Top Automotive Stories of the Past 20 Years

Top Stories
1992: The bloodbath at GM: Long-passive outside directors rise in revolt as staggering losses continue; chairman, vice chairman, president and two executive vice presidents ousted; Jack Smith named chief executive, and John Smale is first outside chairman since 1937.

1993: J. Ignacio Lopez quits GM and joins Volkswagen; GM says he stole secret documents; Lopez and VW deny it; FBI and German court investigate as year ends.

1994: Sixteen former Honda managers and two former dealers are indicted in U.S. probe of bribes and kickbacks in wholesale organization; all but three plead guilty

1995: Kirk Kerkorian, Chrysler’s second-largest shareholder, makes a takeover run at Chrysler in April, but Chairman Robert Eaton beats it down.

1996: Airbags kill kids and small adults; NHTSA delay means no action until 1997 on whether to order lower-powered bags or allow owners to disconnect them.

1997: In less than a year, H. Wayne Huizenga’s Republic Industries Inc. becomes the nation’s largest new-car dealership group, with 270 franchises and annual revenue of $10.3 billion; acquisitions continue; Republic wins fight with Toyota.

1998: Daimler-Benz and Chrysler Corp. combine as DaimlerChrysler AG, with Daimler as the lead pony; headquarters are in Stuttgart; Juergen Schrempp and Robert Eaton are said to be co-CEOs.

1999: Sales set a record: 16.9 million cars and light trucks for 1999; the old record was 16,025,426 in 1986.

2000: Chrysler in crisis: Schrempp admits that he planned from the beginning to make Chrysler a division; the Chrysler group loses about $1.8 billion in the second half of the year; heads roll in Auburn Hills, Mich., starting with President Jim Holden; Dieter Zetsche heads the Chrysler group in the United States, and Wolfgang Bernhard is COO.

2001: Ford fires Jac Nasser as CEO and president; Bill Ford (the fourth generation) succeeds Nasser as CEO and continues as chairman.

2002: Ford’s financial and quality problems continue; a turnaround strategy, announced in January, includes a pledge to deliver $7 billion annual pretax profit by 2005 after losing $5.45 billion in 2001; Bill Ford brings back Allan Gilmour as CFO.

2003: The Big 3 moved the iron with high incentives but lost market share again; Big 3 share fell to 60.0 percent, down 1.7 points from 2002.

2004: Rebates remain sky-high; sales continue near 17 million despite weak fundamentals; Asians boost market share; Big 3 and others try new incentives.

2005: Delphi Corp., the world’s largest auto supplier, files for bankruptcy protection. GM refuses to bail out Delphi, its former property; Delphi CEO Steve Miller wants to cut wages in half and reduce benefits; UAW threatens a killer strike that would cripple GM.

2006: An awful year for Detroit 3. Ford loses $5.8 billion in third quarter; the Chrysler group, felled by sales bank, loses $1.5 billion; GM makes progress but is still light years from financial health. Detroit 3 lose 3.2 points of market share in 11 months; Japanese gain 2.2 points.

2007: The Detroit 3 closed the gap in labor costs with their Japanese rivals. The car companies agreed to pay about 55 cents on the dollar to shift nearly $100 billion in combined retiree health care obligations to UAW-controlled trusts. The UAW also relented on two-tier wages that allow the Detroit 3 to replace workers earning $28 an hour with new hires earning half that wage.

2008: It was a tough year from start to finish, and it ended with GM and Chrysler on their knees before Congress begging for money to keep operating. Ford was in better shape, but it wanted a line of credit. They didn’t get anything from Congress, but GM and Chrysler did get a $17.4 billion loan from President Bush and the Treasury Department.

2009: The industry slump went from bad to worse, and two of the Detroit 3 — GM and Chrysler — filed for Chapter 11 reorganization. The good news: Most of the hard work was done in advance, and each of companies emerged from bankruptcy in less than six weeks.

2010: The industry began to claw its way back, but Toyota didn’t share in the recovery. Allegations of unintended acceleration sparked a heated safety controversy, ugly headlines and global recalls of millions of units. Toyota’s prime asset — a pristine reputation for quality — was seriously tarnished. The company lost U.S. market share, along with the trust of many shoppers.

2011: On March 11, a massive earthquake rocked northeast Japan and a devastating tsunami followed. Thousands died, and Japan’s auto industry was severely wounded, deep into the supply chain. Shortages of vehicles and parts disrupted the global auto market through the year. In the United States, vehicle shortages stifled a modest sales recovery that had been taking root.

2012: North America was the world’s hottest auto market, and coupled with that sizzling demand was a new leanness – painfully achieved during the recession – that helped dealerships, automakers and suppliers to a very profitable year.

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