This year has been a rollercoaster one for the motoring industry. Underneath the prevailing economic doom and gloom, there are signs that the industry is slowly recovering, with Jaguar Land Rover having a particularly stellar year.

Traditionally the opening event of the motoring year, Detroit saw the launch of Bentley’s new Continental GT V8. Bentley’s idea of downsizing (a 500bhp 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8) brought massively improved economy and emissions over the 12 cylinder model as well as a more nimble chassis.

Will 2012 be remembered as the year that the automotive industry lost one of its great innovators? Possibly. After years of GM mismanagement, Saab’s Trollhatten factory saw the last car roll off its production line. There were rumours that something was to be done with the Saab 9-5, but unfortunately, that never happened. Sweden still makes great cars, though, with Volvo going from strength to strength with its product line-up. Also, the new 3-Series arrived – the best just got better.

Jaguar’s year started off in Geneva, with the launch of the XF Sportbrake. We loved it when we drove it in October. March is the month when new-car registrations come into force. The SMMT noted that supermini-SUVs were the only growth sector – hence the Vauxhall Mokka following the successful Nissan Juke onto the market, with the Peugeot 2008 and Ford Ecosport coming soon.

Jaguar’s much anticipated F-Type sportscar was confirmed for production in April this year. Thankfully, this was no April fool and we will finally be getting a successor to the gorgeous E-Type Jag – after just 38 years of waiting…

The much-vaunted Porsche roadster went on sale in May this year. The baby of the Porsche range, the Boxster finally got the looks to match the immaculate chassis and powertrains. This month also saw the election of a new French President, along with the launch a new king of the French supermini – the Peugeot 208.

Those nice people at Kia gave us a Cee’d to run about in for six months in June. It’s been a great success so far with Andy Goodwin, our senior road tester, doing the majority of the driving. It’s seen duty as a camera tracking car, holiday car and generic load lugger. You can see his latest report here.

The Festival of Speed that Lord March graciously hosts on his Sussex driveway is getting bigger every year. Adding a moving motor show has added an extra dimension to the event and it has quickly become a motoring institution. July also saw Spain win the World Cup (but no prizes for its car industry – bring on the new Leon) and the launch of one of our favourite cars – the Toyota GT86.

Volvo, that doyen of safety, is up to its old tricks again. When EuroNCAP tested the company’s new V40 hatch in August, it recorded the highest scores ever by the testers. August also saw the eyes of the world turn to this sceptered isle for the Olympics. In the Automotive Olympics, the updated McLaren MP4-12C would have won the 100m whilst the Vauxhall Ampera wins the 10,000m

The Range Rover is a British automotive icon. It invented the idea of luxury off-roading and has been around for 42 years now and the new Rangie stole the show at the Paris Motor Show. Lighter, more luxurious and more expensive than its predecessor. The Range Rover has, once again, redefined the sector

Probably the most important car of the year, the mark VII Golf seriously impressed us when we got to drive it in October. Refined, comfortable, efficient and engaging to drive, the new Golf has, once again, moved the goal posts in terms of what a family hatch can be. October also saw the launch of the new Bond film – and the return of the Aston Martin Vanquish.

In November, the hard-working people here at Auto Trader launched our iPad publication, ignition (you can download it here). Packed with interactive features, entertaining stories and sound, authoritative advice, ignition is something that we are really proud of. Also, the Government extended its austerity measures until 2015 and Dacia announced its Sandero supermini as the cheapest car in the UK. Good timing!

A surprisingly extensive update of the Mercedes E-Class arrived in December. Intriguingly it offered a glimpse of some of the tech that is set to appear in the forthcoming S-Class luxury saloon. This month also saw the launch of ignition on iPhone (download it here) and we got a long term Honda CR-V on our fleet, which should help us see out the bleak mid-winter.

By James Richardson

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