President Barack Obama had begun shaking hands with auto executives after announcing his emissions and fuel economy plan in May, but he returned to the microphone for a postscript. "By the way," he said, "I still have my Ford parked in Chicago. Ford hybrid [an Escape] -- runs great. You guys should take a look." Ford CEO Alan Mulally, who was standing alongside, pumped both fists in the air, savoring the triumph.
Faces of the industry
With her blond tresses and penchant for stiletto heels and diamonds, private equity star Lynn Tilton stands out among gray-suited Wall Street deal makers. The CEO of Patriarch Partners charged into the auto industry by taking control of Dura Automotive Systems Inc., making the supplier the crown jewel of an automotive portfolio she is assembling.
Magna founder and Chairman Frank Stronach, shown at a June 2 news conference, seemed to have bagged Opel until General Motors Co.'s new board of directors decided a few months later not to sell the automaker's European subsidiary. Two years earlier Stronach had tried -- and failed -- to acquire Chrysler.
Wendelin Wiedeking, who bit the dust after 16 years in command at Porsche, said farewell to employees in Stuttgart in July. Wiedeking, who succumbed to a power struggle, had been the longest-serving auto company CEO. He led an overhaul of the flailing German sports car maker in the 1990s but was forced to back off an attempt to seize control of Volkswagen last year.
Twenty years ago, Oregon dealer Ron Tonkin became famous as a firebrand for dealer rights in Washington. His son, Ed Tonkin, may do the same when he takes over this year as chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association.
When Akio Toyoda took the controls at Toyota Motor Corp. last year, it was more than a metaphor. The grandson of the company's founder made it known that he test drives more than 200 cars a year. His reasoning: "As a restaurant analogy, I would like to become the owner-chef. I should be able to tell differences in tastes -- this is tasty, or maybe we should improve this for the customers."
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