In any industry there will be successes and there will be failures; it’s the nature of a free market economy. This has been proven over centuries of time, and the automotive world is not immune to its poisons. Several vehicle manufacturers have come and gone, some leaving their mark on an ever-evolving industry, others simply leaving a name that few remember. There are probably several betting pools going on in the world for who will be the next manufacturer to shut its doors. If you’re wondering whether or not your particular make is flying high or hanging by a thread, here are three makes going in the right direction, and three heading the other way.

Three on the Rise

Ford

Since 2007, Ford has taken what looked like a slowly sinking ship and transformed it into a luxury yacht. They are listed as the number ten company on Forbes Fortune 500 list with more than $128 billion in revenue. They have also won more initial quality survey awards in that time from J.D. Power & Associates than any other brand. Five of Ford’s vehicles are listed at the very top of their power rankings, with nine more listed in the Top 3. Their Sync system and increased fuel efficiency through the EcoBoost system are both achievements that are making this American manufacturer one of the world’s strongest once again.

Hyundai

Hyundai is one of the most rapidly improving manufacturers over the past decade. The Genesis garnishing the U.S. News Best Car for the Money of 2010 award was the cherry on top of a very nice cake that has taken the Korean manufacturer quite a while to bake. This year marks the 25th anniversary of Hyundai opening sales in the United States. It all started with the 1986 Hyundai Excel, and it became a business monster that sold over 1.7 million units in 2010. The luxury feel and quality-based prices make Hyundai the perfect choice for the low-budget buyer looking for a little extra for the money.

Toyota

When it comes to reliability, Toyota is paving the way. With that type of reputation, it’s hard to not be moving in the right direction. It also helps that the Japanese auto maker has one of the best research and development departments in the area of alternative fuels. The recent agreement with Tesla to design and manufacture more full-electric vehicles was a big positive. These factors led to more than $235 billion in revenue for Toyota in 2010.

Three That Need Help

Saab

Saab was just pulled out of the quicksand far enough to breathe again when it received an $18.4 million order from China. They can now pay wages to employees who learned only last week that the company had run out of cash. Despite this recent good fortune, things don’t look good for the Swedish auto maker. They are waiting on an investment from Russian businessman Vladimir Antonov, but he has failed to receive approval from the European Investment Bank. The quicksand could be getting hungry again.

Chrysler

The new sales ads that were displayed during this year’s Super Bowl could be one last gasp for air from a company that is still reeling from its 2009 bankruptcy. After sales drops of 30% in 2008 and 36% in 2009, the Detroit auto maker’s sales climbed 17% in 2010. That isn’t a great number considering they had a big year of fleet sales, which probably inflated those sales numbers a bit. If this last marketing push doesn’t up the quality of the their vehicles as well, the end for the smallest of the Big 3 could be coming very soon.

General Motors

Things don’t look much better for one of the other Big 3. GM is still on the rebound from their 2009 Chapter 11 filing as well. They experienced a drop in sales for ten consecutive years (2000-2009) before finally seeing a 6.3% increase in 2010. Of course, that was after their two largest consecutive drop-offs in 2008 (down 22.9%) and 2009 (down 30.1%). Since their bankruptcy in June of 2009 until now, this company has had three different Chief Executive Officers and three different Chief Financial Officers. Until there is stability at the top, things are going to be shaky all the way up and down at GM.

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