In these head-to-head confrontations, only one player emerged on top.
1. Cash for clunkers vs. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
NHTSA, a government agency accustomed to months of study before making decisions, was ill-suited to run a fast-moving incentive program.
2. President Barack Obama's auto task force vs. GM CEO Rick Wagoner
First the government team rejected Wagoner's turnaround plan. Then it rejected him.
3. Toyota Chairman Emeritus Shoichiro Toyoda vs. then-President Katsuaki Watanabe
Watanabe was already on his way out when Toyoda chided him for performance that included record profits -- and the first loss in decades.
4. Bankruptcy Judge Arthur Gonzalez vs. Indiana pension funds
The Hoosiers, seeking to protect their investments in Chrysler bonds they had purchased at a deep discount, argued that the UAW was taking cuts in front of creditors in violation of bankruptcy law. Gonzalez held the gavel. Case closed.
5. Volkswagen's Ferdinand Piech vs. Porsche's Wendelin Wiedeking
Wiedeking thought he could be the minnow that swallowed the whale. He didn't realize it was a killer whale. Porsche was absorbed by VW; Wiedeking lost his job.
6. Chrysler Financial vs. Minnesota dealer Denny Hecker
When Chrysler Financial pulled Hecker's floorplanning, it turned out to be the foundation of a house of cards. Hecker later filed for personal bankruptcy.
7. Renault SA's board vs. Roger Penske
Dealers hailed Penske as a hero for his plan to rescue Saturn by selling rebadged Renaults, presumably from Korea. But Renault's board decided the numbers didn't work. Roger and out.
8. Toyota Prius vs. Honda Insight
The winner and still champ in the hybrid battle: Prius.
9. GM Chairman Ed Whitacre vs. Fritz Henderson and Brent Dewar and Michael Richards and Carl-Peter Forster and ...
Whitacre has wasted little time in reminding GM's upper echelon that Texans are used to putting their own brand on a herd.
10. Sergio Marchionne vs. Jim Press
The former owners of Chrysler lured Jim Press from Toyota to boost the automaker's credibility with dealers. When Fiat CEO Marchionne arrived at Chrysler, he brought his own credibility -- and Press had become a liability. Ciao, Jim.