So the year comes to an end without providing much in the way of answers to a series of mind-bending questions that face the U.S. auto industry.
Will sales remain in the 17 million range or begin to cycle sharply downward? What's to be made of the myriad uncertainties in Washington?
Will the North American Free Trade Agreement blow up?
And is the industry farsighted or hopped up on false hope when it comes to electrification and autonomous vehicles?
To be determined. All of it.
One thing that came through loud and clear in 2017: The great American sedan continues to sink in significance. But the way automakers are reacting is encouraging.
Some call it overreacting, a charge thrown at FCA US nearly a year ago when it decided to phase out the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200. But with car sales slipping to a mere third of the market in recent months that charge doesn't stick.
Now Ford has apparently made some hard decisions about the Fusion, canceling plans to build the next-generation Fusion at the Mexico plant that makes the current version. It's unclear whether Ford would stop selling the Fusion in the U.S., replace it with a different vehicle or build it elsewhere.
General Motors is tinkering with body styles in a game effort to give the Buick Regal some legs. The redesigned Regal will come to market with a unique strategy — shifting an existing vehicle into alternative segments.
These are interesting moves amid the new pattern of consumer preference. Maybe it's better to rethink and re-engage than tangle full-on with Toyota and Honda, both of which showed in 2017 they are in for the long haul.
We've seen popular body styles decline before. The mighty minivan took a plunge 15 years ago, and the segment is now about half the size it once was. Several brands wisely quit the category and a few brands wisely stayed in. Now minivans make for a nicely proportioned and profitable segment for a handful of players.
To be one of the sedan survivors, Ford, GM and the likes of Hyundai, Kia and Volkswagen must give customers a compelling reason to own a car in the era of crossovers.
That's the way things are supposed to play out and indeed, on the question of sedans, the U.S. industry is proving to be an organism that can adapt. It's a reassuring sign on the cusp of an era when adaptability will mean everything.