Peter W. Schutz, former president and CEO of Porsche AG, died Oct. 29 at the age of 87.
Schutz and his family were Jewish refugees who fled Nazi Germany in 1939, moving to Cuba before settling in Chicago. He held jobs as an engineer for Caterpillar and at engine manufacturer Cummins before he was recruited to return to Germany, where companies needed executives who could assist in building sales in the United States.
He became the first American CEO of Porsche in 1981, hired by Ferdinand (Ferry) Porsche, whose father Ferdinand Sr. designed the Volkswagen Beetle for Hitler. Despite the family’s ties to Hitler, Schutz’s widow, Sheila Harris-Schutz, told The New York Times the Porsche and Piech families who owned the company “received Mr. Schutz warmly.”
Just weeks after assuming the role of president and CEO in January 1981, Schutz reversed Porsche’s earlier decision to stop production of the rear-engine 911 and helped introduce the full 911 Cabriolet. He continued expansion of the transaxle model range with the introduction of the 944 Turbo, 944 S and 944 S2, and initiated development of the all-wheel-drive 959, which was unveiled in 1985.
On the track, Porsche dominated most categories at Le Mans from 1981-87, including the overall win in 1982.
Under his leadership, Porsche, which recorded its first losses in 1980, saw five years of record growth until the financial crisis of the late ’80s. He left the company in 1987 and retired to Florida, where he became a motivational speaker.