Best and Worst of the Automotive Year That Was 2011
In 2011, Automotive.com’s staff size increased 600 percent. We started our own revitalization, staking out where we were and where we are yet to go.To close out the year, we put together our picks for the high and low points that made up the automotive year that was 2011. From regulations to new products, from new technology to cars withering away in an ever-changing market, here are our picks for what made 2011 memorable.Worst: Suzuki and Volkswagen’s Irreconcilable Differences The so-called Suzuki and Volkswagen farce that’s turning into a bitter, and very sad, breakup. Like Saab’s sad story, please solve that so-called “oil and water” mix up soon for the sake of Suzuki and VW fans. Split them apart and have Suzuki build up its fleet. Bring back the Swift. Make the SX-4 competitive. Update the Grand Vitara. Oh, and expand the brand's lineup. (Equator doesn't account.)Worst: The Shame of the 2012 Honda Civic Honda makes some very fine, very reliable cars. When I was in high school and college, it seemed we all wanted to be in Civics—they were priced accessibly, but still had style and fun. In fact when I was in college and it came time for me to buy my first car and replace the old hand-me down Corolla I got from my parents, a used Civic was all I wanted. Many years have passed since I was last in a Civic, until a 2012 Honda Civic arrived at our offices for testing. It wasn't sad so much as shocking. While doubtless the car is still a good, reliable car, there was no hint of passion, inspiration, excitement in that car. The fabric and dash were lackluster, and there was a general somberness about the car. We hear Honda execs have caught wind of their faux pas, letting such a storied model be shamed in such a manner. The questions are, what are they going to do about it, and when?Worst: Volt. Spark. Flames. The Chevrolet Volt is the car of the future, whether you like it or not. Despite the fact that much of the development cost of it was wiped out in GM’s 2009 bankruptcy, it cost a hefty sum to make, and it’s still a working technology that will undoubtedly go from good to primetime over the next few years. When the NHTSA reported that three Volts it had crash-tested burst into sparks or flames days after testing, it likely caused more damage to the vehicle’s reputation over the long-run than anything else in recent years. GM’s goals are modest with this year’s batch of vehicles. And at $40,000 it’s a tough sell in a sea of confusion, lousy advertising, and cheaper so-called rivals. But make no mistake: We want the Volt to succeed on the deepest level because its technology is soon to spread to everything. It’s hit some rocky spots in recent months, and we hope it can bounce back and begin to pick up steam as it rolls out nationwide.How cool is that? Not only did it accurately find my destination and give me good, solid directions, it made the process as easy as asking a buddy in the passenger seat. Now, compare that with the typical voice-activated nav system, where you have to say precisely what the computer expects in exactly the way it wants you to say it. Make a mistake, and it gives you the wrong info. Thanks to Apple, all in-car voice activated systems are antiquated.Worst: The Weather Underground Earthquake and tsunami. That is all.Worst: Saab Story Makes Us Cry Up until 24 hours ago, Saab was the Bela Lugosi monster of the automotive industry: it just wouldn’t die! And God knows there had been forces at work conspiring to kill it: not GM, nor the Chinese, nor the loan-denying Swedish government, nor shady Russian businessmen ripped straight from the pages of a Guy Ritchie script had been able to strike the beast down. Perhaps Saab was the Chuck Norris of car companies, a supernatural entity that can’t be destroyed by the force of mere mortals and their boardroom transactions. But in the end, and much like the moral of the Final Destination movies, death finally caught up to the ailing Saab—this time in the form of a sudden, ignominious bankruptcy. We say goodbye to the company that gave us the SPG, the two-stroke 96, the 80s-epynomous 900 Turbo convertible, and a whole host of firebreathing rally cars that made Stig Blomqvist a household name (at least in Örebro County, Sweden). But there’s a flip side to the whole sordid affair: those 147 people that bought a Saab 9-4X now inexplicably own the rarest production car on the planet. See you at Barrett-Jackson, folks.