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A New Year offers endless opportunities to slice-and-dice annual sales numbers, forecast the year ahead or second-guess bad decisions.

(Buick’s comatose Cascada convertible limped through 2017 with barely 5,500 buyers, but what I want to know is how many traded in a Nissan CrossCabriolet.) Yet a few performances stood out, and a few industry axioms firmed up. One, whatever ails an automaker, a spoonful of SUV is the cure. And two, Americans don’t give a damn about auto scandals, if they were even aware of them in the first place.

Volkswagen's unexpected comeback proved both points. And for that, I declare the German automaker the year’s biggest winner. VW sales jumped 5.2 percent in 2017, even as overall industry sales fell by 1.8 percent, with nearly every major automaker sustaining modest declines.


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