Still dominant after all these years, Volkswagen AG's 72-year-old supervisory board chairman outfoxed his rival, Porsche CEO Wendelin Wiedeking. Piech put VW in the driver's seat at Porsche after Wiedeking failed in his bid to buy Volkswagen. Later in the year VW acquired a one-fifth stake in Suzuki Motor Corp.
10 executives who changed the industry -- for better or worse
The 53-year-old scion of the founding family took over as Toyota's youngest ever president amid its worst ever crisis. Confronted with overcapacity, plunging sales and mounting concerns about quality, Toyoda is slashing costs and overhauling product development to revive the world's largest automaker from its worst losses in seven decades.
Since coming on board as Hyundai Motor America's head of marketing in February 2007, Ewanick has gone directly to the people -- asking consumers what they want through focus groups. A focus group led to this year's Hyundai Assurance program, which allows buyers who lose their jobs to return cars within a year of purchase.
Among other things, Ford Motor Co.'s sales and marketing chief introduced the kind of social-media marketing that he applied so well at Toyota's Scion brand. That's one reason buyer consideration of Ford-brand vehicles shot up in 2009 as measured by independent market researchers in on the rise.
The three retail giants formed the Committee to Restore Dealer Rights and led the fight in Congress to help rejected dealers get their franchises back. Considering everything that's going on in Congress these days, it's a wonder they accomplished as much as they did.
Ford managed to avoid the public scrutiny, manhandling and disgrace endured by General Motors and Chrysler this year. How? Mulally's decision to mortgage nearly all of Ford's assets in 2006, raising the cash to get the company through the crisis he saw coming.
Without the Fiat fixer and his global ambitions, Chrysler might not have survived 2009. The glib, multi-tasking CEO of Chrysler and Fiat dazzled the U.S. auto task force and assured that Chrysler would get through bankruptcy quickly and live to fight another day.
There are chief executives, and there are chief executives. The president was the most powerful man in the auto industry in 2009, the guy who ushered Rick Wagoner out and Sergio Marchionne in.
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