It was a tumultuous year for the auto industry and for American car enthusiasts. We watched new cars rise, old companies fall, and heroes pass. These are the ten car stories that Jalopnik readers thought defined the automotive world in 2011.
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10.) We got a new Porsche 911
Suggested By: OAO
Why it's important: The evergreen sports car entered into a new generation of excellence in 2011, with a bigger, plusher, and yet somehow more rewarding form. Everyone from weekend racers to Beverly Hills poseurs has something to look forward to in this new car.
9.) The revival of Ayrton Senna
Suggested By: danzeger01
Why it's important: With the US debut of the stunning documentary of his life and death, Senna, America and the world reignited their passion for the spirited, spiritual racer from Brazil.
8.) The Toyobaru family debut
Suggested By: Xander Crews, Proud of BOXER
Why it's important: Toyota and Subaru delivered the shining light for automotive enthusiasts this year, the Toyota FT86/Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ triplets, though we won't get the Toyota here in America.
We're happy that Toyota is trying to get its groove back, but we're shocked that there is a new, affordable car that we can't wait to drive and want desperately to own.
7.) Formula One announces it return to the United States
Suggested By: Fast Forward
We might only be setting ourselves up for complete disappointment when the cities back out of the money pit that is Formula One in a few years, but for now we're just happy we don't have to drive up to America's hat to see F1.
6.) The last Ford Crown Victoria was built
Suggested By: Lothar34
Why it's important: The last representative of what was once America's automotive standard, the body-on-frame full-size sedan, ended its astounding 32-year production run. The Crown Vic was the country's last great body-on-frame rear-drive V8-powered sedan. No tall-boy crossover or SUV can truly take its place of a simple, durable, great vehicle.
5.) The death of Saab
Suggested By: nibbyS500
Why it's important: Saab was finally committed to the earth after it filed for bankruptcy with no buyers, and then GM sealed its fate by blocking any hopes of a sale to the Chinese due to concerns over the transfer of technology.
A celebrated marquee finally succumbed to a decades-long disease of platform prostitution in the harsh modern international car market.
4.) Crashed Volt catches fire
Suggested By: W123D sedan roadster - WRX - 944 LeMons edition
Why it's important: The safety of electric vehicles was called into question when a crashed Volt caught fire in storage. Jalopnik and many others concluded that electric cars are indeed safe, but the electrification of the automobile took a significant blow with this PR nightmare for plug-in hybrids and pure battery electric vehicles.
3.) The Google Car crash
Suggested By: RalphieDC
Why it's important: The world took its first hard look at what the world will look like with driverless cars on the road. Jalopnik uncovered the first exclusive photos of the crash, sparking an ongoing debate over driverless cars. Are they an automotive menace or a saving grace for deadly accidents and mind-numbing traffic?
2.) The death of Dan Wheldon
Suggested By: Corz
Why it's important: A respected racer, husband, and father died competing. Many will remember him personally, and his death will be a driving force for new safety measures in open wheel racing.
1.) The tsunami in Japan
Suggested By: Kiwi_Commander
Why it's important: The earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis in Japan dealt a resounding blow to the Japanese nation, and to the export-heavy Japanese auto industry. The rest of the world made gains while giants like Toyota and Honda faltered. It was more than just a car tragedy, though. It was a massive human one.