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CEO, EUROPE: Dieter Zetsche, CEO, Daimler AG
Dieter Zetsche, 62, who had taken a beating from analysts and the media, had predicted he would prove skeptics wrong in 2014 and 2015 as the product cycle swung in favor of Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz. His prediction, made in early 2013, marked a turning point for the automaker and has since come true.

Mercedes has sizzled this year. The brand wrestled away second place in global sales from Audi for the first time since 2010 thanks to the success of key nameplates such as the S class and the compact family that includes the GLA crossover and CLA sedan.

While Audi and BMW struggle with sales in China, Mercedes has improved sales there by a third during the first 10 months of this year as it tries to close the gap.

More impressively, Mercedes has proved that it has a handle on some of its costs and can surpass profitability at BMW and Audi. Profits at Mercedes and Smart soared 50 percent during the third quarter, when its operating margin breached the double-digit percentage mark for the second straight quarter, easily besting its two rivals once more.