Former Cadillac boss John Grettenberger has passed away at the age of 82 following a bout with cancer.
Grettenberger, who was born in Okemos, MI, earned a Masters Degree in business management before joining GM in the early 1970s. He worked as a desk clerk at an Oldsmobile dealership before moving his way up the company’s executive ranks, going on to serve as GM’s special marketing consultant to the Isuzu brand in Japan in 1978 and later joining Opel’s board of directors in Germany.
In 1984, Grettenberger was appointed president of Cadillac, which was struggling to retain customers as competition from Germany and Japan began to ramp up. He oversaw the development and launch of the ritzy Cadillac Allante coupe, which helped to elevate Cadillac’s image at the time and give the brand some much-needed positive press. He also helped bring the popular Cadillac Seville STS and Eldorado Touring Coupe models to market in the early 1990s and oversaw the introduction of the 32-valve Cadillac Northstar V8 engine, helping to level the playing field with the likes of Mercedes-Benz and Lexus.
Grettenberger’s product planning talents were on full display when he began pushing GM to approve a Cadillac-badged SUV in the early 1990s, noticing the market was headed in that direction. GM didn’t approve his request, but Grettenberger would later be proven right when Lincoln rolled out the Navigator to much fanfare, pushing GM to drop the Escalade in response just a year later.
By that time, though, Grettenberger had retired from GM and returned to Lansing, MI, to run his family’s oil business. He continued to serve on the board of numerous companies including Spartan Oil Corporation, Trans-Teq Corporation and the Chief Okemos Council Boy Scouts of America.
A funeral service will not held for Grettenberger due to the global pandemic, though his family plans to hold a celebration of life for him sometime in the near future. Grettenberger’s family asks that, in lieu of flowers, friends consider donating to the Friends of Historic Meridian, Forster Woods Adult Day Center, St. Katherine’s Episcopal Church, Sparrow Hospital Foundation, Lansing Rotary Foundation or the Greater Lansing Food Bank.