The Auto Story of the Year: Domestic Market Went Big by Going Small in 2011

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According to TotalCarScore Editor-in-Chief Karl Brauer, the biggest auto story of 2011 is that American auto makers are back on top with smaller, fuel-efficient cars and trucks


Karl Brauer

It was not just the bailout that caused the North American automakers to spring to life, but the bold new direction North American automakers took in the aftermath.

Expect the U.S. domestic automotive market to continue its shift from big to small, says Karl Brauer, CEO and Editor-in-chief of TotalCarScore, as consumer demand and government regulation calls for more fuel-efficient and economical vehicles.

Brauer said, “Perhaps the most surprising development in the auto market is that the most impressive cars in 2011, like the Chevrolet Sonic and the new 2012 Ford Focus, come from manufacturers that haven’t been known as leaders within the compact car market. At the same time, many compact cars from Japanese and European automakers have seen less success and lost market share over the past 12 months.”

In his annual review of the biggest automotive stories of the year, Brauer said that in North America the biggest automotive story of 2011 is that smaller vehicles are providing stability to what had been a turbulent marketplace. A video of Brauer discussing the biggest auto stories of the year is available here.

Brauer added, “The focus in the car market has shifted to compact cars in the small, fuel-efficient category in a way we haven’t really seen before. This is a major departure for American automakers. We’re seeing an intense desire to provide compelling vehicles that are also fuel-efficient and smaller. The shortlists for impressive cars and trucks going into 2012 include many more compact models because so many are being substantially redesigned. The trucks receiving the highest plaudits are car-like and relatively small in size, not the full-size trucks and SUVs that dominated the market in the last four or five years.”

Americans Back on Top
Brauer said that in terms of overall trends in 2011, the resurgence of the domestic automakers came in a close second to small cars: “Something else no one foresaw this year is how the North American and Japanese automakers saw their prospects flip in relation to each other.”

Brauer went on to explain that it was not just the bailout that caused the North American automakers to spring to life, but the bold new direction North American automakers took in the aftermath. Taking the initiative to scrap years of reliance on large, fuel-hungry models for the smaller models that are sweeping the year-end awards circuit. For Japanese automakers, the tragic events following the earthquake and tsunami that rocked the country earlier this year were a blow, but many of those companies have been plagued with weaknesses in leadership and vision, causing what was once a reliably innovative market to struggle with changes in demand.

Brauer predicted that the next five years in the auto market will be less turbulent than the last five, but just as dynamic. “This is going to be fun to watch,” he said.

About Total Car Score
Total Car Score ( is an automotive comparison site that will launch in the first quarter of 2012. Total Car Score will provide original content, reviews and insights from CEO and Editor in Chief Karl Brauer and his editorial team. Prior to founding TotalCarScore, Brauer served as Editor in Chief at


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Brian Posnanski
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