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George Butts passed at 91

by Bill Cawthon on

Retired Chrysler executive George Butts died peacefully of natural causes on Friday, February 13, at his home in Jupiter, Florida. He was 91.

A native of Carbondale, Pennsylvania and graduate of Drexel University, Butts came to Chrysler as a student engineer in 1949 and graduated from Chrysler Institute with a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1951. He spent 38 years with Chrysler Corporation.


Following his graduation from the Chrysler Institute, Mr. Butts started out in engineering and then moved to  product planning; he was named Chief Engineer of Dodge Trucks in 1967, and General Manager of Dodge Truck Operations in 1972. The following year, Mr. Butts was promoted to Vice President of Product Planning, then to Vice President of Stamping and Assembly in 1977, and finally to Vice President of Quality and Productivity, a position he held from November 6, 1980 until his retirement on February 1, 1988.

In the October 1976 Popular Mechanics, Mr. Butts said that one day, all engine controls would be governed by electronics. This was the year Chrysler launched the first “engine computer,” invented by Gordon Fenn, which used sensor input to alter spark advance. In 1977, the simplified second generation appeared.

Under Mr. Butts’ leadership, Chrysler’s warranty expenses fell by 24% from 1978 to 1983.

When Mr. Butts announced his retirement November 1987, former Chrysler Corporation Chairman Lee Iacocca, who had called Butts his “watchdog,” said, “George’s singular commitment to the principles of quality and productivity has spearheaded the company’s effort ‘To Be The Best’. He held our feet to the fire on quality issues and further quality improvements will be built on the strong foundation George established during his four decades at Chrysler.”

Retired product planner Burton Bouwkamp wrote:

George Butts was a classmate of mine at Chrysler Institute of Engineering, Class of 1951.

He was made VP of Product Planning in 1973 and became my boss. He was very capable and our relations were always good. (Before 1973 I reported directly to the President.)

I learned two lessons from George that I still use today:

1. Number your pages

2. organize proposals to: (a) tell management how much it costs and when they have to spend it; (b) tell management how much they will get and when they will get it.

Following his retirement, Mr. Butts worked as a consultant for businesses and government. He was an avid golfer and a board member at the Jupiter Medical Center Foundation for over 20 years.

A celebration of George Butts’ life will be held on Wednesday, February 18, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Aycock Funeral Home in Jupiter, Florida. Funeral Mass will be on Thursday, February 19th at 10 a.m. at the St. Jude Catholic Church, followed by a burial at Riverside Memorial Park. His family asked that donations be made in his memory to the Treasure Coast Hospice or to the Jupiter Medical Center Foundation.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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