For years, Johanna Quandt and her children, Stefan Quandt and Susanne Klatten, have been the auto industry’s wealthiest individuals, thanks to their nearly 50 percent stake in the German automaker BMW. The three billionaires inherited their wealth from their late husband and father, Herbert Quandt, the German industrialist credited with saving BMW from bankruptcy in the early 1960s.
Record vehicle sales fueled an uptick in BMW’s stock price which made them all wealthier in 2014: Klatten is now worth $17.4 billion; her brother is worth $14.9 billion, and her mother is worth $12.8 billion, according to the 2014 Forbes Billionaires List.
But roaring up behind them is Elon Musk, 42, the South African-born founder of Tesla Motors, whose fortune has more than tripled in the past year to $8.4 billion. His electric car company’s stock is up a stunning 625% in the past year, with bulls believing the $70,000-and-up Tesla Model S sedan is more than just a plaything for the Silicon Valley set but a signal of the car of the future. In February, Musk announced plans to build a $5 billion factory to produce low-cost, advanced lithium-ion batteries for a new generation of more affordable EVs for the mass market.
While about two-thirds of his wealth comes from Tesla, Musk’s increased fortune can also be traced to a 340-percent gain for his stock in SolarCity, the solar panel designer and installer run by his cousin Lyndon Rive and his privately-held spacecraft-maker SpaceX, reportedly worth more than $4 billion.
The wealthiest automotive titans on Forbes’ Billionaires list now include more Asians, a reflection of how the Chinese auto industry has surpassed the United States as the world’s largest. Among them are Wei Jianjun ($6.9 billion), chairman of Great Wall Motor, one of the largest non-state-owned automakers in China: Wang Chuanfu ($4.3 billion), chairman of Warren Buffet-backed automaker, BYD; and Chung Mong-Koo ($6.8 billion), chairman of South Korea’s Hyundai Motor.
Tires can also make one exceedingly wealthy, it seems. Bruce Halle, the 83-year-old founder of the Discount Tire store chain, is worth $5 billion, and Taiwan’s Luo Jye, 88, (and his family), the chairman of Chen Shin Rubber, one of the world’s largest tire producers, is worth $4.4 billion.
Rounding out the Top 10 car guys (and gals) on the Forbes list is Shahid Khan, founder of Chicago-based Flex-N-Gate, an automotive parts supplier, who also owns the Jacksonville Jaguars football team and recently added a professional soccer team to his holdings. Khan is a naturalized U.S. citizen who emigrated from Pakistan for college at age 16. He founded Bumper Works in 1978 after designing a one-piece car bumper that has since become the industry standard.