Ranked

Here are the top 15 auto industry tycoons on the 2021 Forbes Billionaires list

SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk poses on the red carpet of the Axel Springer Award 2020 on December 01, 2020 in Berlin, Germany.

Photo by Britta Pedersen-Pool/Getty Images

The annual Forbes World's Billionaires list ranks and categorizes the richest people on Earth. You can probably name a few in the Top 10: Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett, and Larry Ellison all make the list.

Sixty-eight of the billionaires have ties to the auto industry. Scroll down to see the top 15 heavy hitters and find out more about their rolls in the sector.

No. 476 - William Bin Li

William Bin Lee Li

William Bin Lee, chief executive officer and chairman of electric car maker NIO, looks on as he waits for NIO stock to begin trading on the floor of the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

According to his Forbe profile, William Li is known as the "Elon Musk of China". In his lifetime he has co-founded and invested in more than 40 companies in the automotive space.

He is the founder and chairman of Bitauto (NYSE: BITA), a company that has three main areas of business: advertising and subscriptions, transaction services, and digital marketing solutions. Li sold the company in 2013.

The entrepreneur is also known for being the founder and current CEO of luxury electric car manufacturer NIO (NYSE: NIO). In addition to passenger vehicles, NIO is involved with FIA Formula E Championship racing.

His $5.8 billion net worth moves him up quite a bit form his 1,717 position on 2019's Billionaire's list.

No. 476 - Li Ping

You might not know Li Ping's name, but you're probably familiar with the company that he is the vice chairman of - Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL) - if not by name then by the products that their batteries are in. Either via partnerships or sales, the company has supplied batteries for PSA Groupe (now part of Stellantis), Hyundai, Honda, BMW, Daimler AG, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen, Volvo, MINI, Next, BAIC Motor, Geely Automobile, GAC Group, Yutong Bus, Zhongtong Bus, Xiamen King Long, SAIC Motor, and Ford.

Ping's $5.8 billion net worth places him much higher on the Billionaires list than he was in 2019 and 2019 when he placed numbers 1063 and 1605, respectively.

No. 451 - Mong-Koo Chung

Chung Mong-Koo

Hyundai Motor Co. Chairman Chung Mong-Koo walks by reporters as he leaves after the first day of his appeals trial at the Seoul Central District Court on March 27, 2007 in Seoul, South Korea.

Photo by Getty Images

Mong-Koo Chung ushered in the new era of Hyundai Motor Corporation vehicles, moving the company from troubled upstart to a formidable foe for the likes of the Big 3, not just in America, but across the globe, during his 20-year tenure.

Chung's net worth is estimated to be $6 billion, which comes primarily from this family's business. He is the second son of the late Chung Ju-yung who founded the Hyundai Group. His second biggest holding is the auto parts company Hyundai Mobis, where he still serves as Chairman.

According to Forbes, Chung is known as the "bulldozer" because of his "blunt and forceful style."

In 2007, an appeals court suspended a three-year prison sentence for the Hyundai Motor Co. Chairman saying the tycoon is too important to South Korea's economy to go to jail for embezzlement.

In 2020, Chung was number 836 on the Billionaires list, quite the fall from his position at 452 in 2019.

No. 339 - Ernest Garcia III​

If you've shopped for a used car lately, there's a good chance that you've taken a peek at the website of the billionaire at number 339 on the Forbes list. Garcia is the CEO and cofounder of Carvana, an ecommerce platform for buying and selling used cars. The company is perhaps best known for its car towers, which display vehicles and where buyers can pick up their vehicle without having to visit a dealership.

Garcia is worth $7.4 billion according to Forbes.

The Stanford University graduate started his career as an associate in the Principal Transactions Group at RBS Greenwich Capital.

No. 308 - Shahid Khan

Shadhid Khan

Shad Khan Owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars looks on before the start of a game against the Tennessee Titans at TIAA Bank Field on September 19, 2019 in Jacksonville, Florida.

Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

Shahid Khan was trained as an engineer. In 1980 he purchased Flex-N-Gate from his former employer and set about building an empire, thanks in large part to the success of his one-piece truck bumper. The Flex-N-Gate now has 64 plants worldwide and over 24,000 employees.

Kahn's success isn't limited to the automotive industry. He is the owner of Fulham football club and the Jacksonville Jaguars. He and his son, Tony, launched All Elite Wrestling in 2019 as a competitor to WWE. He is a major financial backer of Black News Channel, a 24-hour cable news channel that launched in February 2020.

Kahn is currently worth $8 billion placing him in the 308 slot on the Forbes Billionaires list. In 2020 he was number 183 and in 2019 he was 224.

No. 256 - Lu Xiangyang

Lu Xiangyang and his cousin Wang Chuanfu teamed up in 1995 to launch BYD, a Chinese auto- and battery-maker. Prior to that point, Lu had been working at the People's Bank of China.
BYD currently makes passenger cars, buses, electric bicycles, forklifts, rechargeable batteries, and trucks. The range of products electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, and gasoline-powered vehicles.
In addition his stake in BYD, Lu runs an investment firm, Youngy Investment Holding Group.
Lu's net worth is $9.1 billion according to Forbes.

No. 173 - Lu Zhongfang

The year was 1999. Lu Zhongfang retired from a pesticides factory in northern China's Jilin Province six years prior. He decided to invest in test preparation firm Offcn.

Today, Offcn Education Technology Co., Ltd. has over 35,000 employees across the globe and generates $1.3 billion in sales each year. There are 1490 companies in the Offcn corporate family.

Lu is worth $12.5 billion according to the Forbes list.

No. 133 - ​Georg Schaeffler

Maria-Elisabeth Schaeffler, Georg F. W. Schaeffler

The owner of the Scheffler Group, Maria-Elisabeth Schaeffler (R) and her son Georg F. W. Schaeffler are seen prior to the Continental Shareholder Meeting on April 23, 2009 in Hanover, Germany.

Photo by Joern Pollex/Getty Images

Georg Schaeffler's link to the auto industry is less traditional than many of the people on this list. Schaeffler and his mother Maria-Elisabeth own Schaeffler Group, a global one of the world's largest producers of ball bearings and machine components.

In 2011, Schaeffler Group agreed to a staggered ownership deal with Continental AG and it currently owns over 46 percent. Schaeffler Group also owns the brands INA, FAG and LuK. Schaeffler is the head of the supervisory board of Schaeffler Group and a member of the supervisory board of Continental AG.

His net worth of $14.9 billion has moved him up on the list from his 2020 spot as number 241 and closer to his previous positions at 96, 31, and 36 in 2019, 2018, and 2017, respectively.

No. 128 - Wei Jianjun​

Wei Jianjun is worth $15.5 billion, far more than he was worth in 2017-2020.

Wei is quite the success story. At the age of 26, he took over the debt-plagued Great Wall Automobile Industry Company after working at a carpet factory and a water-pump factory before joining Great Wall. Wei currently the head of Great Wall Motor, which has become China's largest SUV manufacturer.

No. 121 - Ernest Garcia II

Ernest Garcia II is 228 spots ahead of his son Ernest Garcia III. The elder Garcia is the largest Carvana shareholder, which has given him a net worth of $15.9 billion. In addition to his Carvana holdings, Garcia owns DriveTime Automotive, the nation's fourth-biggest used car retailer.

In 2020, Garcia was listed in the 875 position on the Billionaires list.

No. 118 - Wang Chuanfu

\u200bWang Chuanfu

Wang Chuanfu, Chairman of BYD, waits for the BYD press event to begin during the press preview for the Detroit International Auto Show at the Cobo Center January 12, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan.

Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Wang Chuanfu is Lu Xiangyang's cousin and BYD co-founder. His net worth is higher than Lu's - $16.3 billion. Like Wei Jianjun, Wang is a rags to riches success story. He was born in a farm village in 1966 and was orphaned as a teen. He set his sights on battery technology when he was in college and founded BYD in 1990.

Wang's worth is on the rise. In 2020, he was ranked at number 401 on the Forbes Billionaires list and in 2019 he was number 452.

No. 89 - Li Shufu

Li Shufu is the chairman of Geely Automobile Holdings. You might have heard the Geely name before. They're the parent company of Volvo and Polestar, among others, and they one of the few Chinese automakers not run by the government. Geely also owns stakes in Daimler, Lotus, and flying car start-up Terrafugia.

Li has been dreaming about making cars since he was a body, telling Forbes Asia in 2014, ""We couldn't afford any toys. I couldn't imagine making a real car."

Li was listed in the 96 position on the 2020 version of the Forbes Billionaires list. He was listed 91st in 2019. His current net worth is $19.7 billion.

No. 81 - Stefan Quandt

Stefan Quandt is worth $21.6 billion thanks, in large part, to his 23.6=percent stake in BMW. Quandyts mother, Joanna, was the third wife of industrialist Herbert Quandt whose biggest claim to fame is saving BMW when it was at the point of bankruptcy and earning a fortune while doing so.

Quandt is the deputy chairman of BMW's supervisory board. In addition to his BMW holdings, Quandt has holdings in Heel (homeopathic medicine), Entrust (digital identity and data security), and Logwin (logistics).

Quandt has made the Billionaires list since 2017 with positions as high as 42nd (in 2018).

No. 53 - Susanne Klatten

Susanne Klatten

Jan Klatten with his wife Susanne Klatten and Werner E. Klatten attend the German Sports Gala 'Ball des Sports 2017' on February 4, 2017 in Wiesbaden, Germany.

Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Susanne Klatten is worth over $6 billion more ($27.7 million) than her brother Stefan Quandt despite owning just a 19.1-percent stake in BMW. Like her brother, she has been on the Billionaires list since 2017 with her ranking as high as 32.

Klatten is an economist by trade. She helped transform Altana AG into a world-class pharmaceutical/specialty chemical corporation. She is currently the sole owner and deputy chairman of that company, which has more than $2.5 billion in annual sales.

Klatten and her brother both hold stakes in Entrust. She has also invested SGL Group.

No. 2 - Elon Musk

Elon Musk

SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk poses next to Axel Springer's Chairman of the Board Mathias Doepfner on the red carpet of the Axel Springer Award 2020 on December 01, 2020 in Berlin, Germany.

Photo by Hannibal Hanschke-Pool/Getty Images

With a net worth of $151 billion, Elon Musk takes second place on the annual Forbes Billionaires list. Musk's holdings and links to the auto industry are pretty well known. According to Forbes, Musk owns 21 percent of Tesla but has pledged more than half his stake as collateral for loans. He also owns SpaceX, a rocket company.

Though much of the conversation surrounding Musk these days is in regard to Tesla and SpaceX, Musk is just as well known for building PayPal into the powerhouse company it is today.

Musk was first listed on the Forbes Billionaires List in 2012.

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The BMW M4 is featured in the ad. It's new to the lineup for 2021.

Photo courtesy of BMW

This week BMW debuted a new commercial that takes the common misconceptions of modern cars and turns them on their head. The ad, called "The Ultimate Self-Driving Machine" kicks off the launch of the next-generation BMW M4 coupe.

Filmmakers have captured the M4 on the truck expertly drifting, cornering, and putting down plenty of power thanks to its twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine. Though it looks like the car is driving itself, it's actually actor Milo Ventimiglia of "This is Us" and "Heroes" fame behind the wheel.

The car, which comes with a six-speed manual transmission, requires hands-on driving at all times, and that's the way sports car enthusiasts want it. While autonomous driving technologies evolve in concept form in labs and controlled testing situations, all you need to do is head to a track to find drivers who prefer being hands-on. In these situations, self-driving means myself driving.

The Ultimate Self-Driving Machine | 2021 BMW M4 | BMW USA www.youtube.com

"With up to 503 horsepower, and as one of the only vehicles in its category to offer a six-speed manual gearbox, the BMW M4 is the epitome of the ultimate driving machine," said Uwe Dreher, vice president of marketing, BMW of North America.

Drivers who want to take advantage of more time behind the wheel and up their precision driving game, BMW operates its Performance Center West, located at the renowned Thermal Club near Palm Springs, CA. The driving school has begun offering new courses for groups and individuals as part of a lineup that allows drivers to learn basic car control, proper vision, emergency and panic braking, last-minute lane changes, high-speed control, precision driving, and more.

The Performance Center West recently added new M4s to its lineup of cars that can be driven as part of the experience.

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In the future, vehicles will be connected via a number of technologies designed to remove the burden of driving for owners.

Photo by metamorworks/Getty Images

No matter what you've heard from various automakers, there's currently no such thing as a self-driving car. There, now that the big letdown's out of the way, we can talk about what is happening right now. Tesla, Cadillac, and others offer systems that will take charge and pilot a vehicle down the highway in very limited circumstances. Tesla's Autopilot and Cadillac's Super Cruise may someday become autonomous systems, but today offer quite limited functionality in the grand scheme of things.

Autonomous vehicles (AVs) will become more common over time, as the technology and regulations catch up to engineers' imaginations, which will require testing. Most states have created some degree of legislation on AVs, but the level to which they regulate the industry is all over the map. Let's take a closer look at AV testing and what's involved with the process.

What are the levels of automation?

What do we mean when we say, "level of automation?" Well, it turns out that autonomous vehicles aren't a monolithic group. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has created a six-level system (including zero) for designating the level of automation that a vehicle is capable of.

  • Level 0 - A vehicle rated at Level zero is one in which the driver is always in control. There may be support features, such as blind spot monitoring, but their interventions are brief.
autonomous vehicle sitting in traffic in China

Photo by 4X-Image/Getty Images

  • Level 1 - Vehicles carrying Level 1 autonomous tech are capable of providing steering, braking, or acceleration support to the driver. These systems can include features like adaptive cruise control or lane centering. Level 1 vehicles are capable of providing steering or braking support for the driver, not both.
  • Level 2 - Cars that are designated as Level 2 are similar to Level 1 cars, with the big distinction being that they can provide steering and brake or acceleration support simultaneously. This would mean that both lane centering and adaptive cruise control work together.
  • Level 3 - Cars that are equipped with SAE Level 3 technology are capable of piloting themselves under extremely limited conditions and may require driver input in certain situations. Examples of this tech can include features like traffic jam assist systems.
  • Level 4 - When a car is designated as being Level 4, it can operate itself in the same limited conditions that a level 3 car can, but will not require the driver to step in and assume control. These vehicles may include autonomous taxis or buses that operate in a designated area.
  • Level 5 - Level 5 vehicles are similar to Level 4 vehicles, but can drive "everywhere in all conditions," according to the SAE. It's worth noting that there are no Level 5 vehicles on the road today, other than what's being tested.

Looking at those levels, it's easy to see where we are today. Tesla's Autopilot and Cadillac's Super Cruise are both Level 2 technologies. They can both provide limited support, but can't pilot the vehicles without driver input – regardless of what you see in the news.

Autonomous vehicle testing in the United States

rendering of a self-driving vehicle

Photo by Sergii Iaremenko/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

The truth is that, depending on where you live, the laws may be altogether nonexistent, but there are quite a few states that have made moves toward regulating autonomous vehicles. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 38 states have taken some action on autonomous vehicles. The levels of regulation vary from place to place, but common themes emerge.

Many states have authorized AV testing, but require that a human be present, while others have only authorized a study on AVs, or on how AVs might perform. Others take a more nuanced approach, allowing deployment of AVs for testing, but varying the level of human involvement required based on the level of vehicle automation.

So far:

  • 28 states have authorized some level of testing or deployment
    • 18 of them allow deployment or testing without a human
  • 4 states have issued regulation on truck platooning

Truck platooning refers to the practice of having a human-driven lead truck that is followed by one or more autonomous trucks. The lead truck controls braking and acceleration for all trucks, and the resulting aerodynamic improvements help save fuel.

What sort of documentation is required?

The states that allow AV testing each have different requirements for what they allow on their roadways. In general, though, there are fees and annual reporting schedules.

California, for instance, requires a $3,275 fee to accompany its AV testing application. The applications must also be accompanied by extensive documentation on how, when, and where an AV will be tested. California's paperwork asks that the applicant to carefully describe the conditions and locations where the AV is designed to operate.

It's important to track and monitor problems that occur with AV prototypes during testing, especially if there is a collision or another type of accident. Some states allow the ability to review these data points on their websites. A large portion of these reports cover minor damage due to a fender-bender or related accident. Not all of these incidents are caused by AVs.

Are there autonomous vehicles testing near you?

autonomous vehicle driving on a rural road

Photo by Arthur Debat/Getty Images

You may be surprised to find out where and how many AVs are testing in the U.S. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers a tracking tool that allows the general public to keep track of the prototype projects. Results can eb filtered by state and company then are listed according to testing sites by road and vehicle type. Sometimes, photos accompany the information so you'll know what to look out for while you're driving.

The tracking tool also allows you to see the laws and regulations governing AV testing in each state as well as related inflation regarding each company that has filed paperwork to test AVs.

Tesla and Full-Self Driving

Tesla's Autopilot technology is designed to assist with traditional driving tasks like staying in a lane and making sure there's no one in your blind spot. It's a hands-on technology that is frequently misused by Tesla vehicle drivers.

Tesla 2016 steering wheel and screen

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Autonomous Tesla tech has long been promised by the automaker. Currently a Full-Self Driving (FSD) package is available for a $10,000 charge. That fee does not include the ability for a Tesla to autonomously drive itself. Instead, it includes an upgraded suite of driver assist and parking features.

Navigate on Autopilot is designed to be used on the highway and assists with funcitons including lane change and exiting. Similar technology exists in Mercedes vehicles. There's also automatic parallel and perpendicular parking (similar to advanced park assist in many other vehicles) and Smart Summon, which can have your vehicle come to your location from its place within a parking lot or parking garage. Traffic light stop assist and stop sign recognition are also offered.

Tesla says that all its cars currently have the technology required to be able to drive autonomously, but that it's not enabled, even if the buyer has paid 10 grand for it.

A beta software test of a more advanced driver assist technology called "City Streets" or "Navigate on City Streets" was recently offered to a select group of Tesla owners. Those who opted in to this unregulated group are currently using a glitch-prone version of the program on streets across the U.S. Despite being more advanced, this technology is not hands-free.

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