Like it or not, the first decade of the 21st century is just about gone. Hard to believe the Y2K craze and cries about the end of the world were already 10 years ago. Maybe all those predictions of collapse were accurate, though… they just came nine years late.
Thinking about this decade and its cars, it’s easy to look back and say what could have been done to avoid the collapse of the auto industry. Take GM, for instance. In the months after 9/11/01, Americans were in a patriotic frenzy. Imagine if GM had stood up and said something to the effect of, “We want to lead American automakers in reducing our need for foreign oil.”
GM could have placed itself in a position of leadership to create smaller cars and drive America toward sustainability. What it did, of course, is ramp up production and marketing of the Hummer brand.
That essentially sums up the decade, as American love for SUVs kept growing along with our vehicles’ size. Even sedans kept growing. The Honda Accord grew from a compact sedan to a large sedan. The Toyota Camry did the same. The Honda Civic became as large as older Accords.
American excess was in prime form, all the way until the summer of 2008, when $4-per-gallon gasoline and $5-per-gallon diesel sucker-punched us in the wallets. Suddenly $125 fill ups sent us whining to the automakers, demanding small cars with great fuel economy. Of course, those didn’t exist here yet, save for the suddenly popular Toyota Prius hybrid.
High fuel prices were followed immediately by the near collapse of the world’s financial system, which sent GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy. Other automakers have survived free-falling sales numbers as they scramble to introduce more fuel-efficient vehicles.
In short, the 2000s have seen transformation like never before in the auto industry. I’m betting these 10 years will go down in history as the years that changed the auto industry forever, from gas-guzzling excess to world-saving efficiency.
What are your favorite cars from the 2000s? As much of a symbol of excess as it is, I still love the 2002 Chevy Suburban 2500!