In 2018, we said hello to …


In 2018, we said hello to some people, cars and more. Here are 10 notable ones.

Dhivya Suryadevara

At General Motors, the fast-rising Suryadevara became one of CEO Mary Barra’s top lieutenants this year with her ascension to CFO in September. She adds corporate strategy and development responsibilities to her duties as of Jan. 1. Her tasks are daunting: Making GM leaner and more agile as it goes through a multibillion-dollar restructuring.

Mark Stewart

Despite leading Amazon’s customer fulfillment operations for the last year, Stewart — hired this month as COO of Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s North American region — is no stranger to the auto industry. He is an electrical engineer and a former COO of auto supplier ZF TRW. With Stewart’s appointment, FCA CEO Mike Manley shows that he has learned the power of delegating since taking over the automaker’s top spot in the wake of Sergio Marchionne’s death in July.

Steve Carlisle

With Carlisle’s April appointment to lead Cadillac, GM turned from an outsider — the ousted Johan de Nysschen, who ruffled feathers with his Project Pinnacle plan for dealers — to a trusted insider. Carlisle, a 36-year GM veteran who led the automaker’s Canadian operations before the Cadillac nod, by fall announced that Cadillac’s headquarters would return to Detroit after a four-year foray to Manhattan.

Joy Falotico

Falotico is not new to the top ranks at Ford Motor Co. But with her February appointment to chief marketing officer and group vice president for Lincoln, former Ford Credit CEO Falotico left the automaker’s financing arm for the first time in her 29-year career at Ford. Her deep ties with dealers became Falotico’s biggest selling point in making the transition.

Kathy Kraninger

Though grilled by Democratic lawmakers and assailed by critics on whether she had sufficient experience to lead the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, Kraninger was narrowly confirmed by the Senate this month to the position. The White House is looking for Kraninger to “reform and refocus” the agency. Consumer advocates are fearful she will gut the protections that the watchdog agency was created during the Obama era to administer.

Ford Ranger

Eight years after Ford discontinued the compact pickup, the Ranger is back — bigger and brawnier, fully a midsize entry in its new form. The reborn Ranger goes on sale in January and gives Ford an entry once again in a pickup category that has grown in importance since it first said goodbye to the nameplate. Room for the Ranger came as Ford’s full-size F-150 grew in size and price.

Mercedes-Benz A class

After years of back and forth on whether luxury consumers in the U.S. would accept such a small car, Mercedes-Benz is finally taking the plunge and will sell a variant of the A class here. It goes on sale early in 2019 as a sedan. That sedan body style was the key to bringing the A class here, Mercedes executives have said. They are now looking for the new entry-level model to attract younger consumers, many new to the brand.

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement

While signed but not ratified, the new trade agreement looks to be NAFTA 2.0. Whether President Donald Trump can get the rewritten pact through Congress remains to be seen. Automakers aren’t jumping up and down about the major auto change: raising the bar on rules of origin. To avoid tariffs, passenger vehicles would require 75 percent content from the region, up from 62.5 percent, with at least 40 percent of labor coming from plants with an average wage of $16 per hour. Whether the auto industry or U.S. workers will benefit is an open question.

Chinese brands

Mark 2018 as the year Chinese manufacturers marched in with bold plans to establish U.S. dealership networks. Guangzhou Automotive Group in January said it would introduce a seven-seat vehicle in the U.S. in 2019, though it later said it may delay that plan until 2020 because of the trade spat between the U.S. and China. GAC recruited dealers in March at the National Automobile Dealers Association Show. In November, little-known brand Zotye said it was recruiting U.S. dealers to sell its vehicles beginning in late 2020.

Scooter mobility boom

Electric scooters from companies such as Lime and Bird are quickly proliferating in major U.S. cities. They aim to help solve the “last-mile” puzzle piece to transportation in urban centers. But reports of scooter-related accidents are on the upswing, and they often litter the landscape along sidewalks as users arrive at their destinations. Ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft are getting into the game, and automakers don’t want to be left out either. Ford Motor Co. bought scooter company Spin for a reported $100 million.


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