Looking Back: The Biggest Stories of 2012

By Automotive Staff | December 31, 2012
It's impossible to finish up a year these days without being flooded by dozens--if not hundreds--of articles proclaiming the 10 Best Things of 2012. Top celebrity news! Best bikini bodies! Biggest science stories! Yes, this past year certainly was the year that was. So, of course, we're doing the same thing. However, instead of just throwing a list of whatever got the most traffic to our website, we're telling you what we think the biggest stories of 2012 were. Each editor here at Automotive.com picked one storyline from 2012--be it a new vehicle debut, auto show, or just a plain ol' news story--that was the most significant of the year. And so, without further delay, here are our picks for the biggest news story of the year. Paragraphimage Keith Buglewicz, News Director

For me, picking the biggest automotive news story of 2012 was simple: Honda's turnaround. Of course, you may have been unaware that Honda was even in need of one; it's Honda, after all. But after the introduction of the 2012 Honda Civic, compounded with a general "meh" about much of the company's present lineup, the "has Honda lost its way" story was a 2012 mainstay. Then, Honda punched back. First came the 2013 Honda Accord, representing a huge step forward in refinement over the previous model. Despite the evolutionary styling, there are substantial changes under the skin: A new continuously variable transmission; new technology like a side-view camera we suddenly can't live without; a quiet and relatively button-free interior. It immediately thrust the Accord to best-in-class status, and will likely have Korean competitors scrambling back to their own drawing boards. But the real coup d'├ętat was the 2013 Honda Civic. Honda rushed the mid-cycle update to market a mere 18 months after the 2012 Civic was panned, and the new interior, better ride and handling, and huge dose of refinement make the 2013 model car feel like a Civic should. The lesson: Anybody who wants to count Honda out clearly does so at their own peril. Paragraphimage Matthew Askari, Associate Editor

If it takes two points to make a line, 2012 can be seen as the second point, and one that signals a dramatic upward trajectory for Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia. The two have infused themselves into the fabric of American culture, and it's paying dividends. Hyundai has linked itself with music festivals, the Grammy's, prominent Super Bowl advertising. Kia has similarly been omnipresent; there are the unforgettable commercials with Brazilian super model Adriana Lima, and the tie-ins with the NBA and the All-Star game. But beyond brand awareness, the two have made dramatic strides in quality, performance, and styling. And people have taken notice; month after month, the two automakers have shown impressive and substantial market-share gains. Even a fuel-economy scandal--one that adjusted mpg ratings on some models and lowered overall fleet fuel economy from 27 mpg to 26 mpg for both automakers--seems to have had the effect of a good punch, a blow, but nothing the automakers can't recover from. While Hyundai and Kia had been growing in scope and influence, 2012 will be the year that solidified Korea's top automakers beyond the Peninsula and into the homes and driveways of America. Paragraphimage Jacob Brown, Associate Editor

It was once said that after European and Japanese cars saturated the American market, U.S. automakers wouldn't be able to compete. Well, with the Cadillac ATS, the new Viper, next month's Corvette that promises to be internationally competitive--along with a slew of other cars--it's safe to say that the U.S. can still produce some of the best cars in the world. After waiting through years of bailout bureaucracy and politicking, there was some fear that all of the fun American cars would be replaced with highly efficient, yet utterly dull, appliances. While domestic manufacturers are still reaching for that coveted 54.5 mpg that'll be here in 2025, it's good to see that they haven't forgotten about the passion, fun, and excitement that made their cars and trucks worth buying in the first place. Paragraphimage Jason Davis, Associate Editor

The NSX is back. Or, the NSX is coming back. And that's ironic for a number of reasons. With the introduction of the NSX in 1990, Honda showed the world that an exotic car could be reliable, livable, and civil. Honda showed the world that supercars didn't have be frilly, temperamental headcases. Since its 90s heyday, and continuing with the termination of the S2000 a few years later, Honda has seemingly lost the zest with which it was founded. The next NSX will be charged with showing the world that NSX--and Honda--has attitude, that in its dormancy--when it has essentially been left behind--it hasn't gone soft. Paragraphimage Trevor Dorchies, Associate Editor

In 2009, Chrysler appeared to be on the fast track to liquidation and the last thing on the automaker's mind was building a new sports car. Fast-forward three years and Chrysler is now out-selling its parent company Fiat, and keeping both afloat. Signs of this recovery were blatantly obvious earlier this year at the 2012 New York Auto Show when SRT--Chrysler's performance division--pulled the wraps off of the all-new Viper. Development of the Viper was shelved while Chrysler worked out its finances and, at one point, it appeared that the super snake would be no more. However, after things calmed down and slowly began returning to normal, Ralph Gilles--President and CEO of SRT and Senior Vice President of Design for Chrysler Group--was given the green light to bring the Viper back from the dead. Using a naked woman lying on the beach as inspiration (seriously), Gilles and Co. designed a full-size clay model of the all-new Viper before Fiat and Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne even knew what was going on. Gilles surprised Marchionne with the clay model after it was complete, and after some tense moments, Marchionne decided it was decided it was a walk-off home run. The rest is history. Agree? Disagree? Tell us what you think was the biggest story of 2012 in the comments, below!

  • 2013 Honda Civic EX L Sedan Navi 15
 
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