DETROIT, Dec. 30, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- The trouble at Toyota was chosen as the top news story of 2010 in the annual Automotive News staff poll. Here's a recap of the staff's choices for the year's top 10 stories:
1) How the mighty fall: Toyota's nightmare year
Allegations that several popular Toyota models were prone to accelerate dangerously out of control led to a string of recalls — and a year of misery for the company. Eight vehicles were temporarily pulled off the market in January, touching off a media frenzy about unintended acceleration. The result? A massive hit to the company's sterling reputation for safety and reliability.
Initially, Toyota was accused of minimizing the problem and delaying effective repairs while people died in car crashes. Top executives, including President Akio Toyoda, testified before Congress.
2) GM floats successful IPO, sheds 'Government Motors' tag
Thanks to growing revenues and profits, General Motors Co. had an attractive story line for Wall Street. That created strong demand for shares in GM's initial public offering in November. The IPO allowed the Obama administration to cast its federal bailout and majority stake in GM in 2009 as a success. More important, the IPO helped GM start shedding the stigma of Government Motors, which kept some customers away from showrooms, according to GM research.
3) Hundreds of rejected GM, Chrysler dealerships win reinstatement
More than a quarter of the 2,789 rejected General Motors and Chrysler dealerships won reinstatement after filing arbitration claims. Those dealerships were either terminated or marked for termination as part of the companies' bankruptcy restructuring in 2009.
4) No more push: Detroit stops overproducing
One outgrowth of the industry crisis: The "push" system of building and selling vehicles is fading. Automakers are closely matching production to sales — a dramatic change for the Detroit 3. For most of the year, U.S. inventories hovered near record lows.
5) Sales bounce off bottom; industry ends year with optimism for 2011
Light-vehicle sales came off the floor in 2010 and appeared headed for about 11.5 million units by year end, a rise of 11 percent over the depths of 2009. And there is growing optimism about 2011. Most analysts expect about 12.7 million light-vehicles sales. And some say consumer creditworthiness is improving so rapidly that lenders are about to loosen credit dramatically, rocketing the market to 14 million units in 2011.
6) Profits return to Detroit — at last
Ah, the healing power of profits. There's no substitute. So after 2009, a year from hell in which two of the Detroit 3 careened into bankruptcy, the profits posted in 2010 were welcome indeed.
7) Hyundai's hot hand
Following its recession-defying performance in 2009, Hyundai chalked up another banner year in 2010. U.S. sales surpassed 500,000 units for the first time, and the brand continued to gain market share. The Sonata sedan and Tucson crossover were hits with consumers and critics alike, and the newly arrived $60,000 Equus sedan showed the range of the brand's ambitions.
8) Here come the electrics
In 2010, the first major-brand electric vehicles inched out of the realm of prelaunch hype into marketplace reality. Within a week of each other in mid-December, Nissan delivered its first Leaf EV to a retail buyer and General Motors delivered its first Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid.
9) R.I.P. Mercury
Mercury was in no-man's land. Ford Motor Co. was trying to bring Ford brand cars and trucks upscale, into Mercury's turf. But Ford said it did not want to move Mercury upscale to encroach on Lincoln. So the automaker killed Mercury. By year end, most dealers had settlement agreements, and inventory on dealership lots was nearly gone.
10) Outsider CEOs shake up GM
For decades, General Motors promoted company lifers to CEO, one cause of the automaker's insular, slow-moving culture. Now GM is dealing with the opposite situation. Dan Akerson, with a background in telecommunications, is the second CEO in a row to run the largest domestic automaker with virtually zero experience in the auto industry. He succeeded Ed Whitacre, another auto neophyte, on Sept. 1, after Whitacre resigned unexpectedly.
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