Except for a brief stint as chairman of troubled Exide Technologies, Bob Lutz, despite his larger-than-life image as the consummate “car guy,” has never held the top spot at any major company.

He did, however, come close, as he worked his way up the ranks at BMW, General Motors (twice), Ford and Chrysler.

Flamboyant, blunt, creative and controversial, Lutz has legions of cheerleaders but also plenty of critics who like to call him “Lutz the putz.”

Now, at age 81, Lutz has penned a new 201-page book entitled “Straight Talk on Leadership: Icons and Idiots” (Portfolio/Penguin, $26.95).

Full of anecdotes, humor, barbs and battles, the title is a bit misleading; there are few true idiots and most of the purported icons have a goodly share of warts.

Lutz worked for a disparate group of CEOs over more than 50 years in the auto industry.

He praises some of his superiors such as Chrysler’s Bob Eaton and GM’s Rick Wagoner, perhaps because both gave him a long leash in pushing for vehicle design and performance – and were rewarded with a stream of winners. Not so much to like about Ford’s Harold (Red) Poling and Phil Caldwell or BMW’s Eberhard von Kuenheim.

As for legendary Lee Iacocca, Lutz says their “rocky relationship” may have been because they were too much alike.

There’s no mention of his last GM boss, Ed Whitacre, the retired AT&T CEO who took over as GM’s chairman and CEO in January 2010 following the federal bailout that saved GM.