the Geneva Motor Show. "The whole organization, top to bottom, now has absolute product superiority as the highest objective which enables all others. So, I can retire in peace."

Lutz, GM's vice chairman and a former U.S. Marine aviator who once crashed his personal helicopter at a Michigan airport, has been responsible for overhauling design at the automaker. He has called the Chevrolet Volt, the gas-electric sedan that can go up to 40 miles on battery-power alone, as his proudest achievement.

Lutz is also credited with leading crosstown rival Chrysler Group LLC to great success in the 1990s.

"Nobody had better call this 'early retirement'!" Lutz told The AP.

Lutz began his career at GM in 1963 holding sales and marketing positions. In the following decades he worked at both Ford Motor Co. and the former Chrysler Corp. Through the late 1980s and into the 1990s, he held senior positions at Chrysler, leading all of its automotive activities; including sales, marketing, product development and manufacturing.

He rejoined GM in 2001 and was named vice chairman last December, assigned to advise Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre on design and global product development.

Lutz acquired a reputation for candor and flamboyance. Long a fan of high-horsepower V-8 muscle cars, he was in charge in 2008 when GM rolled out the Corvette ZR1, which has a supercharged 638-horsepower V-8 engine, a top speed of 205 miles per hour and can go from 0 to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds.

Lutz first announced in February last year that he would retire at the end of 2009. He was persuaded to stay on after then-CEO Fritz Henderson asked him to lead the automaker's marketing efforts as it emerged from bankruptcy protection.

Henderson was ousted in December by GM's board of directors, and Whitacre took over as both chairman and CEO.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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