The past year proved a momentous one for trucks, with a strong comeback by the Detroit Three, especially for Chrysler, which set new records with Ram and Jeep. But that wasn't the only big news of 2012 -- Land Rover had a breakout hit with the 2012 Range Rover Evoque premium compact SUV, winning numerous global awards, including our own 2012 SUV of the Year.
The coming year is shaping up to be just as momentous as last year, if not bigger, with the long-awaited 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra coming out this spring and the 2014 Toyota Tundra breaking cover at 2013 Chicago auto show.
Although most of the people on this year's power list are from within the auto industry, one is from within the Washington Beltway. Like it or not, government is playing an increasingly larger role in the future of trucks and SUVs, most notably in the form of fuel economy mandates to meet the ambitious targets set by the Obama administration.
In alphabetical order, here are the individuals of Truck Trend's 2013 Power List.
Director of Commercial Vehicle Operations, Ford
A few years ago, vans were not really on Truck Trend's radar in any noteworthy significance. Aside from the introduction of the Sprinter in 2003 and later, the introduction of the Transit Connect to the North American market 2009, the segment was largely characterized by decades-old designs that got minor mid-cycle refreshes that attempted to keep things at least marginally interesting.
Today, it's a whole new game. Ford is a major part of it, in the form of the all-new 2014 Transit full-size van line and next-generation, consumer-focused Transit Connect. Overseeing these van moves is Len Deluca, a 35-year veteran who has worked his way up from a cost analyst and zone manager to director of Ford's commercial group.
In addition to the Transit and Transit Connect, Deluca also oversees the commercial applications for the Super Duty chassis cab, medium-duty trucks, commercial chassis, limousine, livery, taxi, and police vehicles. Deluca holds a bachelor's degree from Central Michigan University in finance and management.
President and CEO, Ram Truck Brand, Chrysler Group
Overseeing Ram's ascent over the last several years has been Fred Diaz. A native of San Antonio, Texas, Diaz started his career with Chrysler in 1989 as a Dallas district zone trainee. His career trajectory went into overdrive in 2004, when he was appointed marketing director for Dodge brand advertising communications. In addition to his responsibilities for the Ram brand, Diaz also oversees Chrysler de Mexico operations, a role he took on in 2011.
Numerous stories and articles have been written about Chrysler's post-bankruptcy resurgence, with the company's sales growth outpacing that of many rivals. A large part of Chrysler's success can be pinned squarely on the Ram brand, which turned the segment on its head with the introduction of class-exclusive rear coil spring suspension on the Ram 1500 model in 2009 and then again in 2013 with a comprehensively refreshed 1500 model with class-leading fuel economy and a segment-first eight-speed transmission, two attributes that helped it earn our 2013 Truck of the Year award.
Ram's not stopping there. The 2013 Ram HD line is busting out of the gates with a staggering 850 lb-ft of torque from its mighty Cummins diesel. On the horizon is the new Fiat Ducato-based Ram ProMaster van as well as the possibility of a new compact urban truck concept. We can't wait to see what's in store for the future of Ram.
Ford F-150 Chief Engineer
In the world of full-size trucks, there is perhaps no model quite as ubiquitous and recognized as the Ford F-150. And although full-size trucks in general and the F-150 in particular has an undeniably macho image, one of the key figures behind the development and engineering of the model is a woman. Jackie Marshall DiMarco is chief engineer of the F-150, Expedition and Navigator lines.
DiMarco began her career at Ford in the Powertrain division, working in powertrain design, engine development and product launch. She has also worked in the area of vehicle dynamics for the Ford Explorer and Sport Trac, and exhaust system design for the F-150 and Ranger. To say DiMarco is familiar with engines and powertrains would be an understatement.
In addition to her work in trucks, DiMarco was also involved in the development of another all-American icon, the Mustang. She was program manager of the 2005 model and worked on the all-new 3.7-liter V-6 and 5.0-liter V-8 for the 2011 model. She holds bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical engineering from Ohio State University, as well as a master's in business administration from the University of Michigan.
Executive Chief Engineer, Global Full-Size and Midsize Trucks, General Motors
No mention of the truck market would be complete without some mention of General Motors. Obviously, GM is a major player in the segment, and it has a lot riding on the new 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra. A key figure behind the launch of these significant new trucks is Jeff Luke, chief engineer for GM's full-size and midsize trucks.
A Canadian native, Luke started with GM in 1986 at the Scarborough Van Assembly plant in Ontario as a co-op student at GMI (now Kettering University). In 1995, Luke transferred to the Oshawa Truck Assembly plant as general assembly process and tooling engineer. He was regional vehicle chief engineer for full-size trucks and the Hummer H2 from 2004 until 2008, when he became vehicle chief engineer for GM North America midsize cars. Luke is also overseeing another important truck project for GM, the engineering for the 2014 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, which will be the sole midsize truck offerings from an American brand when it launches.
President and CEO - Jeep Brand, Chrysler Group
In addition to Ram, the other key factor to Chrysler's success for 2012 has been the Jeep brand. The year was marked with explosive international growth, especially in key emerging markets such as China. Jeep also scored big with updated Wrangler, which set new domestic and international sales records. Mike Manley has been CEO of the Jeep brand since 2009, overseeing the launch of the popular WK2 Grand Cherokee, which broke new ground for the Grand Cherokee by being the first generation to have four-wheel independent suspension.
Manley isn't letting off the throttle in features or innovation for Jeep. The 2014 Grand Cherokee brings significant updates across the model line, including the reintroduction of a turbodiesel engine, which will be available in all 50 states. All 2014 Grand Cherokee models, regardless of engine, also receive a class-first eight-speed automatic transmission.
Manley started his career with the company during the DaimlerChrysler days as operations director for Mercedes-Benz direct, moving to network development for Daimler Chrysler UK later that same year. Most recently, Manley has taken on responsibility as Chief Operating Officer for the Asia Pacific region. He is also a Member of Fiat's Group Executive Council, the highest-ranking executive body within the company apart from the board of directors. With the replacement for the Liberty, Compass, and Patriot just around the corner, it looks like Jeep's success streak is going to continue.