The man largely responsible for reviving General Motors' image as a maker of innovative automotive designs is calling it quits, the company said Wednesday. After 47 years in the automotive industry, Bob Lutz, 78, will step down May 1 from his posts as vice chairman and senior adviser.

"The influence Bob Lutz has had on GM's commitment to design, build and sell the world's best vehicles will last for years to come," GM CEO and Chairman Ed Whitacre said in a written statement. "I, along with many other men and women in GM and throughout the industry, have greatly benefited from his passion, wisdom and guidance."

Lutz said he chose now to retire in part because many of the products he help shepherd through development have made their way onto showroom floors and into consumers' garages. That, combined with the growing strength of GM's remaining four "core" brands, "prove that a product-focused mindset inside the company is in place for the long term," said Lutz, a former Marine pilot.

"I can confidently say that the job I came here to do more than nine years ago is now complete -- the team I have been fortunate to lead has far exceeded my expectations," Lutz said in statement. "Our product lineup is as strong as it has been in GM's history."

Lutz rejoined GM on Sept. 1, 2001 -- just days before the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. At the time, the Detroit-based automotive giant was struggling to compete with better designs from foreign manufacturers, which American car buyers were embracing in increasing numbers. Asian auto makers, such as South Korea's Hyundai, also enjoyed a considerable cost advantage at the time, to the tune of some $4,000, Lutz noted at the time.

News of Lutz retirement comes a day after the company announced it was reshuffling its leadership team in North America. Lutz's role wasn't mentioned in news of the shakeup, although Lutz himself said in January that he'd hoped to stay on at GM as long as it was feasible.

The Swiss-born Lutz made the rounds at Detroit's Big Three, serving time at Ford Motor (F) and Chrysler -- as well as BMW -- in his nearly half century in the business. Among the designs he is credited with are the Dodge Viper sports car, the redesigned Chevrolet Malibu sedan and the recently discontinued Pontiac Solstice convertible.

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