When there's no more room in car hell, the dead brands will roam the used car lots.
U.S. auto sales have increased just 0.5% through September, with some brands weathering the post-recession fluctuations better than others. After years of absence in the U.S. market, Saab was just deemed a defunct brand. Suzuki just stopped selling here altogether. Meanwhile, the once iconic Hummer line is now the pride of downmarket used car dealerships.
That's not such a bad place for Hummers or those other defunct brands to be. According to IHG Automotive, the average age of cars on U.S. roads is 11.5 years. That's up from 8.9 years a decade ago and 9.8 as recently as 2007. When car sales slumped during the 2008 and 2009 recession years as U.S. drivers held onto their cars longer, the used-vehicle market suddenly became the new-to-me car market for a growing demographic of car buyers.
If you aren't leasing, the cost of the average new car in the U.S. is unaffordable for much of the country. According to Kelley Blue Book, the average cost of a new car is $34,372. However, if you're going to put 20% down on a car, pay it off over four years and make sure the principal interest and insurance don't exceed 10% of a household's gross income, that isn't helpful when the Census Bureau puts the median household income is $53,657. Bankrate.com found that even in the middle of Silicon Valley in San Jose, Calif., that price exceeds the $32,856 maximum affordable purchase price and maximum $662 monthly payment, based on the Census Bureau's 2014 median-income data.
Those market forces have made used cars an extremely popular option. According to Manheim Consulting's Used Vehicle Value Index, used car prices are up 2.3% during the first six months of the year. Total used vehicle sales are up 5% during that same stretch. as low gas prices that AAA puts at an average of $2.22 per gallon, which is actually up 2 cents from last year but half the near-$4 price of four years ago. As a result, luxury cars (up 1.6%), SUVs and crossover (2.3%), vans (4.6%) and pickup trucks (6.7%) are all prime picks on used car lots.
That's great news for Chrysler 200, Dodge Dart, Honda CR-Z, Volkswagen EOS, Buick Verano and Toyota's entire youth-focused Scion brand -- none of which are making it out of 2016. Though none of the above were popular enough for automakers to keep cranking out new models, they all have the chance to become great, cult-classic zombie cars in the used-vehicle market. With help from the folks at used vehicle pricing site CarGurus, here are just ten of the vehicles that are enjoying life among the automotive undead:
We're still not quite sure why you'd take a hot hatch like the Speed3 out of commission, especially with the Volkswagen GTI and hot-hatch version of the Ford Focus still doing so well. The ridiculous 263 horsepower made the Speed3 a favorite among tuners not only because of its power and performance features like a rigid frame and Volvo brakes, but because it was way less expensive than competitors like the Subaru WRX STI or (also now defunct) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo.
Man, there is a lot to love about this super-small hatchback. A four-cylinder producing less than 100 horsepower that gets more than 30 miles per gallon may not be such a prize in the land of $2.22 gas, where small car sales are down more than 6% within the last year. However, during its recession-era heyday, being a cheap, efficient little hatch wasn't such a bad gig. It's why Ford adopted it as its Fusion hatchback and, later, its Fiesta and why Toyota held onto it as the Scion iA and will be keeping it as the Yaris iA when the Scion brand is put to pasture.
This isn't a car, it's a tuner legend. The Fast and The Furious films paid homage to it, as did video games including Gran Turismo, Forza Motorsport, Need for Speed and Midnight Club. Rally car, drag racing, Le Mans, drifting: The Supra can do it all and has built a reputation as one of the greatest performance cars ever built. That's why it's coming back in 2018, and why the classic models will still get a lot of interest long after the revival.
Yes, that was this vehicle's actual name in North America, but it hasn't been seen here since the Toyota Tacoma was released about two decades ago. It's unfortunate, since you can beat the bejesus out of the Tacoma's predecessor and keep it moving. The hosts of Top Gear loved showing how much damage it could take under extreme conditions, but its unfortunate turn as the vehicle of choice for ISIS has shown the downside to that durability. Here in the states, however, it's perhaps best known for a much more benign reason: it's the truck Marty McFly comes home to after taking his time-traveling DeLorean back to 1985 in Back To The Future.
The right van at the absolutely wrong time. During the Euro Van's run, the U.S. minivan era was coming to a close and U.S.-made utility vans still looked as if they were shuttling '70s rock bands or '80s church youth groups. The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter hadn't hit its peak popularity and the Euro-designed Ford Transit and Dodge Promaster were still a decade or more away. The EuroVan was incredibly versatile -- with rear-facing bucket easts in the second row and a third-row bench seat that could convert into a bed -- but the U.S. wasn't ready for a car that looked or performed like it.
Our Joe Mont took the ride of his life in one way back in 2009, but this seven-figure supercar made its reputation by being out of reach. On a long hiatus since the 1960 (though briefly reappearing in the early 1990s), Bugatti was revived as a brand by Volkswagen in 2006. With a 16-cylinder, 12-liter engine that can take it from zero to 250 miles per hour in seconds, there's a reason why it's so popular on the used market -- where it sells at auction, not on lots.
Sometimes, it isn't the scarcity or even quality of a car that makes it popular in the used market. In the 968's case, it's the fact that it's ugly, underpowered and tagged with the Porsche emblem. It looks as if someone sawed a Porsche 944 and 928 in half and slapped the rear end of the former onto the front of the latter. Even that would be forgivable if it didn't come with a 3.0-liter, 4-cylinder, 236-horsepower engine that would be smoked off the line by any Mazda on this list. The buy-in price on one of these is low, but it's the bargain-basement Porsche of some driver's dreams.
A high-performance sport pickup like this one is basically a classic from birth. However, the Syclone earned its stripes when Car and Driver pitted it against a Ferrari 348 in a drag race back in September 1991. The pickup beat the six-figure Italian sports car by four-tenths of a second. With all-wheel drive and a turbocharged 4.3-liter V6, there just aren't a whole lot of trucks like this on the market without significant modifications. The name is incredibly dumb, but wanting to own this vehicular anomaly isn't.
Man, they just don't make 'Muricamobiles like this one anymore. Fiat killed off this boxy behemoth of an SUV after it failed to get even 18 miles per gallon, tried to use the (now-deceased) Nissan Xterra's stadium-style passenger seating and couldn't even use its four-wheel drive to get out of a sales slump. While it didn't fit in Fiat-owned Jeep's more traditional lineup, it's beloved in the secondary market for not only the aforementioned four-wheel drive, but upwards of 7,000-pounds of towing capacity in some trims. Mileage be damned: when you have to tow a boat or an RV, this comes in pretty handy.
In its day, it was an ugly, boxy, underpowered version of the far larger and brawnier Bronco. However, to look at it today is to see the DNA of the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 or even Ford's own escape. It was one of the earliest compact SUVs, though it has something its crossover predecessors lack: Affordable four-wheel drive. You don't see many sequel vehicles out there anymore, but this one was a worthy successor to the original.