The ten most important car stories of 2011

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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The ten most important car stories of 2011

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.

See: 2012 Porsche 911: First Drive; The full gallery and specs; How Porsche tested the new 911

The ten most important car stories of 2011

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.

See: Our review of Senna; fans getting Senna tattoos

The ten most important car stories of 2011

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.

See: Scion FR-S: First live photos and details; Yes Toyota and Subaru can save driving

The ten most important car stories of 2011

7.) Formula One announces it return to the United States

Suggested By: Fast Forward

Why it's important: Bernie Ecclestone approves two new American grands prix: one in Austin, Texas, and one in New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from New York City.

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.

See: David Coulthard talks donuts, breakfast tacos, and F1 in the US; David Coulthard takes the first dusty lap of the Austin track

The ten most important car stories of 2011

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.

See: The last Ford Crown Victoria ever built; The death of the Ford Crown Victoria is a sad day for America

The ten most important car stories of 2011

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.

See: The Death of Saab; Don't buy a Saab; Börn From Jets: The Five Greatest Saabs Ever; The seven cars that killed Saab

The ten most important car stories of 2011

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.

See: Chevy Volt crash test fire exploded into federal investigation; Are electric cars safe?

The ten most important car stories of 2011

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?

See: Google's driverless car crashes; How Google's self-driving car works

The ten most important car stories of 2011

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.

See: Dan Wheldon Dies at Las Vegas IndyCar Race; the chilling footage of the crash

The ten most important car stories of 2011

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.

See: Our full Tsunami coverage