One of the Big Three automakers many people thought was headed for extinction has not only survived the economic downturn but had its best year in a decade and a half in 2011, the company has announced. The company is crediting its new line of vehicles for the turnaround.

Two years after Fiat bought the formerly bankrupt company that the U.S. government bailed out, Chrysler turned around a $652 million loss in 2010 to make $183 million in profit last year. What's neat about this story is that they didn't do it by moving money around or playing with taxes, but by redesigning their cars. From the AP:

Chrysler spent much of 2010 designing new vehicles and trying to spruce up an archaic lineup that wasn't selling well.

Now those vehicles are in showrooms, and they've sold far better than expected, especially the Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV. The company's global sales climbed 22 percent to1.86 million last year. U.S. sales growth was even faster, up 26 percent.