Robert Lund, who rose to the highest ranks at General Motors Corp., and then “retired” to co-own three successful Cadillac dealerships in Phoenix, died Oct. 18 at age 87.

He had suffered from heart problems since his late 70s but kept up his interest and visits to the dealerships all through his last years, says son John Lund, his partner in charge of the three stores, which include Hummer and Saab franchises.

A native of Duluth, MN, where his first job was delivering daily newspapers, Lund joined Chevrolet’s district office in Minneapolis in 1946, after a stint as a Navy lieutenant in the Pacific during World War II.

He rose through the Chevrolet ranks to division general manager, telling an interviewer later he “loved calling on Chevy dealers, especially if they outsold their Ford competitors.”

In his eight years as Chevy boss, the division sold a record 21 million cars and trucks.

From the Chevrolet helm, he moved to the post of general manager at Cadillac, where he “made sure we stayed No.1 in luxury-car sales.”

Lund’s gregarious personality was well known to dealers. He had what they called a super salesman’s style, but without being overly aggressive.

Retiring from GM in 1985 as an executive vice president, Lund opened a new Cadillac store in Phoenix two years later, at age 67.

Among his innovative marketing initiatives were monthly showroom lunches for Cadillac owners, catered by the city’s best restaurants.

In a Ward’s interview eight year ago, Lund said, “I wear a dealer hat now and see things the way Cadillac dealers everywhere see them. If the factory’s wrong, I’ll tell them so.”

He said he had warned that Cadillac was “in danger” of losing its No.1 luxury-car ranking to Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus division unless GM raised quality and performance levels.

“We could have had a Lexus franchise, but there’s too much GM blood in my veins,” he said.