Rick Wagoner led Motor Trend's Power List for the first time in 2008. While Wagoner is still running General Motors today, he could be replaced at any time, and it is entirely possible even if he stays on that he may not have an automobile company to run in the near future, anyway. Such has been the catastrophic effect of $4 a gallon gas followed by the meltdown on Wall Street -- a perfect storm that has overwhelmed vulnerable Detroit automakers in the midst of radical and far-reaching restructuring.

Wagoner's GM may now have a new lease on life in the form of federal loan guarantees designed to limp it along to the promised land of the 2010 United Auto Workers' retiree health care Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association and Chevrolets Cruze and Volt. Wagoner and GM's senior management know what needs to be done; time is the enemy.

So a snapshot of the 50 most influential men and women in the industry right now looks very different from the one we took a mere 12 months ago. Like GM, Ford Motor Company and Chrysler LLC teeter on the abyss. We can put some of the blame on the way the Detroit Three have been run these past 10, 20, or 30 years, and some of the blame on the regulatory environment that made what now seem dumb decisions a reasonable use of shareholder funds. The financial crisis that began just after GM's 100th birthday, September 15, and eroded whatever consumer confidence remained may have pushed it over the edge.

Several automakers are weathering this economy better than the D3, thanks to their visionary leaders. Takeo Fukui has kept Honda Motor Corporation on the road toward cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars and trucks. Honda last year became the first automaker to put hydrogen fuel cell cars in the hands of (a few) California consumers. When high gas prices induced Americans to buy up every four-cylinder car or crossover they could find, Honda was already there. In 2009, Fukui's company will introduce an $18,000 IMA hybrid Insight hatchback. Honda's U.S. sales were projected to be flat for 2008, although as with all its competitors, sales in recent months have been disastrous.

Meanwhile, Porsche AG, with Wendelin Wiedeking in the driver's seat, has continued to buy shares in monolithic Volkswagen AG and is seeking to change a German law that gives the government of Lower Saxony a Ford-family-like control over VW. In buying up more than half VW's shares, Porsche effectively gamed the system, duping short-sellers and using the proceeds to fund further purchases of VW stock. Just as the world's financial system was crumbling, VW's stock price briefly hit a stunning $1258 per share.

Fukui, Wiedeking, and Ferdinand Piech lead off our Power List for 2009. You'll also see the powerful people on Capitol Hill who may have helped save the domestic industry by now. And, finally, we'll take a look at the prospects for success or failure among those currently running things in Detroit.

The 25 People Who Matter

1. Takeo Fukui
Honda Motor Co., Ltd. president/CEO

2. Wendelin Wiedeking
Porsche AG/Porsche SE executive board chairman

3. Fujio Cho
Toyota Motor Corporation chairman

4. Ferdinand Piech
Volkswagen AG chairman of Supervisory Board

5. Carlos Ghosn
Nissan Motor/Regie Renault President/CEO

6. Chung Mong Koo
Hyundai Motor Company chairman

7. Chris Bangle
BMW AG director of design

8. Ratan Tata
Tata Group chairman and owns Jaguar/Land Rover

9. Martin Winterkorn
Volkswagen AG chairman of the board of management

10. Alan Mulally
Ford Motor Company president/CEO

11. Bob Lutz
General Motors vice chairman, global product development

12. Martin Smith
Ford Europe Executive director, Design

13. Walter De Silva
VW Group chief designer

14. Luca Cordero Di Montezemolo
Fiat Auto chairman

15. Dieter Zetsche
Daimler AG chairman

16. John Krafcik
Hyundai USA Acting president, CEO

17. Lewis Hamilton
Formula 1 World Champion, McLaren-Mercedes

18. Wolfgang Durheimer
Porsche AG executive VP, R&D

19. Ian Callum
Jaguar design director

20. Derrick Kuzak
Ford Motor Company Group vice president product development

21. Kazutoshi Mizuno
Nissan GT-R chief product specialist/chief engineer

22. Bob Carter
Toyota Motor Sales USA group VP, Toyota division

23. Ed Welburn
GM vice president global design

24. Kazunori Yamauchi
Polyphony Digital president

25. Tom Stephens
GM executive vice president, global powertrain/quality

The Five People Detroit Needs Most

1. Barack Obama
President-elect, United States of America

2. The Car Czar
Advisor to President ObamaRoger Penske for Car Czar!

3. Jennifer Granholm
Governor of Michigan (D)

4.Harry Reid
Senate Majority Leader (D-Nevada)

5. Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House (D-California)

The 20 People to Watch

1. Fritz Henderson
General Motors president/COO

2. Warren Buffett
Berkshire Hathaway Incorporated principal

3. Rick Wagoner
General Motors chairman/CEO

4. John Snow
Cerberus Capital management chairman

5. Jim Farley
Ford Motor Company VP marketing/communications

6. Elon Musk
Tesla Motors chairman/CEO/product architect

7. R. Frank Weber
GM Chevy Volt chief engineer

8. Ray Young
GM chief financial officer

9. Rep. Henry Waxman
(D-California) House Energy and Commerce chairman

10. Senator Debbie Stabenow

11. Bob Nardelli
Chrysler LLC CEO

12. Kevin Wale
GM China Group president

13. Jim Press
Chrysler LLC vice chairman/president

14. Bryan Nesbitt
GM North America VP, design

15. Jim Queen
GM group VP global engineering

16. Senator George Voinovich

17. Mark LaNeve
GM VP sales, service & marketing

18. Mark Fields
Ford Motor Company executive VP, president, the Americas

19. Ralph Gilles
Chrysler LLC design chief

20. Bob Munson
Cadillac CTS chief designer