Patriot Acts: The Most Important American Cars Of The Past 25 Years

July 3, 2012

When history takes a look at the brand-new cars (and trucks) of the past 25 years, it won't be kind to many of them. So many nameplates failed to launch, a whole dealership in a parallel universe could be filled with the copies that went quietly to fleet sales or corporate use. That parking lot will not be pretty, filled with Azteks, Breezes, and Montereys.

Some new vehicles rightfully can be called game-changers, whether they were introduced to great acclaim at critical moments in an automaker's history, or sold strongly and kept momentum going. Sometimes, the most important cars, trucks, SUVs and minivans of the past 25 years forced automakers to change the way they did business. And in doing so, they pointed the way to the future.

TheCarConnection's editors have taken a look back at the major new vehicles of the past 25 years, and come up with ten vehicles that changed the course of history--for all autos and for their automakers. By those measures, these are the most important new American cars to be introduced since the 1987 model year:

Dodge Ram

Since the early 1980s, Chrysler's slice of the full-size pickup market was next to nothing, compared to the big chunks claimed by Ford and GM. Chrysler saw the potential for a stylish truck, and knew it needed something distinctive to make a major impact in the segment. In 1994, comeback-minded management that had already put the Viper, the LH sedans, and the Neon into production, picked a risky design for the new Dodge Ram, one that aped the big rigs. It worked, and it reshaped truck sales into a three-way race. Today, Ram is its own brand, running a strong third to the perennial leaders, Ford and GMC/Chevy, and the highly profitable trucks are one reason Chrysler was preserved and not sold off piecemeal during its 2009 bankruptcy.

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