Few Auto Billionaires

If you've got your heart set on being a billionaire, you may want to consider getting out of automotive and jumping into a more lucrative business, like software, sunglasses or even zippers.

Aside from Johanna Quandt and her family, who own a controlling interest in high-flying BMW AG and are ranked a very respectable 12 on Forbes magazine's 15th annual list of the world's richest people with an estimated net worth of $17.8 billion, automotive tycoons were very poorly represented. And most of those that made the upper crust of the billionaires list are only peripherally associated with Detroit, such as DaimlerChrysler investor Kirk Kerkorian, who ranked 46 on the list with a net worth of $6.4 billion.

Microsoft founder William H. Gates III topped the list with a personal fortune of $58.7 billion, followed by the usual short list of other software billionaires, a Saudi Prince and members of the Walton family loaded with Wal-Mart stock. If you want to find bona fide automotive billionaires with gasoline in their blood, you have to search way down the list, past the candy bar and (legal) drug fortunes, real estate tycoons and those that got rich from sneakers, banking and beer, all the way down to Fiat's Giovanni Agnelli & family, who ranked 146 with a net worth of $3.1 billion, the same as William Wrigley Jr., the chewing gum heir.

The only Ford family member to make the list was 76-year-old William Clay Ford, who has an estimated worth of $1.4 billion. Ranked 363 on the list, he was well behind auto retail entrepreneur H. Wayne Huizenga, (208, $2.2 billion) Tadahiro Yoshida, who made his $2.2 billion in the zipper business, and even Jim Jannard, who made $1.7 billion in sunglasses.