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Bob Lutz to join EV start-up VIA Motors

Mon, 26 Sep 2011

Robert Lutz, the former General Motors Co. vice chairman who rejoined the automaker this month as an adviser, has taken a position with electric vehicle maker VIA Motors.

Lutz's role at GM won't change because of the move, a GM spokesman said.

Lutz will be a member of VIA's board of directors, David West, VIA chief marketing officer, said in an interview. He said Lutz will help the privately held startup raise money and create partnerships with automakers.

Through an existing agreement with GM, VIA outfits full-sized pickups with an extended-range electric powertrain that it developed, West said. This fall, it plans to test about 35 of the vehicles with fleet customers, mostly large utilities such as Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

"In my long career working with GM, Ford, Chrysler and BMW, I considered the Chevy Volt the most important car we had yet made," Lutz said in a statement released by VIA on Monday. "I am now pleased to join VIA Motors to expand the vision of extended range electric vehicles and help build the next generation of electrified trucks, vans and SUVs."

On Sept. 2, Lutz, 79, said he was returning to GM as a part-time adviser focusing on product development, design, marketing and other areas.

Lutz said then his contract precludes him from consulting with other automakers, with the exception of British sports car maker Lotus, where he's been working as a part-time paid adviser. GM spokesman Alan Adler said Monday that Lutz is allowed to do work with companies such as VIA.

VIA, based in Orem, Utah, retrofits pickups and vans with Volt-like plug-in hybrid systems. Its Web site says it is beginning fleet sales this year, with retail sales planned for 2013.

Alan Perriton, VIA's chief operations officer and a former GM executive, said in the statement: "Trucks have been notorious for poor fuel economy in the past, but when electrified, they can have a much greater impact on reducing oil consumption and emissions than smaller vehicles, while offering a much faster payback."

Kraig Higginson is VIA's CEO.

Dave Guilford contributed to this report.

By Dave Versical- Automotive News