In 2017, we said hello to …

In 2017, we said hello to …

- in Automotive
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Jim Hackett

In a surprise case of rapid succession, Ford Motor Co.’s board pushed Mark Fields out as CEO and replaced him with Hackett, the head of its mobility unit and former CEO of Steelcase. Hackett’s mandate has been to better articulate the company’s vision, speed decision-making and recapture some of the outsider magic that Alan Mulally once brought to Ford. Wall Street is watching his every move.

Henio Arcangeli Jr.

An outside executive with no automobile experience took over as head of American Honda’s automobile division, the third person to fill that role in the span of a year. Turmoil at the top? Not so much. Arcangeli’s appointment, which was effective Dec. 1, followed the long-expected retirements of John Mendel and Jeff Conrad. His executive resume includes stops at Yanmar, Yamaha and Pioneer, and his engineering background fits the mold of a Honda leader.

Kenny Lee

Hyundai Motor America’s appointment of Lee as CEO in September capped a nine-month search for a full-time successor to Dave Zuchowski, who was fired in December 2016 for failing to hit aggressive sales targets. Lee, who spent many years in global roles at the parent company, fills a spot known for high-pressure stints that don’t last very long: Since 1998, just two Hyundai Motor America CEOs have stayed more than three years.

Tesla Model 3

The first production models of Tesla’s purported mass-market sedan rolled off the assembly line in July, although what’s happening on the assembly line remains a puzzle. “Bottlenecks” and problems with factory robots at Tesla’s Fremont, Calif., plant limited third-quarter output to just a few hundred Model 3s, prolonging the wait for hundreds of thousands of customers who put down deposits in the hopes of owning an “affordable” Tesla someday. Visions of a revived Tesla Roadster and a semi could help them while away the time.

 

Polestar

In 2016, it was Lynk & CO. This year, the new brand from China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group is Polestar, refashioned as an all-electrified marque under Volvo Cars that will employ a subscription sales model and seek to challenge Tesla for performance and sex appeal. The first concept from the brand, shown in October, was a carbon fiber plug-in hybrid coupe with 600 hp and an all-electric range of 93 miles.

Scott Pruitt

The Oklahoma attorney general known for challenging the EPA’s authority became the agency’s leader in February and immediately fulfilled the auto industry’s hopes for a second look at federal fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards. But his broader support for fossil fuels and reports that he’s suppressing discussion of climate change policy at the agency create an awkward situation for an industry that’s desperately trying to change its reputation for environmental degradation.

Project Pinnacle

In August 2016, Cadillac executives vowed no retreat on the new dealer incentive program they developed to polish the brand and its retail network. By the time Pinnacle took effect in April — delayed by several months — it had been softened to give dealers more leeway on sales targets and performance standards, and a plan for no-inventory virtual showrooms was later shelved. In December, Cadillac scaled back standards again.

Dara Khosrowshahi

The former Expedia chief emerged from a contentious boardroom battle to become CEO of Uber, replacing Travis Kalanick, who resigned in June under pressure from investors. With a deal to buy up to 24,000 Volvo XC90 crossovers that can support Uber’s self-driving technology, Khosrowshahi reaffirmed Uber’s commitment to autonomous vehicle development.

 

Intel

After years of scratching at the windows, the king of computer chips burst into the high-value automotive supply chain with the nearly $15 billion acquisition of Israel’s Mobileye, a leader in the sensor, camera and mapping technology that makes self-driving vehicles possible. The two companies are at the hub of an alliance that’s working on a common autonomous-vehicle platform for global deployment, along with BMW, Fiat Chrysler, Delphi and Continental.

 

The subscription era

It took services such as Uber and Zipcar to challenge the notion of personal car ownership, and other startups to experiment with the idea of charging a monthly fee for access to a car, either through flexible lease arrangements or subscription models. Now automakers are leaping into the market, with services such as Book by Cadillac, Ford’s Canvas, Porsche’s Passport, Hyundai’s Ioniq Unlimited+, Volvo’s Care by Volvo, Polestar offerings and a new Lincoln service. How long will the era be? TBD.

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