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In October, General Motors CEO Dan Akerson named Ferguson, previously GM's vice president of global public policy, to the new post of vice president of Cadillac worldwide. When Ferguson, 53, takes up his duties Jan. 1, one of his first jobs will be to promote Cadillac in China, the world's largest car market and soon its largest luxury car market. Ferguson, who came to GM from the telecommunications industry, also was a consultant to the president of the International Olympic Committee leading up to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
Tesla Model S
People still can't believe Tesla's electric car can go 230 to 300 miles on a charge, when everyone else's barely goes 100. Yet the Model S does, for $60,000.
Photo credit: JOE WILSSENS
Three-shift assembly plants
Can you say boom times? With sales on a steady but sometimes slow rise, automakers have sought to boost production without adding costly capacity. Increasingly, the solution has been three-shift assembly operations. At GM, for example, nearly one in five U.S. hourly workers clocks in close to midnight and goes home around sunrise.
Kunselman became Chrysler's senior vice president of purchasing and supplier quality when Dan Knott stepped down for medical reasons in April, shortly before his death. Kunselman, 49, who had been head of engineering at Chrysler, quickly said he would continue Knott's policies, which had rebuilt frayed relations with suppliers.
Nair succeeded the well-regarded Derrick Kuzak as Ford Motor Co.'s head of global product development on April 1. Nair, 48, a St. Louis native and one-time amateur race driver, has worked on everything from F-series Super Duty pickups to the Figo subcompact sold in India. Besides developing vehicles, he has worked to cut Ford's materials costs as executive director of commodity business planning.
In yet another case of filling large shoes, Kato, 59, replaced Takeshi Uchiyamada, the father of the Prius, as head of global r&d and product development at Toyota Motor Corp. He had been shunted aside to an early-retirement position at a Toyota affiliate but was brought back to the automaker by President Akio Toyoda, who agreed with Kato's assessments of the causes of quality lapses that led to repeated recalls.
Stop-start engine systems
The technology has been around for years, but as automakers seek to boost fuel economy sharply, stop-start systems proliferated this year. Compared with other, more exotic solutions, stop-start offers major mpg gains for relatively little cost. And software improvements have made them ever more seamless in operation.
In January, Cannon became the first American CEO at Mercedes-Benz USA since Mike Jackson in the 1990s. Cannon, a West Point graduate, 51, had been part of the M-class marketing team in Stuttgart -- before the Vance, Ala., plant that would build the SUV was open. He later worked for an ad agency and Hyundai before returning to Mercedes in 2007.
On May 1, DeBoer succeeded his father, Sid, as CEO of Lithia Motors Inc., the nation's ninth-largest dealership group. Sid, now 69, became chairman. Bryan, now 46, had been COO since 2007 and had been in charge of expanding the company through acquisitions when Lithia went public in 1996 with five stores. It now has close to 90 stores. Bryan's immediate goals: more dealership acquisitions and more used-vehicle sales per store.
Stephens, 49, was the chief engineer of the 2013 Toyota Avalon. This wasn't a symbolic title, with him deferring to a real boss in Japan: Stephens had final engineering authority for the vehicle, managing 120 engineers in the United States. Look for others to follow in his footsteps as Toyota gives increasing authority to its U.S. engineering force.