People to watch
On Dec. 1, Fields, 51, became Ford Motor Co.'s COO, making him understudy to CEO Alan Mulally, 67. Fields will take charge of the Thursday morning meetings that keep Ford on track, so he'll have ample opportunity to show whether he's ready to fly solo when Mulally leaves sometime after 2014.
Hinrichs, 46, has returned from China, where he was feverishly opening factories and dealerships, to head Ford's North and South American operations. High on his to-do list: tap his manufacturing experience to end the recalls and other problems that have increasingly plagued Ford's U.S. launches.
After Joel Ewanick was fired as General Motors' chief marketing officer in July, Batey, 49, stepped in on an interim basis. But with CEO Dan Akerson unenthusiastic about the chief marketer position, Batey likely will focus increasingly on Chevrolet and its critical fullsized pickup launches in 2013. Get those right, and the welltraveled Brit will solidify his spot as one of GM's top stars
Johan de Nysschen
Johan de Nysschen
On July 1, de Nysschen joined Infiniti from Audi, where he had been laying the foundation for the German brand's ambitious U.S. sales growth. Now, as Infiniti's global head working out of Hong Kong, de Nysschen, 52, is in charge of leading the Japanese luxury brand to glory everywhere, but especially in the United States and China, which is poised to become the world's largest luxury market.
Will he get his fledgling company back on track? Or will Fisker, 49, and the team of experienced auto executives he has been recruiting be able to attract a buyer that will continue production of the Fisker Karma electric vehicle?
Lieblein, 52, who was named General Motors' global purchasing chief in December, has a challenging to-do list. She must coordinate global suppliers to support GM's goal of creating more global platforms. She should also continue the work of her predecessor, Bob Socia, to overcome GM's longstanding reputation for beating up suppliers for lower prices.
Nichols, 67, the California Air Resources Board chairman, is in charge of enforcing CARB's tough air-quality mandates in place for 2017-25. Those mandates are expected to stoke electric vehicle sales. But if EV sales aren't measuring up and battery makers are going broke, expect automakers to lobby to defang the mandate.
Manley, 48, is the head of Jeep. His neck will be on the line when he unveils the Jeep Liberty replacement early in the year, as the first Jeep developed after Fiat's arrival at Chrysler Group. If it's not perceived to be a true Jeep, expect howls from the Jeep faithful.
Scion's vice president, 47, will oversee the launch of the brand's two redesigned hatchbacks in 2013. Will Scion keep attracting the cool kids? Or will the brand spread its wings wider to chase more volume?
On Nov. 1, Uesugi, 60, became chairman of Mitsubishi Motors North America. Uesugi, who most recently oversaw product strategy and development, cost control and procurement, is charged with using his productplanning skills to steer North America into the black. Translation: Keep Mitsubishi from following Suzuki's path.