Who are the three best automotive CEOs of the past century?
Here are our picks, using highly subjective criteria based on pioneering/first in-class status, ability to lead, and who appear to be in a league of their own in their respective eras.
1. Sergio Marchionne
Marchionne was the key architect of Fiat’s merger with Chrysler during the 2009 financial crisis after fearlessly taking out a high-interest government loan, eliminating its industrial debt.
Under his watch, the Jeep brand was also revitalized, tripling its sales within five years to top two million vehicles a year.
Before his death, he also unveiled an aggressive five-year business strategy that propped up Jeep and emphasized lesser profitable brands such as Dodge and Fiat.
2. Henry Ford
Founder of the Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford was the inventor of the 1908 Model T and a pioneer in automotive assembly best practices.
He was known for inventing new and more efficient methods of auto production via assembly lines, with increased wages for field workers.
3. Elon Musk
The eccentric yet troubled Tesla CEO Elon Musk developed his entrepreneurial chops as the co-founder of PayPal before founding Tesla Motors in 2003. In the past 15 years, Tesla is only second to Renault-Nissan in total electric vehicle sales.