The Great Recession impacted the American car industry very heavily, with a drop in sales of big gas guzzlers to the introduction of laws that promoted the sales of environmentally-friendly vehicles. The largest impact on the car industry was the near downfall of General Motors, which was already heading towards the ground without outside help.
General Motors was already overwhelmed with owning over a dozen car brands, including Saturn, Saab, Pontiac, Chevrolet, Vauxhall, Holden, Opel, Cadillac, Oldsmobile, and some more. GM had a global reach on the car world before the Great Recession, but that global reach was held through selling rebadged and slightly altered versions of cars from all of their brands, not including Saab, which was almost completely on its own. Most of these brands were stricken with poor quality materials. They reused switchgear, which is common with a lot of other car brands, but when these honestly crappy materials were put into "luxury" brands, it did not bode well with car journalists and buyers. GM was already not doing well before the Great Recession, so the Great Recession basically caused them to be pushed over the edge into bankruptcy. In the end, GM was eventually saved through a government buyout, but they did have to discontinue many brands and models such as Hummer, Saturn, and Pontiac. Ford kept its head above water, although they did struggle, as sales of big gas guzzlers did decline.
Hopefully, the car industry doesn't take a big hit from the current economic decline. This past year did see many new models, which could mean that automakers expected to sell a lot of vehicles from research and development of new platforms. Some companies may be at a loss because more people are going for used cars over brand new cars, but we'll only know when we get there.