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Firestone, Clunkers and Chapter 11: The Decade in Car News

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Bob Lutz and 50 Cent

Bob Lutz and 50 Cent

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As 2009 draws to a close this week, the auto industry is waving goodbye to a decade--and in some corners, waving it good riddance.

The "Naughties" might be the best neologism for this lost decade. It began with new alliances forming and new empires emerging, and ends on Friday in a multi-car pileup of cratered sales, shuttered brands and factories, wiped-out shareholders, and only a faint glimmer of hope for recovery in 2010.

There's been huge disruption around the carmaking globe since 2000, against a backdrop of titanic clashes of egos, epic battles of highly anticipated new products--and inevitably, the sound of an economic freight train approaching.

Who would have imagined the epic fail of the American auto industry in a pre-9/11, pre-iPhone, pre Bush v. Gore world? Who could have thought GM would fall as hard as it did--with Toyota taking a stumble right behind it? Would anyone ever have foreseen Porsche being swallowed up by Volkswagen?

Will someone please explain exactly how we were to expect Bob Lutz and 50 Cent in the same room--much less on the same stage--for the stillborn return of the El Camino?

TheCarConnection.com's editors have watched and written these stories as they unfolded right before us, live and on the Web. We've culled our best memories of our longest news days down to the ten stories that defined the 2000s.

We've left a few on the cutting room floor, too. Cash for clunkers? Big news, but ultimately a government-induced anomaly. The rise of South Korean automakers like Hyundai and Kia? A huge story, but one already in the works in the 1990s. Aztek? Leave it alone. Just leave it alone.

As we look back wistfully at the days when tires were the most Detroit had to worry about, TheCarConnection.com's team has chosen these as the top car news stories of the decade:


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Comments (9)
  1. I've always had a problem with Cash4Clunkers. To me it seems to go against simple supply and demand economics. How can we push all of these new cars into a market already saturated with used and repossessed vehicles (i.e. www.repofinder.com)? Now new cars are worth even less, we have more Americans in debt, and eventually more repossessions.
     
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  2. Heres to a better 2010~
     
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  3. I love Padgett's writing but think there is more than a glimmer of hope for 2010. A picture is worth a thousand words-check the look on Lutz's face!
     
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  4. I'm sure the naughts will be looked back on as a time when American Capitalism started to lose its way, the auto industry being a textbook example. Will we get back on path? The auto industry might be one of the first places to look in the next several years.
     
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  5. The biggest change to me has been in how the public learns about cars -- which is partially what Marty's talking about in his last point. In the 2000s, the internet became a truly robust marketing medium with its own set of needs, limitations, and possibilities. Today, consumers can get more information than they ever wanted about nearly any new model, any recall, any tech development -- and in just seconds.
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    Of course, in internet is a two-way superhighway these days, and we've seen more than a few automakers take hits when bad news and reviews circulated quickly. (Hello, Crosstour.) On the other hand, models like the Ford Fiesta have used the web to great advantage.
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    So, here's to a well-informed public in the 2010s (though technically the decade doesn't start until next year). Maybe automakers will listen this go-round. Maybe?
     
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  6. As Richard Read points out, the next decade doesn't start til Jan 1, 2011. That said, this is a great roundup of important developments.
    I think another take on the GM-Chrysler bankruptcy (and Ford's commensurate cost reductions via negotiating with a UAW that briefly got some sense into its head) is that for the first time in two generations, the U.S. industry may be not only cost-competitive but actually become a powerhouse exporter. We'll check back in 2 years.
     
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  7. Hybrids as a category is definitely the story of the decade. IT has changed everything from how we look @ autos , legislation etc etc
     
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  8. I believe that alternative energy sourcewill be thetheme of the next decade.
     
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  9. Cash for clunkers would never work for a real business model.
     
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