Eaton became a hero during the first half of his tenure as a boom in light trucks produced a seller's market for Chrysler's pickups, Jeeps, and minivans. But he got outmaneuvered during the Daimler-Chrysler combination, leaving Chrysler shortchanged in what was famously called "a merger of equals." Eaton left behind a damaged company when he prematurely retired to Florida with a personal treasure in stock and options worth tens of millions. Chrysler would be judged worthless seven years later.
Top executives from the world's biggest automakers have a lot to prove in this year.