Cars aren't meant to last forever, which is why some dying car brands won't roll beyond 2018.
U.S. auto sales are down 1.8% through September, with some brands weathering the post-recession fluctuations better than others. Volvo's overall sales are down 2.7% as the brand struggles to produce the large cars the U.S. market wants. Fiat (down 15%), Mini (down 10%) and Smart (down 35%) are all slumping as gas prices hover around $2.50 before starting their spring descent. That's still about 20 cents a gallon less than the same period in 2016, but nothing shy of a miracle considering the havoc the recent hurricane season has wrought in the Gulf of Mexico.
With Americans basically turning up their noses at anything that isn't a crossover/SUV, minivan or pickup, that isn't great news for vehicles that don't fit the description. 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 and didn't really get out of the habit.
The cost of a new car isn't exactly helping automakers sell unpopular vehicles, either. According to Kelley Blue Book, the average cost of a new car is $34,861. 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 $59,039. 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.
All of the factors above, along with dwindling sales for specific models, usually result in a cull. We're not into 2018 yet and General Motors (GM - Get Report) is already considering eliminating the Cadillac ATS, CTS, and XTS by 2019. It's also giving the stink-eye to the stopgap Chevrolet Volt hybrid and the underloved Sonic subcompact. The Buick LaCrosse may also come out of the lineup, with crossovers getting the nod across all GM brands.
But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, here are 15 vehicles that definitely come out of commission in 2018. As you might imagine, the immediate future doesn't look good for sedans. It doesn't mean they won't come back at some point: It just means they're at least going on the shelf for some time.
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Of all the models that Chrysler's new masters at Fiat trimmed after forming FCA, this one hurts the most.
Back in 1991, the Dodge folks really wanted to make a U.S. supercar and decided to modernize the the company's fabled Cobra. The biggest engine they had around at the time was an 8.0-liter, V10 Dodge truck engine, but since Chrysler just happened to own Lamborghini at the time, the Italians made an aluminum version of that engine and cut . "Team Viper" did its thing and cut its weight dramatically.
The Viper served as the pace car at the 1991 Indianapolis 50, but the most current 8.4-liter, V-10 engine cranks out 640 horsepower and tops out at 206 miles per hour. When it was announced that the 2017 model year would be the last year, multiple special edition Vipers were sent out to market. The 31 black graphite Dodge Viper Voodoo II American Club Racers sold out in just two hours. The 100 GTS-R Commemorative Edition ACRs (in white exterior with twin racing stripes) sold out in just two days, while the 22 Dodge Viper Dealer Edition vehicles went in five days. Dodge had one more special edition, the Dodge Viper Snakeskin ACR, but none of the above were particularly impressive compared to the most-popular of the bunch.
The 1:28 Edition ACR (American Club Racer) and its 28 models sold out in a mere 40 minutes. The black-and-red car is named for the 1:28.65 it set at the Laguna Seca track, where it was 1.24 seconds faster than the Porsche 918 that set the previous record. The Viper ACR has more than a dozen other track records and was the fastest street-legal viper of all time, but this version surrounds the 200+ mph Lamborghini V10 with carbon ceramic brakes, an aero package (read, a pronounced rear spoiler) and a custom car cover with the owner's name on it. The poster-car Viper is going out in style, but a generation of lovelorn fans mourns it nonetheless.
This compact luxury vehicle shouldn't have made it this far. Buick has killed off the Verano in the U.S. market, and this year's "2017" models were just 2016s that GM was trying to unload. It's a shame. The interior was incredibly peaceful. Even the base model got cruise control, a remote engine start (automatic transmission only), dual-zone automatic climate control, a 7-inch touchscreen display, Buick's IntelliLink electronics interface (which includes voice control and smartphone radio app integration), a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, OnStar telematics, and satellite radio. Any upgrade resulted in heated front seats, but six-way power driver's seat, heated steering wheel and leather upholstery were found in separate options packages. The combined 25 miles per gallon weren't great, but mileage wasn't the reason anyone bought this car -- which is now available only in China.
As it turned out, people didn't want a sedan with a Corvette V8 engine and 415 horsepower. The gearheads say it's because General Motors refused to put a manual transmission in it. That option eventually showed up, but was so rare and costly that none of the car geeks could get their hands on it. Not that it mattered: This isn't the era of the Pontiac G8 anymore. There's very little demand for a vehicle of this kind of power in this format that isn't a luxury car. A muscular rear-drive sedan based on the Australian Holden was never going to get a whole lot of love in a market polarized between sport utility vehicles and hybrid/electric vehicles. The SS is a relic, and if you're willing to wait for an Aussie-made muscle sedan with a manual transmission, it just might be worth something to somebody... someday. Just don't wait too long.
The all-new 2018 Accord was unveiled earlier this year, but something was missing. The new Accord looks cool, but it no longer comes in a two-door version strictly because Americans weren't buying them. That's right: In the age of crossover, nobody wants to flip a seat forward to reach the back row. However, Accord Coupe lovers can indulge in a bit of schadenfreude by pointing out that Honda also killed the remaining Accord's V6 engine option. Turbocharged four-cylinder engines still top out at 252-horsepower, but will all that be enough in a market that prizes cargo space and utility above all else?
Roughly 30 years ago, the compact hatchback was the face of Hyundai. It was also perceived as cheap and minimalist, which didn't earn the Hyundai Excel any points with American car buyers. Now that Hyundai has grown beyond its econobox phase, it's finally phasing out the last remnant of that era. The Accent was inexpensive and efficient, but it didn't give U.S. drivers what they prized above all else: Space. Because Americans simply have to treat their cars as rolling condos, the Accent and likely a bunch of other hatchbacks will be getting the ax sooner rather than later. Of course, when fuel prices inevitably spike again, don't be surprised to see it and its ilk make a comeback as the U.S. remember that it doesn't need 50 cubic feet of cargo space at all times.
A sporty hybrid hatchback was a great idea in 2011, when this car was introduced. Gas prices had just hit $4 a gallon, drivers were buying old Geo Metros just to get into more efficient vehicles and hatchbacks came back into vogue. Unfortunately for the CT 200h hybrid, its profile fell nearly as quickly as gas prices. Buyers realized they were paying Lexus prices for a hatchback and opted to steer clear of this vehicle altogether. It seems like a waste, especially since it just received a facelift for 2017, but we're still about $1.50 per gallon away from increased demand for vehicles of this type.
As Hyundai discovered, an overly large car can be an issue as well. The Azera was too luxurious to be placed in a stable with the Sonata, but not luxurious enough to join the Genesis and Equus in Hyundai's spun-off luxury brand. With the Sonata getting an overhaul for 2018 and the Azera just sitting there looking awkward, the folks at Hyundai did the right thing and showed the Azera the door. These are tough enough times for sedans as it is: When you're the out-of-place sedan making everyone feel uncomfortable, it's downright dangerous.
No, not all crossovers are spared the wrath of the marketplace. The QX70 is a crossover, but it desperately wanted to be a sports car instead. While that may work for the high-powered Porsche Cayenne, it turns out nobody wanted a luxury Nissan crossover with less cargo space than a Toyota Prius V or Honda CR-V. BMW and Mercedes-Benz were able to give buyers more out of their performance crossovers, but there wasn't a whole lot of love for a QX70 that loved the "sport" part of SUV, but never quite got the "utility" part down.
The offspring of the Chrysler Sebring was always difficult to get excited about. A 2.4-liter, 184-horsepower V6 or a brawnier 3.6-liter, 295-horsepower engine that can get 35 miles per gallon on the highway were about as sexy as a sensible pair of khaki slacks. It was also the only mid-sized sedan other than the Subaru Legacy and Ford Fusion that was available in all-wheel drive. But nobody cared. This car had a legacy of crushing mediocrity, and its sibling Dodge Dart was killed off a year ago. Fiat Chrysler will be focusing on crossovers and bringing this whole sad chapter to a close.
Well, the good news is that this Jeep was fairly efficient for four-wheel drive models. The bad news is that they're also terribly redundant, given the presence of the Cherokee and Renegade. This year is officially the last year for the Patriot an overdue farewell to Jeep's ugly pre-Fiat era.
That's just fine. The Patriot's 53.5 cubic feet of cargo space, was pretty much an exact ringer for the Cherokee's and the rest of the vehicle's offerings can be found in the slightly larger Jeep Compass. The Compass got a complete overhaul for 2017, while the Patriot gets pushed onto history's scrapheap as a footnote to the Jeep legacy.
Yes, it was kind of small and looked like a luxury Nissan LEAF, but those 177 horsepower and has 43.6 cubic feet of cargo space with the seats down were no joke. Nor were the 83.5 combined miles per gallon equivalent or the 87-mile electric charge range. Combine that with power front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, HD radio, Bluetooth streaming and a mobile app to keep track of its diagnostic information remotely, and you have one formidable entry into the luxury electric sedan category. Unfortunately "electric" and "sedan" weren't words U.S. drivers wanted to hear as fuel prices dropped. It also didn't help that the B-Class electric drive was only available in 11 states (California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont).
It isn't going away completely, mind you, but a big reason why Smart's parent company Mercedes-Benz ditched the B-Class here was to focus on the electric version of this vehicle. The ForTwo had just received an upgrade that widened the wheelbase and gave drivers a smartphone dock for better access to the car's myriad apps that substitute for dashboard items and adds items you likely thought were standard: Bluetooth hands-free calling, cruise control, power steering, power windows and crosswind assist for its tiny frame. It also bulked up the vehicle's horsepower from 47 to 89, while pushing the top speed to 80 mph. However, the mileage wasn't all that great, and it seemed fairly costly for a two-seater with no storage and standard features that included manual windows, manual mirrors, manual steering and an antenna and speakers - but no radio. Oh, and even when you do get 41 miles per gallon in the city, you had to spring for premium gasoline. In Europe, the Smart is an answer to urban parking issues. Here, it was just a costly, inefficient way to parallel park.
The Quest has been living on borrowed time. Ford killed the Mercury brand in 2011, but the Mercury Villager -- basically a Nissan Quest that Ford rebadged as its own -- has been gone since 2002.
So what was the Quest still doing here? Well, it's gone through two redesigns since the death of the Villager and watched sales slide from 46,000 in 2004 to a low of about 8,600 during the recession. Yet it was stocked with amenities like heated front seats, a dual moonroof, a rear storage well, DVD entertainment system, three-zone climate control, Bluetooth navigation and rear-view and side-view cameras. It also had nearly 120 cubic feet of cargo space, but a scant 23.5 miles per gallon of combined mileage. The Quest had a lot going for it, but struggled desperately to get anyone beyond rental companies to notice.
No one -- and we mean no one -- could get past this vehicles ugly egg shape and terrible name. Despite getting 112 miles per gallon equivalent combined and having an electric range of nearly 100 miles in the city, its performance in the market was inconsistent at best. Mitsubishi put this car on the shelf for a year just before stopping production of other vehicles at its now-closed U.S. factory.
Even if it looked far dreamier, its 66-horsepower engine wasn't so brawny and its 62-mile range on highways was plug-in hybrid territory. Features like navigation that are throw-ins on other electric cars were options for the Mitsubishi. However, with 85 cubic feet of passenger room and 13 cubic feet of trunk space, it was as big as the smallest Prius and similarly useful. It was a great little city commuter, though other electric vehicles and hybrids did its job far better.
This is the official goodbye to the Normal, Ill., plant and Mitsubishi's Diamond-Star partnership with Chrysler. This car has been known as many things in this country: The Dodge/Plymouth Colt, the Eagle Summit, the Chrysler Lancer. But this little compact was the face of Mitsubishi motors in this country for many years thanks to its resilience and a sporty "Evolution" model (the Evo) that made it a tuner and street-racer's dream. Now focusing on crossover vehicles, Mitsubishi has watched U.S. vehicle sales climb this year as it eagerly awaits its new Eclipse crossover. The Lancer served Mitsubishi well, but a different environment calls for a different vehicle.
This was one sweet looking sedan, but we've already told you how the tide has turned on sedans as a whole. It isn't that Volkswagen can't sell them -- the midsize, lower-priced Passat sells very well here -- but folks who'd shop for a sedan with the style and amenities of the CC were just far more likely to buy an Audi. The CC is being replaced by the Arteon, but it might be best for Volkswagen to abandon the luxury sedan altogether.
Watch the commercials for the Volkswagen Atlas with a family touring the United States in that roomy crossover and tell us what you hear. No, not the heartstring-plucking strains of Simon and Garfunkel's "America." It's the death knell for the overly luxurious, unfortunately small Touareg. A pioneer when it debuted in 2004, the high-end Touareg was priced disproportionately to just about every other Volkswagen model. The Atlas is built in the U.S. for U.S. drivers. The Touareg was hauled over from Europe until Volkswagen could figure out what those drivers wanted. Volkswagen was looking for America and found it -- in a completely different vehicle.