We're just a couple of days away from rear-ending 2010, so like all major media outlets, we thought we'd take a break from real reporting (don't worry: nothing's happening) and look back at some of 2009's notable moments.
It was an...interesting year for the auto industry to say the least, and we've seen a lot of changes, both in the U.S. and abroad. Some of the losses have been painful, but in the end, we're hopeful that they'll spur growth and development down the line. And if not, we'll have enjoyed kicking them around in our spare time.
By the way: we'd planned on making an Oscar-style video about the year's losses, but we got lazy (surprise). You'll just have to hum Barbra Streisand's "Memories" on your own. Don't play like you don't know the tune.
Saturn, Pontiac, Saab
General Motors learned the hard way that eight was more than enough brands to manage in a tanking global economy. Despite heartbreaking attempts to drop four of its sickliest kids at orphanage, only the linebacker of the group -- HUMMER -- found a new home in the hilly, chilly terrain of central China, snuggled up to unheralded heavy-duty truckmaker Sichuan Tenzhong. We've heard that Pontiac, Saturn, Saab are being stored in a time capsule and buried somewhere north of Detroit. Here's hoping that one of them gets thawed out down the road. (You know which one we mean.)
Texting behind the wheel
Our legal right to send text messages while driving
Actually, this is a great thing to lose. It dovetails perfectly with another loss -- our loss in faith in hand-eye coordination.
Chrysler PT Cruiser
The Chrysler PT Cruiser
When the PT launched about ten years ago, it was like a breath of fresh air. Now, it's just bad breath -- underachieving, underwhelming, downmarket halitosis. We thought we were done with it, but Sergio Marchionne's chosen to milk that ailing cow for just a bit longer, since Chrysler doesn't have anything else in the barn. The second those Fiats start rolling into showrooms, though, the Cruiser's getting a new pair of cement shoes and a one-way boat ride to the middle of Lake Michigan. C'mon, Sparky! Let's go for a ride!
GM CEO Rick Wagoner
So many GM executives
Remember steely eyed Rick Wagoner? Or warm, cuddly Fritz Henderson? At first, we thought they were getting canned for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Then former AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre stepped in and showed 'em that's no career killer. (If you're trying to read this while tethering to an iPhone, you know what we mean.) And lest we forget, we lost Bob Lutz, too. Then we got him back. Then we lost him again. Sort of. Is Stephen King writing this stuff down?
2005 Pontiac Vibe
New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI)
Like the beer bong at a fraternity initiation party, the joint venture between General Motors and Toyota finally cashed in 2009. California lost the plant and hundreds of jobs; we lost our conviction that Toyota was invincible. It's like losing our innocence all over again, but without the Dokken on repeat and the vodka and the regret.
Driver behind wheel, from Ford Sync Rock On ad
Peace and quiet
Not so long ago, driving a car was the equivalent of stepping into the Tardis: fun and engaging, but pretty well cut off from the rest of the universe. (We've been catching up on Dr. Who over the holidays. Can you tell?) These days, not only do we have to contend with calls from mom and texts from impatient siblings wondering when the $#@&! we're going to arrive for Christmas dinner because EVERYONE is waiting on us, but even our cars are speaking out. TURN HERE! IN ONE MILE, MAKE A LEFT! We thought the voices in our heads were bad, but now they're in a fracking chorale with John Cleese and Homer Simpson.
Jesse James with hydrogen land-speed record contender, by Spencer Weiner - Los Angeles Times
The hydrogen economy
Look, everyone knows that fuel cell vehicles are the way of the future. We used to think that future was just around the corner, but in this economy, it's moved three streets over and taken an unlisted phone number. Sadly, hydrogen tech requires huge investments in infrastructure, and who has the money for that now? With Iceland bankrupt and automakers backing off hydrogen-car promises like Grizzly Adams backing away from any Gillette product, it's just a steampipe dream.
2009 Honda S2000
The Honda S2000
Unlike the PT Cruiser, this is one we'll miss. Sayonara, S2000. We'll try to make do with the Mazda Miata. Or the MINI Speedster. Or the Tesla Roadster.... Well, let's not make this any more awkward than it already is.
Tiger Woods, Buick spokesman and shining beacon of virtue
We'll spare you the details, since you already know them -- all 10 or 12 of them. We're just hoping the man got his shots. If you're one of the three people who don't know what we're talking about, this'll bring you up to speed:
2010 Porsche Panamera
Okay, yes: Porsche's still around. But then again, so's Luxembourg, you know? The bad-ass boys from Baden-Württemberg bit off more than they could chew under former chairman Wendelin Wiedeking, and all their hot air about buying VW blew up on WeWi like the Hindenberg blew up on New Jersey, not that you could tell. Just between us, we blame it all on that voodoo doll they call the Panamera. Yes, it works, but it's a major juju wrecker. Somebody bury that thing behind the Poltergeist house and let Porsche get back to making sports cars.
Hands off the car, please, sir.
BMW's answer to Sir Mix-A-Lot finally bit the dust. May he go down in history as the distraction layer between "ultimate driving machines" and "a company of ideas." We hope he didn't let the flame-surfaced door hit him on the way out.
Aston Martin Cygnet Concept
Seriously you guys, cars are getting smaller. Were you paying attention? Aston Martin is rebadging a Toyota iQ, for God's sake. What sort of world is this? Who moved the seat back? We told you, if you drive our car, you have to put the seat back after. Otherwise, we can't get in.
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