8. Laura Soave
When Laura Soave, the newly appointed head of the Fiat brand in North America, introduced the Fiat 500 at the Los Angeles Auto Show, she showed a picture of herself as a 3-year-old standing on the hood of a Fiat Cinquecento during the family's annual Italian summer vacation. The American-born daughter of first-generation immigrant parents from Cassino, Italy, learned Italian as her first language. But her experience as manager of experiential marketing at Volkswagen might be equally useful in helping her adapt European products to American tastes.
9. Victor Muller
General Motors was winding down Swedish automaker Saab early last year when Spyker, a low-volume producer of high-end sports cars, stepped in to take over. Spyker CEO Victor Muller says the company wants to build 80,000 cars this year, up from about 30,000 to 35,000 in 2010, and the company should get a boost from its newly launched 9-5 sedan. But that car was mostly developed by GM. Muller will need to find more partners to move forward.
10. U.S. Rep. Fred Upton
Automakers may get a more friendly reception at the influential U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee when U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., replaces Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., as chairman. Upton, a conservative who expresses a belief in small government, supported the federal bailout of GM and Chrysler, as well as the $3 billion cash-for-clunkers legislation to stimulate auto sales in 2009.