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Cast Your '08 Vote Now: The "Candidates" Are Ford, GM, Toyota

Chevy Malibu 2008
Chevy Malibu 2008

Maybe it's because of the Iowa caucus' taking place Wednesday night. Maybe it's because at the start of a new year, it's a good time to make predictions. Or maybe it's because the auto show season is about to kick off with the automakers putting out their visions for the future.

Whatever the reason, I think today is the day to ask YOU which automaker has the most to show, prove, gain, lose in 2008? As you ponder that question, I have a few thoughts about some of the automakers we should keep in mind.

General Motors: This year, we will see if GM can manage the slowdown in demand for new cars and trucks. It won't be easy. GM has done a nice job rolling out better designed new models (Cadillac CTS, Buick Enclave, Chevy Malibu), and there is no doubt, it is in the best shape of the Big 3. But in 2008, I want to see if the slew of new hybrids coming from GM can connect with buyers who clearly are more interested in gas-electric vehicles.

Ford: This is a big year for CEO Alan Mulally. The new F-Series and Flex crossovers need to do well, and frankly I think they will. The F-series is the best selling vehicle in the world, and the updated model will remind it's loyal followers why they should stick with Ford. The Flex has a different look, and that's what Ford needs more of: edgier designs to replace a line-up that, in my opinion, has been too bland for too long. Will Ford's new marketing man, Jim Farley come up with a campaign to re-connect with auto buyers?

Chrysler: This will be a tough year for Chrysler President Jim Press. The pipeline of new models has the Challenger on the way. And the company will introduce a new Ram pick-up in Detroit. But, Chrysler is still in the process of re-making itself. I want to see how Press and company will get this automaker in position to compete better in cars.

Toyota: The steady Eddie of the auto world has succeeded in pushing the Prius hybrid while successfully rolling out the re-designed Tundra pick-up. Now, in 2008 I want to see how Toyota can parlay the success of the Prius into greater hybrid sales. The Prius design is a double edged sword. It's unique look is still one of the main reasons people buy it. But at some point, does the hybrid risk becoming seen as an "older" model with a look that is no longer appealing?

BMW: The 1 series will hit the states in '08 and I think it will do well. Can the German automaker (with an American chief designer) continue being spot-on in terms of what people want in a luxury car? BMW's "win-streak" is impressive. Will the new X6 SUV introduced in Detroit keep the automaker on top?

Smart Car: The pint sized "b" cars hit showroom in the first quarter and the early buzz is impressive. They will sell well on both coasts, but what about in the heartland? Yes, I know some of you will say, "people in the Midwest want to save money on gas, it will sell", but I'm still a believer that, for the most part, the breadbasket of this country is a place where we like the cars to be a little bigger-even if the mileage is not as great.

There you have it. A few thoughts on what automakers need to show us in '08. Cast your vote, and let me know which automaker has the most to prove, and why. Write to me at behindthewheel@cnbc.com.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com