• Dec 30th 2010 at 12:00PM
  • 81
What a year. After the out-and-out implosion of the car market in 2009, no one quite knew what to expect from 2010. It would have been impossible to predict the rise of both General Motors and Chrysler from the bowels of Chapter 11 to the relatively comfortable perches they now occupy, or the depths to which the Toyota recall spiral would plummet. But 2010 wasn't just about big stories, either. The past year saw a horde of trends both good and bad rise to the surface, and we've picked a handful of notables to share.

Hit the jump to check them out.

Supercars go green

Porsche 918 Spyder Concept – Click above for high-res image gallery

If, like most enthusiasts, you've been eyeing the rising tide of hybrid vehicles and wondering if you should start stockpiling fuel for the coming internal combustion Armageddon, take a breath. If 2010 has shown us anything, it's that manufacturers aren't giving up on the giggle factor anytime soon. Porsche went from dipping a pinky toe into the electrified kiddie pool with its 911 R Hybrid to catapulting itself off of the high-dive and into the deep end with the announcement of the for-production 918 Spyder, and the company wasn't alone. Audi continued to make our mouths water with a rash of eTron concepts and Mercedes-Benz made it clear that its beautiful SLS AMG would soon be available with an electric drivetrain.

LEDs light the way

Audi A8 LED lights
2011 Audi A8 – Click above for high-res image gallery

It finally happened. LEDs have made the jump from the show circuit to the production line. While the tiny diodes have been serving up mood lighting indoors and fielding brake light duty for years, they've just now become mainstream equipment for daytime running lights and even headlights in high-end models. Audi may have blazed a path with vehicles like the R8 and A8, but carmakers from Hyundai to Porsche have managed to work in the tech. Lighter than traditional bulbs, LEDs suck up less electricity than incandescent bits as well. That's all fine and good for the engineers, but we just think they look sharp.

40 mpg is the new 30 mpg

2011 Hyundai Elantra
2011 Hyundai Elantra Click above for high-res image gallery

Once upon a not-so-long-ago, compact cars were measured by the 30 mpg yard stick. As models like the Hyundai Elantra, Chevrolet Cruze Eco and Ford Fiesta SFE have proven, there's nothing special about the big three-oh. As 2010 so eloquently showed us, small cars don't need complex or expensive battery technology to clear that 40 mpg hurdle. Even better, drivers don't have to give up power or a comfortable driving experience to take advantage of being able to laugh their way past the fuel pump.

The dawn of the American turbo age

MKT EcoBoost

Ford effectively opened up a floodgate in 2010 with the arrival of its arsenal of EcoBoost engines. Combining direct-injection and forced induction is nothing new, but the engine tech is hot from the oven cuisine for everyday non-performance-oriented cars and trucks. After years of sucking down cheap fuel, buyers are just now starting to realize that gasoline is going to get expensive. While Ford has perhaps done the best job branding and marketing its forced induction/direct-injection technology, other manufacturers have been doing it with increasing frequency and aplomb. Welcome to the future.

The rise of the Koreans

2011 Kia Optima 2.0T
2011 Kia Optima 2.0T - Click above for high-res image gallery

Both Hyundai and Kia have been waging a not so quiet battle to establish themselves as serious contenders in the U.S., and it seems as if they've finally done it in 2010. This year brought the introduction of cars like the Sonata to Hyundai's stable, and the complete model line demonstrates that the Korean manufacturer can go toe-to-toe with the best Japan or America has to offer in the mid-sized segments. Likewise, the Kia Optima has established itself as a welcome alternative to the flotilla of Honda Accord and Toyota Camry models out there, and the Sportage has emerged as an unexpectedly sexy and well-rounded crossover. And there are more products on the way. Hyundai's compact Elantra is waiting in the wings, and the hotly anticipated Veloster isn't far behind. Bolstered by an unbeatable warranty and class-leading fuel economy and power, more and more people are finding compelling reasons to park a Hyundai or a Kia in their driveways.

Distracted driving becomes an epidemic

Distracted driving

When the Secretary of the Transporation Department has to step in to encourage professional drivers to put away their cell phones while driving, you know that we as a society have a problem. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood took it upon himself to increase awareness of the dangers of distracted driving during 2010, and for good reason. Some research has shown that texting while driving is as dangerous as manning the wheel while under the influence, and with thousands hurt or injured each year due to inattentive drivers, it's clear that cell phones and driving don't mix. As automakers work to find solutions to an ever-growing pool of potential in-car distractions, telematics and in-car-electronics management has come of age as one of the most important issues of the day.

Factory graphics

2012 Ford Focus shows off its tattoos
2012 Ford Focus showing off its tattoos – Click above for high-res image gallery

Few stunts sent our stomachs churning quite like the eruption of factory graphics. While Ford wasn't the only carmaker to offer gaudy "individualization packages" in 2010, we're saddling the Blue Oval with the lion's share of blame. The company got all fast n' furious with vinyl sets for the Mustang and didn't let up there. Buyers can now slather their Fiesta or Focus in tacky stickers to suite their questionable taste, and there's word that more patterns are on the way. But FoMoCo isn't alone in this travesty. Kia has been dabbling in decal packages with the Soul, as have other manufacturers. Heed our warning: keep the stickers to kindergarten and leave the cars alone.

Death by teaser

2011 Ford Explorer teaser shots – Click above for high-res image gallery

We get it. Releasing a teaser shot or two is the easiest way imaginable for an automaker to drum up buzz for an upcoming model, but there comes a point where the striptease stops being sexy and becomes infuriating. Lamborghini has been straddling that fence for years, but 2010 saw the 2011 Ford Explorer take the title as the most overly-teased vehicle of the year. With repeated bombardments of photos from the Blue Oval's Facebook minions, there was little left to the imagination by the time the utility took a bow. Here's hoping next year will see a little more restraint from the marketing departments of the world.

All mouth, no metal

Fisker Karma – Click above for high-res image gallery

It was a rough year if you're a stickler for punctuality. It seemed like every time we blinked an eye, another company was missing or pushing back a deadline on their latest earthsaving wondercar. While Fisker, Aptera and Coda were all busy showing off futuristic fuel savers only to push them further and further afield, Mahindra stung us the worst by yanking the rug out from under our small diesel pickup dreams. After signing an import and distribution deal with an American company, the Indian automaker backed out at the last second, leaving nothing but lawsuits in its wake. Hopefully everyone will get it together in 2011, but we're not holding our breath.

Japan Inc.'s fall from grace

2010 Honda Accord Crosstour – Click above for high-res image gallery

Both Honda and Toyota had a 2010 that the automakers will be glad to put behind them. Toyota saw its once spotless reputation in the U.S. deteriorate with each successive recall and subsequent lawsuit, and as such, the automaker lost ground to competitors in the eyes of new car shoppers. Honda suffered a few recalls of its own, but its woes were cemented more in products that few buyers seemed interested in. Sales of the Accord Crosstour, Insight and CR-Z are all dismal and a fraction of what the company had projected, and Acura hasn't been faring much better. Suzuki and Mitsubishi have been likewise unable to find their way out of the woods, leaving only Subaru to impress us with sales figures from the Land of the Rising Sun. With domestic manufacturers continually honing their game and both Hyundai and Kia dusting off impressive model lineups, 2010 may have been the beginning of the end of Japan's dominance over the car market in the Sates.

Connectivity comes to cars

If ever there was a double-edged sword of 2010, it was the explosion of ever-increasing connectivity in new vehicles. Proponents of tech like the Ford MyTouch say that Bluetooth integration and the ability to update your Facebook status from behind the wheel decrease distraction and keep your eyes on the road and off your phone. Detractors, meanwhile, complain that throwing additional gadgets into a vehicle's cabin isn't helping anyone. Either way, we aren't likely to see the amount of connectivity decrease in the near future. Convenience technology is here, and it's not going anywhere any time soon.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      Supercars go green? Pure PR bafflegab. Green might be the future for most cars, but supercars are about performance, and there it is counterproductive.
      Simplify and add lightness. Take any 'green supercar,' rip out the duplicated powertrain and energy storage, devote half that weight to a bigger good-old-fashioned ICE, and it'll cream its 'green' rival.

      The worst trend is touchscreens for basic climate and audio controls. I love my iPhone as much as the next guy, but these are built-in distracted driving: it is impossible to use them while keeping your eyes on the road.

      • 4 Years Ago
      You claim the CR-Z sales are dismal and far below what Honda projected.

      Please back up your typical blind ignorant Honda hatred for once.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Invisible As Automotive News reported in early December, Honda hasn't exactly been hitting its targets with the CR-Z. The company predicted sales of around 15k units per year, and at the time of writing, only 4,373 had been sold. Another 3k sit in inventory with nowhere to go. Check it:


        Additionally, the Crosstour and Insight are having similar issues.

        • 4 Years Ago
        LOL @Zach Bowman.

        The CR-Z just went on sale, and at the currently monthy sales of over 1000 per month, seems to me Honda is selling exactly as many as they predicted.

        But I suggest you stick with the typical Autoblog writers and keep your head in the sand.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Totally agree with the Teaser on the worst list. Would also like to add the 'gotta have' pushbutton start to the worst list.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The pushbutton start is something I could certainly do without, but the advanced keyless entry that it was bundled with (on my 2010 mazda3) is a great feature. Walk up to the car with the fob in your pocket, open the door, the seat adjusts to your preference. Very cool.
        • 4 Years Ago
        They forgot the " BMW owners are ASSHATS" in the WORST catagory.

        No, it's true!!!

        • 4 Years Ago
        It's an incredible feature because it's cheap (standard), legitimately convenient, and fun. My current car (G35x) has this feature and I won't buy another car without it. As the someone said, you don't know what you're missing until you have it on your daily driver. It's like in-car Bluetooth. Is there anyone who has this feature that's willing to give it up on a new car? I don't think so.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Actually own a few vehicles with pushbutton start and true keyless entry, then come back please.

        I think it is an incredible feature.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @ Erik

        A PROPERLY designed proximity key system is a great feature. MB's Keyless Go is one of the best systems I've come across, and BMWs is the worst.

        You never have to fumble with your keys when you are carrying stuff and both hands are full, or the same scenario with children and you are trying to get them into the vehicle.

        Use one for an extended period of time, you will miss it when you don't have it. Using the system a few times doesn't count as an extended period of time. If you like using an old fashioned key, well, you are old fashioned. This system is clearly superior.
        • 4 Years Ago
        A D, I am actually really glad to hear that because the decision has already been made that I will be buying a CTS in 2011.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Although I agree with that teasers should be banished from existence, I believe they will never be as awful as car stickers. You can easily click away if you don't want to see teaser shots, but that damn vinyl is going ON YOUR CAR and it's a pain to remove.

        Oh, and, Autoblog, don't forget that Renault have been doing the gaudy sticker thing since at least 2009, if not earlier still.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The function of a key is to give you access to your car, the owner. Replacing the key with a proximity keyfob is superior, no more frozen keyhole during winter and why do we really need a mechanical linkage to start the engine? It's pretty nice to only sit in and press one button to start the car. All that is very nice during winter. You are entitled to you opinion, but as most are saying, it is a clearly superior and and actually functionnal inovation that I'm pretty sure, anyone who has lived in a cold climate would enjoy.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Please explain how this feature is "incredible"
        And since when does someone have to own several of something in order to form an opinion on it? I've seen them, I've used them, I know how they work and how they compare to a traditional ignition. That's plenty enough for me to know I prefer a key.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The only car that has it right is the CTS.

        The car recognizes the fob but you turn a "key" to start or stop the car. The one button "system" just sucks in every direction. It's complexity for the sake of complexity.

        Sorry but the sheep won't buy it. If it's from an American design, it must be derided. Heck, if sandpaper toilet paper had a foreign name attached to it, the sheep would declare it the best.
        • 4 Years Ago
        you see Derek you haven't used one of those keyless entry system they have the key spade concealed in case your battery die

        keyless is the future and the button doesn't get more complex than the key turning in fact there is less chance it fails

        • 4 Years Ago
        My reasons not to trust keyless entry:

        Bad neighborhoods and/or questionable people that hang out in parking garages late at night. Proximity unlock is great with five kids, but maybe sometimes you don't want anything but the drivers door to unlock when you get within range of your car?

        Dead batteries. Yeah, I get that cars turn off the lights to protect the battery, but even with that, the battery sometimes just dies, especially if a car isn't driven every day. I personally know at least one person that this has happened to. Breaking things to open the hood and replace the battery is not cool.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Gotta say that push a button start is just like I viewed heated seats. Life without it goes on as usual and you don't know what you're missing... Then it enters your life and you realize that a car without that option has become persona non grata the next time you go car shopping.
      • 4 Years Ago
      It is good that all mfgrs are into the boosted engines to help mpg. I can remember not too long ago an old dog @ GM stated they would never consider that, as their normal motors were powerful enough.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Worst trends,

      Ugly, stupid LED running lights on the front of new vehicles. They're the new fake fender vents.

      The trend of making your vehicle's center stack into a distracting smartphone wannabe. The world already has smartphones that do it better and can be easily and affordably traded in when they become obsolete. Not so with your vehicle.

      Also, greenwashing vehicles by putting turbochargers on them and labeling them "green". What happened to making vehicles smaller, simpler and lighter? Those three things do more for efficiency than putting turbos under the hood of a giant pig of a vehicle.
        • 4 Years Ago
        What about KIA's system. It uses the same MICROSOFT system.
        What about FIAT, it uses the same MICROSOFT system?

        And others?
        • 4 Years Ago
        I agree with the WORST ideas are turning a car into a rolling computer/server/communications hub.

        Sorry, that's what my iPhone is for.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I take it you haven't used Ford's SYNC system. It's not its own "smart phone" wannabe, it simply integrates seamlessly with your phone so you don't have to muck with it when you're in the car. So now you can ignore calls from your mother in law without taking your hands off the steering wheel ;).
        • 4 Years Ago
        That sounds like basic bluetooth to me. But leave it to Ford to take a technology everyone else has and put a fancy name on it.. cough cough, EcoBoost.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Except Ford's system works better than everyone else's. Better than BMW, Audi, everyone.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I think the LED trend should be on the "worst" list. Man are they ugly.
        • 4 Years Ago
        LEDs as "garnishment" are a bad idea, but LEDs used to actually light the road are a fantastic idea. They use less electricity and will probably last the life of the vehicle. Now if automakers would just use LEDs as all lighting inside and outside the vehicle there would be less demand on the alternator and thus, less horsepower robbed to power the lighting.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Agreed. LED's are the new tacky aftermarket fad.

        They belong on the worst list.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Those accent lights are just plain idiotic. It's supposed to be a car, not a Christmas tree. Spider eyes are not pretty and that's what these things will start to look like when they begin to cluster these idiotic light portals where the proper headlights should be. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for LED lighting but for the love of all that's good and decent please, please just make them look good rather than everyone jumping on that idiotic Audi/Porsche bandwagon.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I agree with the teasers and fall of Japan Inc for worst.

      Teasers: What happened to the good old days of the Auto Mags speculating or not even knowing and then introducing it at a major Auto Show? Now we get a thousand teaser pics and a month down the road, it's unveiled online. I would rather see it in person that in a bunch of pics. Some cars look better in person.

      Japan: WTF happened? Seriously? For 2 decades I don't think there was a Japanese manufacturer that didn't have a least one or two cool cars. There were even cars like the 240sx and MR2 that weren't powerhouses, but were reliable fun cars to drive. Now there is only one or two companies that make only one cool car. Everything has become bland and tasteless.
      • 4 Years Ago
      RE: "Distracted driving becomes an epidemic"

      That should say "Distracted driving continues to be an epidemic, only we now have a convenient scapegoat".

      I would venture to say that many, if not most, accidents have been caused by a distraction of some sort. It could be the kids, tuning the radio, changing a CD (or tape), looking at another accident, looking at landmarks, daydreaming, recoiling at the ugliness of the Pontiac Aztec, etc...

      The fact is that mobile phones are just the newest potential distraction and an easy target for blame. I'm not saying that people should be texting while driving, but distracted driving is nothing new and has always been an "epidemic".
      • 4 Years Ago
      went to kia dealer yesterday to check out the Optima. I was stunned. It was absolutely drop dead gorgeous in person. it was loaded non turbo red Optima and it really felt like an entry luxury car.
        • 4 Years Ago
        if it parked next to any entry level luxury cars, it will definitely hold its own. 3 series, g37, A4, and etc. it looks too good to be a midsize sedan. and interior plastic quality was good enough. it definitely look like a 30k car to me inside. but looked like a 35k+ car from outside.

        i honestly think this optima should win the NACOTY.
        • 4 Years Ago
        JephMercury, why do you Koreans hate the Japanese so much?
        • 4 Years Ago
        @ Invisible & stratus12

        Sounds like you guys missed every single review of the Optima where just about everyone heaped praise upon it.

        Maybe you don't know how to read?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Invisible is a known Japanese Nationalist Troll

        Stratus12 must be a new guy that haven't been keeping up with the playing cards of the automotive industry, and doesn't yet know how far the Koreans have come to. (I would've never considered a Hyundai 10 years ago, I mean =P)

        • 4 Years Ago
        Sat in an Optima EX and was impressed.

        Didn't particularly care for the design of the center stack in the spy/press photos but in person, it's definitely better.

        The quality of materials used on and around the dash, door, center storage compartment, etc. was impressive for a mainstream sedan, comparable to many entry level luxury cars/CUVs.

        The only thing I didn't like was the feel of the steering wheel and shifter on the EX; the higher trims of the Optima should alleviate that issue.

        And oh, the Optima looks even better in person.


        It's foolish to think to think that the Japanese automakers are finished, but they aren't pushing the boundaries as they once did.

        As for Nissan, they, aside from Subaru, saw growth in sales for 2010, but keep in mind that they have drastically increased fleet sales as well as put a lot of $$ on the hood to achieve that growth.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Did they put "Supercars go Green" in the wrong category?
        • 4 Years Ago
        They could make that 918 Spyder run off of two AA batteries with .0002 hp and front wheel drive...and I STILL wouldn't put it in "the worst" category. It's beautiful.
        • 4 Years Ago
        • 4 Years Ago
        Re - tiger9055, I have to agree it looks like it has a purpose in life, I love it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Dawn of the American turbo age? I'm sure you guys were around in the 1980s which was the real American turbo age. Every American manufacturer had numerous turbocharged engines. Today it's just Ford and they only put them in two ton vehicles that didn't need them. Plus they cynically green market them, complete with goofy leafy Ecoboost badging.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Don't forget VW ... you can find a turbo option in nearly every model.
      • 4 Years Ago
      One thing that I think should have been up there , "The Resurgence of American Cars." If you look at it, you can see that American automaker have quietly surpassed their Asian counterparts. The Flex, Cruze, Grand Cherokee, Durango, Traverse, Flex,Fusion, Malibu, Taurus, CTS, SRX,MKT, Charger, Equinox,Fiesta Town and Country,, just to name a few American cars which have gotten good reviews in fields dominated by Japanese and Korean automakers. Looks like America is finally coming back. Kudos, Big 3.
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