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.
Design Director and Chief Creative Officer, Land Rover
One of the biggest stories of 2012 was the success of Land Rover's new Range Rover Evoque, a smaller, four-cylinder powered SUV that combined the premium style of the Range Rover flagship in a more accessible, affordable package. The ground-breaking Evoque earned our 2012 SUV of the Year award, in addition to numerous other international awards. Worldwide demand for the Evoque has been so strong that Land Rover's Halewood, England plant is working on a 24-hour schedule to try to keep up.
Instrumental to the success of the Evoque is its avant-garde style, which can be directly attributed to Land Rover Design Director and Chief Creative Officer Gerry McGovern. In addition to vehicle styling, McGovern also oversees the marketing and creative direction, giving a cohesive, consistent theme to the brand.
Following hot on the heels of the Evoque is the all-new 2013 Range Rover, which applies many of the design cues of its little brother to the stately flagship. In Land Rover's future are many new models, including a possible production version of the DC100 concept, and a new Discovery/LR4. We can't wait to see what they'll look like.
Vice President, Engineering - Cummins
Long-known among Class 8 and commercial customers, Cummins became familiar to the consumer market with the introduction of the 1989 Dodge Ram. The engine's substantial torque, long-haul reliability and frugal fuel consumption quickly made it a favorite among those who used their trucks for towing. Coming up on 25 years, the collaboration between Cummins and Chrysler is as strong as ever.
Overseeing that relationship, as well as engineering for Cummins' medium and heavy-duty products is Jennifer Rumsey, who was just promoted to the role of Vice President of Engineering. Since joining Cummins, Rumsey has worked in Advanced Engineering in the areas of advanced controls, and aftertreatment technology development.
Prior to joining Cummins, Rumsey worked for Nuvera Fuel Cells in control system development and system integration. She holds a bachelor's in mechanical engineering from Purdue University and a master's in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Chief Engineer, Toyota Trucks
While the Detroit Three have received the lion's share of attention over the last year for their trucks, Toyota is hoping to steal a little bit of the truck thunder with the introduction of the 2014 Tundra at the 2013 Chicago auto show. Overseeing the Tundra and Tacoma engineering programs is Mike Sweers.
Getting his start in interior design at Toyota Technical Center, Sweers served in several roles, culminating in his promotion to Vice President of Engineering Design -- Interior in January 2010. In July of that year, Sweers took on the role of Chief Engineer for the Toyota Tundra, and most recently added that role for the Tacoma program in April 2012.
While the Tundra is unlikely to unseat the Ford F-Series from its first-place sales perch anytime soon, it is a viable entry in the full-size truck market and it should become even more competitive following the introduction of the 2014 model.
Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is best-known among consumers for its safety ratings, but NHTSA's responsibilities and oversight go far further than simply testing and assigning safety ratings to new vehicles. The agency is also in charge of overseeing vehicle recalls and Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, which will only get increasingly stringent in the years ahead. We're already seeing the results of the new policies in the 2013 Ram 1500 with its eight-speed automatic and class-leading 25 highway MPG, and Ford's pioneering development of the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 in the F-150.
David Strickland was appointed by President Obama in 2010 to head NHTSA. Prior to his appointment, Strickland worked as Senior Democratic Counsel to the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. In addition to his work on the new CAFE standards, Strickland was instrumental in pushing for the adoption of the 2014 rear-view camera mandate and has been working with state governments to advance anti-texting legislation. Strickland holds a bachelor's degree in communications from Northwestern University and a J.D. degree from Harvard Law School.
Strickland, under a proposal from President Obama, also helped implement a unified fuel economy standard and roadmap to simplify compliance, rather than build to three different standards from the DOT, EPA and CARB. We're all for less-confusing, easier-to-understand rules, so while we may not generally be fans of government regulations, we can appreciate the effort made to streamline fuel economy standards.
Chief Engineer, VIA Motors
VIA Motors, the Utah-based startup that converts fullsize trucks, vans, and SUVs into range-extended plug-in hybrids, is best known by many for having the iconic Bob Lutz on its board of directors. But Lutz isn't the only star VIA stole from GM. VIA is now the home of Nick Zielinski, former chief engineer of the Chevrolet Volt.
Eliciting equal measures of passion and derision from the political left and right alike, the Volt unequivocally put plug-in vehicles in the spotlight, winning Motor Trend's 2011 Car of the Year award in the process. Taking a practical, pragmatic approach toward addressing America's current infrastructure, the Volt cleverly balanced the benefits of a pure electric with the flexibility and convenience of a gasoline hybrid.
VIA is applying that same basic concept to full-size trucks and SUVs. Beta testing in the hands of municipal utilities and corporate fleets has come back overwhelmingly positive so far. With great fuel economy and plug-in on-the-job power for tools and equipment, we think the plug-in revolution is just beginning in full-size trucks, and VIA is at the forefront.
Zielinski was also involved in the Sequel concept and Chevrolet Equinox Fuel Cell projects. He holds a bachelor's and master's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan.