The industry has lost an icon.Peter Schutz, the American auto executive who saved the Porsche 911 with the stroke of a pen, has died at the age of 87.Schutz was named Porsche's first American CEO in 1981 and was faced with his first tough decision just a few weeks into the job. Porsche's top brass in Germany has decided that the company would end 911 production in favor of more modern models like the 944 and 928. Not content to let the iconic sports car die off on his watch, Schutz flatly rejected the board's plan to cancel the 911.
In a 2013 interview with Road & Track, Schutz recalled how the whole thing went down.
"You have to understand that, in Germany, once a decision is made, it's made. As far as the company was concerned, the 911 was history. But I overturned the board's decision in my third week on the job. I remember the day quite well: I went down to the office of our lead engineer, Professor Helmuth Bott, to discuss plans for our upcoming model. I noticed a chart hanging on his wall that depicted the ongoing development trends of our top three lines: 911, 928, and 944. With the latter options, the graph showed a steady rise in production for years to come. But for the 911, the line stopped in 1981. I grabbed a marker off Professor Bott's desk and extended the 911 line across the page, onto the wall, and out the door. When I came back, Bott stood there, grinning."
And with that, the 911 was saved. Schutz would go on to further strengthen the nameplate, adding 911 cabriolet and Speedster during his time as CEO.
In addition to saving the 911, Schutz is also credited with saving the Porsche brand as a whole. Under Schutz's leadership Porsche returned to motor racing and also developed the 959, which put the company squarely on the supercar map. Porsche's earnings jumped from $4.5 million in 1981 to $54.7 million in 1985.
Schutz couldn't steer Porsche through the financial crash in 1987, however, and was replaced in 1988 by Heinz Branitzki.
After his successful career in the auto industry, Schutz became a public speaker and published a book in 2003.