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The year everything went bang

"Review of the main car stories from 2009"

Petrol station

It was a dramatic end to the decade with the world entering a prolonged deep recession.

Car makers were very hard hit with many going bust. We have seen lots of takeovers this year. Saabs future seemed to be secure in May, under their new owner Koenigsegg and then the offer was withdrawn in November? Have you kept up with who owns which companies and divisions?

Having ploughed through the headlines from last year it is pretty difficult if not impossible to work out who the winners and losers are in the automotive industry.

GM The worlds largest car maker went bankrupt. GM was replaced by new GM, the Uk divisions Vauxhall and European division Opel were set to be sold off. In the end GM retained these 2 divisions and all of the expertise that they brought to the table.

Car makers were going bust and selling off divisions, used car prices shot up along with the price of fuel and we are still in a deep recession.

Fiat have acquired Chrysler, Porsche wanted to own Volkswagen but the downturn meant they had to dump a lot of their controlling shares in the company.

Governments around the world have pumped lots of money into the automotive industry.

F1 - Congratulations to rank outsider Jenson Button who quite literally came from no where to become the world champion. F1 saw a great deal of scandal this year both on and off the track. Teams were threatening to pull out at one point and we started to wonder if we wouldn't see a spin of F1 race run independently but this never happened.

Many large companies, looking to minimise their liabilities pulled out of motorsport. Rally and even F1 teams were affected and we will probably see some new non franchised teams competing in 2010. It is sad to see such a mass exodus from Formula 1 and Rally but hopefully it will keep things a bit easier to follow.

Innovation and new models seemed rather lacking this year. 2008 designs and models were rebadged, tweaked and tuned a little and shipped out in the absence of new models. The only new models we saw were ones that have already been announced. There were no earth shattering announcements or very much innovation from the mainstream car makers and electric cars are still not catching on due to the lack of recharging points. Although we do now have a mk2 Prius which should please the "Greenies".

For example Audi took their R8 v8 and dropped in a V10 engine, Aston Martin did something similar with Vantage dropping in a v12 (We still can't work out how Astom Martin got the engine to fit). Even the mainstream car makers have joined the power upgrade instead of new model route. Clever diffs have been a major solution to FWD traction issues with the Focus RS having one of the most impressive diffs we have seen to date. (We'd still prefer an all wheel drive though!)

The Americans had a cash for clunkers scheme and the UK introduced a similar car scrappage scheme. The overall aim was to shift newer cars, get older uneconomical cars off the road and help kick start the economy and get manufacturing going.

Petrol station

One interesting side effect of the scheme has been the increasing cost of used cars. With many cars being scrapped it makes sense that demand is outstripping supply.

Fewer people can buy newer cars in this current climate so are instead also looking to the used market.

My A3, a humble 2000 plate model has increased in price by around £1000 over the last year! A lot of TorqueCars forum members are also reporting similar price hikes for their cars. 

We are still seeing a large number of TorqueCars members hanging on to their cars a little longer and are paying for servicing and cosmetic repairs to their cars rather than replacing their car.

This is good news for TorqueCars though as more and more people are joining our forums to find out more about DIY car modifications and improvements. People may not be buying new cars but they are certainly spending money on parts and upgrades.

What are the prospects for 2010 and the tenties in general? Considering that the UK car sales figures were lower in 2009 than they were last year despite the car scrappage scheme being in place we can only surmise a lot more gloom. When the scrappage schemes stop we suspect that car sales may well dry up again.

Last year we predicted that petrol prices would be back up at high levels and sadly we were not wrong! The UK saw petrol rises despite a small dip in crude oil with the VAT rate going back up and extra fuel duty going on the price. The initial cold snap may curb demand for fuel but TorqueCars doubt we will see much of a dip in the price and that by the end of next year we will again see record highs.

We also anticipate further turmoil for our car makers as government backed cash for clunker schemes come to an end. Even the companies that have had rescue packages are still not, in our opinion, out of the worst of it. Hopefully we will see a little more innovation next year and should see a growing aftermarket parts market.

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