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The Auto Industry’s 10 Most Interesting and Influential People


Like any industry, the automotive business has its share of visionaries, leaders and disruptors. These are the people who get out and blaze the trail, or at least make a lot of news for us to report.

Woohyun Lee
Hyundai designer Woohyun Lee created the look of the Ioniq 6.

You may not like all of them, but these are the people everyone is (or should be) talking about as we head into 2023.

Woohyun Lee
The designer of the Hyundai Ioniq 6 made a bold statement with a look that is not in any way derivative or even going with the flow of contemporary passenger cars. He’s been with Hyundai since 2015, and previously designed the Ioniq 7 concept SUV. In an industry full of celebrity designers, expect more great things to come from this young artist for a long time to come.

Michael Simcoe
General Motors recently promoted Michael Simcoe to Senior VP of Global Design, with the new position taking effect Jan. 1. Under Simcoe’s leadership, GM Design has had some real high points, including the Buick Wildcat concept and upcoming Buick Electra EV, the Cadillac Celestiq and Lyriq, as well as the GMC Hummer EV.

GM EVP of Design Michael Simcoe with GM EVs
GM’s Michael Simcoe takes over as the company’s Senior VP of Global Design Jan. 1.

Other milestone vehicles include the current generation Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, the company’s first-ever mid-engine Corvette. Simcoe’s leadership is a compelling blend of GM tradition reimagined for the next era of the automobile.

Max Verstappen
Formula One got a new king in 2022. Yes, he also won the championship in 2021, but that narrow win was tainted by poor officiating. This year, he won 15 races and finished the season with 454 points, while second-place Charles LeClerc earned 308. That’s a commanding performance by any estimation. And while Red Bull undoubtedly had the best cars in the field, a Formula One car doesn’t drive itself. Verstappen may not be the most likable driver on the grid, but he ran the show in 2022.

WIM: Beth Paretta Pagoda
Beth Paretta, co-founder and owner of the Paretta Autosport IndyCar team, once headed FCA’s SRT racing program.

Beth Paretta
Formerly the director of marketing and operations for Stellantis’ SRT and motorsports division, Paretta is now leading her own IndyCar team, with a goal of bringing more women into auto racing at all levels and in all disciplines. Teams under Paretta’s leadership have earned championships in IMSA, Trans-Am, NASCAR Xfinity Series, and the Monster Energy Cup Championship with Team Penske in NASCAR.

Akio Toyoda
The president of Toyota has come in for some criticism for the company’s late adoption of full EV drivelines.

Akio Toyoda and BEV
Toyota’s chief Akio Toyoda continues to warn against a complete shift to EVs.

Once the green darling of the auto industry for Toyota’s groundbreaking development of hybrid drivetrains, Toyoda found himself and his company on the receiving end of tremendous vitriol. What he did next shows his mettle: he stood up and made a compelling case for hybrid technology, pointing out that in a battery-constrained business environment, making several plug-in hybrids is more ecologically sound than making a single EV. That took extraordinary courage in a contentious political environment.

R.J. Scaringe
Among the upstart EV manufacturers, Rivian is widely considered the most likely to give Tesla a chase — though it currently does face some of its own headaches. Its CEO, Robert “R.J.” Scaringe, has threaded the needle with major automakers to retain Rivian’s independence, and they’re actually delivering trucks to customers in quantity while many other EV startups are struggling to get to market. With a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, Scaringe brings an engineer’s focus to Rivian, and to the business at large.

RJ Scaringe talking
Rivian founder and CEO R.J. Scaringe’s company is focusing on its consumer products.

Elon Musk
Perhaps the single most controversial figure in the automotive industry is Elon Musk. Some enthusiasts revere the Tesla CEO as the hero who disrupted the whole automotive industry, while others deplore him as a blowhard and a bully. Lately, his extracurricular activities with Twitter have led to a dizzying drop in the value of Tesla stock, putting both his fortune and his leadership of the company at risk. Is he an example to be followed or a cautionary tale of hubris? Only time will tell.

Musk smiles at Cyber Rodeo
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been in the spotlight quite a bit lately.

Roy Goudy
As Nissan’s senior principal engineer at the Nissan Technical Center in Farmington, Michigan, Roy Goudy is leading efforts to develop vehicle-to-vehicle communications technology.

He’s driven by a passion for safety and reducing traffic fatalities. Nissan’s work has already shown promise in warning drivers when collisions are imminent by having the vehicles communicate their positions, speeds, and directions. Nissan already has more than 10 patents on the technology.

Vin Fast VF 8 Debut - Madam Thuy w VF8 - REL
VinFast’s global chief executive Le Thi Thu Thuy said there are be 5,000 new vehicles coming to the U.S.

Josh Tavel
Tavel is GM’s executive chief engineer for battery-electric trucks, and the man who engineered both the Chevrolet Bolt and the Cadillac ELR. That makes Tavel a proven leader in electrification. As GM prepares to release the Chevrolet Silverado EV, Tavel is creating the future for one of America’s most popular vehicle segments.

Le Thi Thu Thuy
As the CEO of VinFast, Thuy is one of just a handful of automotive CEOs who are women. Thuy brings a deep background in business, which will be necessary as VinFast introduces itself from Vietnam to the automotive markets in the United States, Europe and China. Thuy has been at Vingroup for some time, working in technology, finance, investment and international relations. Before that she was a VP at Lehman Brothers in Japan after earning her MBA.


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