I’ll be damned if I’m going to waste precious space trying to explain to anyone who doesn’t get it, why we think America’s precious Detroit-based manufacturing assets deserve a hand in the form of loans from the government. Why we think that Congress is full of self-righteous poseurs with double standards, hidden agendas, and heavily subsidized foreign automakers building cars in their (Southern, nonunion) home states.
Why we are outraged at the $800 billion dumped on top of the $700 billion bailout – not loans – handed to the banking and finance industries, with no strings attached and no apparent effect on loosening credit or helping battered homeowners.
Instead, understand this: No matter what the fools on the Hill think, Detroit is already making cars that people want. Maybe not fast enough. Maybe too many clunkers are still lurking on showroom floors. But there are at least three that we celebrate in this issue. Along with seven other vehicles, they comprise our 2009 Automobile Magazine All-Stars, the ten best cars for sale in America today.
Although we are pulling this issue together on the very day that Congress begins to reconsider the more detailed business plans submitted by General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler for use of the requested $34 billion in loans, don’t think we had to hustle to find some American iron to prop up.
Our All-Stars drive took place in early October, and the only thing on our collective mind that week was to identify the ten cars that we’d park in our dream garage. Being well-adjusted people, we knew that filling the fantasy fleet with supercars would make us look like ten-year-olds. As automotive journalists, we get to drive whatever we want, so it takes a bit of discipline to apply our enthusiasm across the entire spectrum of cars, crossovers, trucks, and minivans to put together an All-Star team that serves enthusiasts across the financial spectrum, and on a number of levels.
No matter what lawmakers and the media elite think you should drive, you might actually need a people mover. Last year, we gave the nod to the , still a fantastic choice. But Ford’s whimsically elegant and refined Flex won this year, the product of the deep talent pool at Ford design and an engineering team led by European-finished Derrick Kuzak. The Flex has a chic interior and feels solidly screwed together. We say this with no caveat about waiting for the Flex to shake off its first-year cooties. There appear to be none.
Are you surprised that we find a car from the Blue Oval so praiseworthy? We aren’t. There have been twenty Ford All-Stars since 1990, and we’re not counting the Ford-owned Mazdas, Jaguars, Aston Martins, Volvos, and Land Rovers that have made the cut over the years. Multiple-year winners include the Probe, Contour, Focus, and Taurus.
GM has given us twenty-two All-Stars over the years, including two for 2009. This is the second year in a row that Chevy is the only manufacturer winning two of the ten trophies. That America’s own star-spangled sports car – the Corvette – is a perennial winner might be no surprise to enthusiasts. This will be its eighth All-Star trophy, including one from 2006, the toughest year of our competition, when we decided to go all stingy and hand out only six All-Stars. The Corvette Z06 was also named Automobile of the Year in 2001. But even we were shocked by how much we liked the Chevy Malibu when it was redesigned last year. New-car shoppers agreed, making it scarce in showrooms despite its lack of rebates and incentives. “More enjoyable to drive than the Camry, better looking than the Accord,” and with two powertrains (one a hybrid) that deliver 30-plus mpg on the highway, we say on page 50.
Chrysler did not make this year’s list, but among the domestics, it has won the most Automobile of the Year awards (three), and its groundbreaking minivan has taken five of Chrysler’s ten All-Stars.
We are convinced that Congress will do the right thing this week, following the lead of every major carmaking country in the world with support for its domestic industry. In the meantime, take a closer look at what Detroit has to offer. You may not be lined up to buy a new car today, but the independent Center for Automotive Research is shining its laser pointer on 2012 – a mere three years away – as the year new-car sales will once again be booming. It will be a world of hybrids, clean diesels, and fuel-cell cars – and we expect Detroit to be in the thick of it all.