Some brands had a better year than others.
2021 is drawing to a close, and for some, the year couldn't be over soon enough. It wasn't the most normal year in recent memory, but there was plenty to celebrate in the automotive industry with dozens of new vehicle launches. With 2022 right on the horizon, we wanted to look back at 2021 to decide which car brands were the biggest winners and which were the biggest losers.
The criteria for this list is mostly subjective, but we've based our picks on which automakers revealed or released the highest number of great products in the 2021 calendar year. We won't factor raw sales into the equation since some companies suffered more from supply chain shortages than others, nor will we take stock price rises or dips into account. Here are our four winners and losers of 2021.
The only automaker to earn two spots on the 2021 CarBuzz Awards, Ford nearly managed to nab a triple crown with its impressive product onslaught. The Blue Oval's 2021 releases include game-changing products like the 2022 Ford Maverick, the all-electric 2022 Mustang Mach-E (including a performance GT version), and Jeep-rivaling Bronco. Such a diverse product portfolio shows Ford is both looking towards the future and honoring its history. Ford will look to carry this momentum into 2022 with more huge reveals, including the first all-electric F-150 Lightning and a more hardcore Bronco Raptor.
We couldn't pick just one, so we lumped the entire Hyundai Motor Group into one category. It doesn't matter which of the three HMG brands you look at, each had a stellar 2021. Hyundai released the 2022 Santa Cruz pickup truck as a rival for the Maverick and the all-electric Ioniq 5. The Kia brand showed the minivan is far from dead with the Carnival and will soon release its sporty new electric model, the EV6. Finally, the luxury Genesis brand finally released its first compact crossover, the GV70, which instantly stacks up as one of the best vehicles in its segment. With upcoming EVs planned in nearly every segment, Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis are poised to dominate in 2022.
Porsche dominating the competition? What else is new? It should come as no shock that Porsche continues to be the most coveted sports car brand in the world, with painfully long waiting lists and market adjustments for specialty models like the 911 GT3. In 2021, Porsche revealed new 911 variants like the GT3, GT3 Touring, and GTS, plus new versions of its electric Taycan including the GTS Sport Turismo. Both the 718 Boxster and Cayman models continue to improve with models like the GTS 4.0, and an upcoming GT4 RS that could be the best Cayman ever built. We expect Porsche to thrive in 2022, likely revealing its first electric SUV based on the Macan.
Of all the American brands, who would have thought Jeep would be in one of the best positions heading into 2022? Yes, the brand that made its name with thirsty V6 Wranglers and a supercharged V8 model called the Trackhawk is prepping for the electrified future. Though it's far from perfect, the 4xe is possibly the best Wrangler money can buy with the tax credit factored in. Jeep has already said it will introduce a Grand Cherokee 4xe next year, followed by even more plug-in hybrid models. Speaking of the Grand Cherokee, it proves that Jeep is ready to move upmarket. Jeep's recent introduction of the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer punch into a previously untapped segment, shared only by the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator.
It doesn't feel great to call such an ambitious and creative brand like Mazda a loser, but the Japanese automaker played it way too safe in 2021. The all-electric MX-30 feels like it arrived to the party 10 years late with its 100-mile range, though we'll have to wait to see if the upcoming range-extender PHEV model can improve in that area. We also waved goodbye to the Mazda6, one of our favorite mid-size sedans. Mazda has some exciting new products coming in 2022, including the CX-50, a rumored rear-drive Mazda6 replacement, and a co-developed hybrid with Toyota. We hope Mazda can end up in the winner's section next year.
Two Italian brands in the Stellantis family wind up in our losers section for the same reason: no new products in 2021. Sure, Maserati updated its lineup slightly, but buyers in the US are still eagerly awaiting the MC20 supercar to show up on our shores. Even though the coupe isn't even on sale here yet, Maserati is already teasing the convertible version. Speaking of teasers, Maserati keeps teasing its Macan fighter, the Grecale. It may be a great SUV, but come on, where is it already? Maserati dealers need products right now, not "soon." Maserati has exciting products coming in 2022 but simply teasing them made for a disappointing 2021.
The story is much the same for Alfa Romeo, a brand that showed the compact Tonale crossover back in 2019. As 2022 approaches, there is no official word saying when the Tonale will arrive in production guise. Alfa also showed off a hardcore Giulia GTA, but sadly it did not come to the US. Without new products arriving immediately, we fear Alfa Romeo may not survive in North America.
A brand struggling for an identity, Infiniti makes the list for an uninspiring 2021. The 2022 QX60 looks like a genuine breath of fresh air compared to the outgoing model, but a V6-powered three-row luxury crossover based on the Nissan Pathfinder wasn't enough for us to lump Infiniti with the winners. Infiniti seems far behind its luxury competitors, releasing the QX55 SUV "coupe" in 2021, more than a decade after BMW created the X6. The QX50 on which it's based wasn't inspiring to begin with, so with no new electrification tech to speak of, the QX55 feels like too little too late.
Infiniti's parent brand had a much better year, and may possibly earn a winner's spot next year with the Ariya EV and Z sports car. We hope Nissan gives Infiniti a larger budget to work with to develop more groundbreaking products.
We can already feel the hate pouring in as we type this sentence. Yes, we lumped Tesla in as a loser despite the stock rising in value beyond all other automakers. We said this list would be based on new product reveals, and no company failed to deliver on its promises more than Tesla. Remember the Roadster revealed in 2017? It's still not here. The electric Semi truck that would transport goods across America? Yeah, that's not out yet either. And the Cybertruck Tesla happily took $100 deposits for? Keep waiting, and maybe it will come in 2023. Meanwhile, F-150 Lightning deliveries will begin in 2022.
To Tesla's credit, it did deliver the Model S Plaid that outmatches pretty much every EV on the market in a drag race. But in typical Tesla fashion, the standard Model S, Model X, and Model X Plaid are all delayed. If a company promises a product and doesn't deliver on time, it looks bad. Tesla has done this regularly, so it firmly deserves its spot on this list.