Motor Trend recently revealed its 2009 Power List. This year's list is probably the most political yet, as the future of the automotive industry as we know it relies on a few key people, many of whom are in Washington, D.C. And, now more than ever, the fate of trucks and how they survive this automotive crisis depends on the reactions of people high up in politics and the car business. Here is this year's Truck Trend Power List--the 10 people most likely to determine what we will be using to haul and tow.
1) Derrick Kuzak
(20th on Motor Trend's List)
He's Ford's group vice president product development, the company's soft-spoken answer to Bob Lutz, and is in charge of developing North American Fords, Mercurys, and Lincolns. His biggest challenge will be keeping the F-Series viable, and he's going to try to do it with EcoBoost--the turbocharged, direct gas-injection engines that will replace V-8s with V-6s, and V-6s with fours--and diesel. Like it or not, he's partially responsible for the death of the mainstream V-8 engine. We hope the combination of smaller, direct-injection engines and turbocharging doesn't mean a loss of truck capability.
2) Jim Farley
(5th on Motor Trend's "The 20 People to Watch" List)
Yes, another Ford guy, this one the marketing/communications VP and is critical to the F-150's sales success in 2009. When you consider that Ford's F-150 is the best-selling vehicle in America, despite the spike in the price of fuel earlier this year and the economic crisis, what Ford does with its line of trucks is highly significant. As Ford's trucks evolve and the company continues to develop its plan for survival, Farley will be responsible for launching the next generation of trucks and SUVs/crossovers. He will have to make sure that what works for Congress works for customers.
3) Charlie Freese
The executive director of Diesel Engineering at GM Powertrain is the man who's been in charge of the upcoming 4.5L Duramax V-8. We heard the baby Duramax was supposed to be available in the 2010 Silverado and Sierra, but we don't know if that is still on schedule. Nevertheless, the right diesel--efficient, lightweight, clean--could give real truck guys genuine value for their money, potentially making GM more competitive in a tough market.
4) Joe Castelli
With the Nissan Titan moving to Chrysler production and the future of the Quest and Armada and Infiniti QX56 in question, the Canton, Mississippi, plant will soon have plenty of space available. This is where in 2011, Nissan will start building its light commercial vehicle based on the NV2500, a Cummins-powered concept shown earlier this year. Joe Castelli is in charge of Nissan's light commercial vehicle division in the U.S., and the choices he makes could shape Nissan's future in this market, as well as how the company competes with upcoming models from other automakers, such as the Transit Connect from Ford.
5) Fujio Cho
(3rd on Motor Trend's List)
The chairman of Toyota Motor Corporation has to decide what to do about the Tundra. From what we hear, the compact truck market will soon get a production version of the A-BAT, adding fuel efficiency and versatility in a small but capable package. And this truck could completely change the face of the compact-truck market. But what about the Tundra? Toyota invested one billion dollars in its truck-building plant in San Antonio, yet the company barely cracked half of the predicted annual sales of 200,000; this year, it will struggle to stay above 100,000. Toyota lost $360 million in the U.S. for the six months ending September 30, thanks to "the shift of the market to compact vehicles and reduced production volume." But the company is in better shape than most of the other major automakers to weather the dismal market, and that could put it in the best position to keep its part of the truck biz afloat.