Lutz received a bachelor's degree in Production Management in 1961 followed by an MBA in 1962, both from UC Berkeley. He is a member of the board of the Marine Corps University Foundation and the Marine Military Academy.
Lutz was CEO of Exide Technologies until the year it filed for bankruptcy, and President of Chrysler Corporation, where he oversaw the development of the Dodge Viper, Plymouth Prowler and Chrysler LH platform automobiles.
He was also a Vice President at Ford Motor Company, where he led the creation of the Ford Sierra, initiated development of the original Ford Explorer and spearheaded importation of models from Ford of Europe to the United States under the short-lived Merkur brand, which had disappointing sales figures. The failure of this initiative hurt his political position at Ford and may have contributed to his departure for Chrysler. He was a frequent internal political rival of eventual Ford CEO Red Poling.
Prior to working at Ford he served as Executive Vice President of sales at BMW for three years, and he takes some credit in the development of the BMW 3-Series. He is one of few senior automotive executives with experience in both hemispheres and more than one major manufacturer. He joined BMW after eight years with GM in Europe.
While at General Motors, Lutz championed the import of the Holden Monaro to the United States as the Pontiac GTO. Other cars such as the Cadillac Sixteen Concept; Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice; Pontiac G8; Chevrolet Malibu; Cadillac CTS; Buick Enclave; Cadillac Converj Concept; Cadillac CTS Coupe Concept; Chevrolet Camaro Concept; Chevrolet Camaro (production version); Chevy Beat, Groove and Trax Concept Studies; and 2010 Buick Lacrosse, Chevrolet Equinox, and Cadillac SRX are said to be Lutz initiatives. Lutz has also emphasized a need to produce fuel efficient vehicles, backing the 2010 Chevrolet Volt which is estimated to gain up to get up to 100 mpg.
A former aviator in the U.S. Marine Corps, Lutz authored the management and leadership book, Guts, which the dust jacket describes as "a maverick's primer on the business philosophy that revolutionized Chrysler ".
When Lutz became chairman of GM North American development in 2001 one of the first things he stated was that his new 500 hp car was going to save General Motors. His full compensation in 2008 is estimated at $6.9 million.
On February 9, 2009, GM announced that Lutz would step down on 1 April 2009 from his position as Vice-Chairman of Global Product Development, to take an advisory role. He was to retire from GM at the end of 2009. Lutz said that one reason for his decision was the increasing regulatory climate in Washington that would force him to design what Federal regulators wanted, rather than what customers wanted.
On July 10, 2009, in a press conference GM stated that Lutz would remain at GM as vice chairman responsible for all creative elements of products and customer relationships. Lutz, Stephens, and design chief Ed Welburn will work together to guide all creative aspects of design. Lutz will also lead the effort to better guide GM's brands, and the automaker's marketing, advertising, and communications teams will report to Lutz in an effort to develop a more consistent message and results. Lutz will report directly to Henderson, and will be part a of the newly formed executive committee.
On March 3, 2010, GM announced Lutz would retire effective May 1, 2010. 
Lutz is known as a collector of classic automobiles and military jets. Among other aircraft, he owns and pilots a Aero Vodochody L-39, an advanced Czechoslovakian jet fighter trainer. Further, he maintains a collection of motorcycles that include a Suzuki Hayabusa, a BMW K1200RS, a BMW K1200S, a BMW R1100S, and a BMW K-1.
His younger brother, Mark, is a retired economics professor.