Denfeld News

Oct. 21, 2007
Duluth News Tribune

Denfeld graduate became VP of General Motors

Robert Lund, a Duluth native who went on to become a prominent executive in the American car industry, died Thursday.

Lund was born March 4, 1920, in Duluth and attended Denfeld High School, where he played tackle for the football team. He was eventually named captain and all-city lineman before graduating in 1938.

When he played football for the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Lund was twice named an All-State Guard and was designated a Little All-American before graduating in 1942. He took a course at the Harvard University Graduate School of Business before enlisting for a three-year stint with the U.S. Navy.

Lund began his career at Chevrolet in 1946 and climbed steadily upward, moving from Twin Cities-area sales promotion manager in 1948 to national manager of sales promotion in 1957.

“He just moved up the ladder,” said former Duluth car dealer Jack Krenzen, who met Lund about 1955 when Krenzen was running a Chevrolet dealership in Hopkins, Minn. “He started at the bottom. Not too bad for a kid from the West End.”

He eventually became general manager of both the company’s Chevrolet and Cadillac divisions in Detroit.

A 1972 Duluth newspaper article about Lund’s promotion to vice president of General Motors Corp. and general sales manager of its Cadillac division said the 52-year-old was believed at the time to be youngest person ever to hold that post.

Krenzen remembers Lund as a consummate motivator and salesman.

“He was one of the greatest motivators GM ever had,” Krenzen said. “He could pick a group up off the floor and have them climb the Foshay Tower.

“He could sell ice to Eskimos,” Krenzen added. “That’s how good he was.”

During the energy crisis of the 1970s, Lund spoke out against rationing gasoline and instead espoused designing fuel-efficient modes of transportation. “We have to integrate the automobile into this country’s master planning of total transportation needs, including public transit,” he told the Michigan Association of Broadcasters at a 1975 meeting in Lansing, Mich.

He retired from his position as executive vice president in 1984 and went on to run several car dealerships in Arizona.

In 1973, Lund was the guest of honor at the Duluth Chamber of Commerce’s Duluth Day dinner. The event at was attended by Ed Cole, who was at the time the president of General Motors, and President Nixon sent a letter to Lund acknowledging the event, saying: “It is easy to understand why the citizens of Duluth have chosen to express their pride in your outstanding professional, civic and humanitarian achievements.”

Attendance estimates for the event ranged between 600 and 1,000 guests.

At the dinner, Lund described Duluth part of “real America” and a place where “people work, dream and get a job done.”

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