This past calendar year has been an active one in the automotive industry. The federal government moved in to assist two of Detroit’s brands survive into the new year. We saw severe budget cuts, inventory and dealership reductions, reorganizations and a renewed push towards a “greener” future.
As we prepare for 2010, much is still the same. Politicians are still politicians, we still have loved ones defending the world on foreign soil and consumers are still buying cars and trucks.
Before the world turns the calendar to the “green teens,” here is a look back at some highlights – my top nine from ’09.
• My 2009 basically began with a visit to a very cold (by Texas standards) Detroit and an introduction to what would eventually become car of the year – the 2010 Ford Fusion and Fusion Hybrid. I proclaimed my adoration for the makeover early on and others (eventually) followed.
• Turbocharging is certainly not new in the automotive environment but one automaker is using the technology to deliver V-8 performance from their new vehicles while keeping the fuel economy of a six. Again, Ford makes my list with their new EcoBoost engines. The turbo sixes came out this year and we should see some hot fours under the hoods very soon.
• Sorry for this but I am going to give Ford another tip of the hat. They were the only one of Detroit’s big three that did not line their pockets with my tax dollars. And they have already begun paying back their private financiers. Way to go big blue oval.
• Chevrolet gets an attaboy for the new Camaro although they did wait until after Dodge released a new Challenger before doing so (not to mention Ford never quit building pony cars). Still, ‘Transformers – Rise of the Fallen’ is my favorite movie of the year thanks in part to the role the GM vehicles played in it. (And I bet some of you can guess another reason I enjoyed the movie so.)
• As for the Chrysler Corporation, Dodge gets a nod for the new Heavy Duty Ram (which was recently named truck of the year). As for spinning Ram into its own division I will reserve judgement on that decision until 2010.
• Safety technology took some big steps forward this past year. Volvo led the pack with their new “City Safety” self-braking system designed to eliminate low-speed collisions (rear-enders occurring under 19 mph by inattentive drivers). The new XC60 was the host vehicle.
• No. 7 was eliminated due to cutbacks this past year.
• When thinking back over the past year to any one thing that really stands out in my mind as making an impression, I keep coming back to the sound-reactive lighting behind the speakers of the Kia Soul. Gimmicky perhaps, but memorable nonetheless. Plus, I really enjoyed the humorous marketing campaign Kia utilized to intro the Soul.
• And finally, Volt. Kudos to Chevy for still being able to garner headlines with it despite not delivering one to a paying customer yet. The world is also waiting with baited breath in hopes the power grid can handle the load when 9-to-5ers come home each day and plug their cars in to recharge at the same moment they are kicking on the AC.
•This just in: The Obama administration has approved funding for No. 7. In due turn, I give this one to the federal government for their “rescue” of General Motors and Chrysler.
Well there you have my “Nine from ‘09.”
Next time around I will offer up my “10 for ’10.”