Any last words?
Discontinuing a car line isn’t like closing a Broadway show or cancelling a television series. In addition to hundreds of millions of dollars in sunk cost, a lot of marginal profit is being sacrificed — the profitability of a car line can actually increase as it ages because the development costs have been amortized.
But at some point, a mercy killing for the weak is required. Sales have fallen too low, another model has come along to replace it in the product lineup, or the car has simply become an embarrassment.
At least two of the three were the reasoning behind Daimler’s decision to stop making all five Maybach models in June, six months ahead of schedule. Often compared to an airport executive lounge on wheels, the car never found an audience among either the established or nouveau rich. Its sales had sunk to a pitiable level. Through July, only seven Maybachs had found buyers this year vs. 224 for Rolls-Royce, according to numbers compiled by Automotive News.
Here are some other models that will be breathing their last at one point or another in 2013:
GM is getting ready to launch a new platform for its full-size pickups and decided not to make a reengineered Avalanche one of the spin-off models. Sales of the once-popular truck/SUV combo have been slipping for six years in the face of higher fuel prices and the greater availability of crew-cab trucks. In past years, GM might have kept the old vehicle in production as a “classic” — its owners are exceptionally devoted — but that doesn’t appear to be in the cards this time.
In trying to marry the best qualities of the station wagon and SUV, there have been hits (Subaru Outback) and misses (Ford Flex). This is one of the misses for the U.S. market, though sales continue in Canada, Mexico, and China. Too tall to be a wagon, too short for an SUV, the R-class resembled a hearse when dressed in Mercedes black.
Dodge Caravan/Chrysler Town & Country
Chrysler is starting the 2013 model year with two minivan brands, but it will likely end the year with just one. Badge engineering is a no-no for CEO Sergio Marchionne, who says customers are smart enough not to be fooled by minor cosmetic differences. It remains to be seen whether the Caravan or Town & Country gets the ax.
Introduced in 2001 as a replacement for the Jeep Cherokee, the Liberty expired in August when the Toledo plant where it was built was shut down to retool for a new Fiat-based Jeep. Sales reached as high as 171,212 in Liberty’s first full year on the market but had fallen to a quarter of that in recent years in the face of competition from more modern crossovers. The Liberty was regularly roasted by Consumer Reports, which called “noisy, cramped, and outdated,” and Chrysler decided to replace it rather than fix it.
It is not goodbye but au revoir for Kia’s minivan, which is disappearing for the 2013 model year but is expected to be retooled and revived — perhaps as soon as the 2014 model year. The Sedona was damned with faint praise during its 13-year run, lacking the features and performance of competitors, but Kia, unlike many manufacturers, sees the minivan market growing strongly in the near future and isn’t giving up.
The Eclipse has struggled through the 2012 model year — only 601 have found buyers since January — and it will not make it to the starting blocks for 2013. The last one was built in August 2011. Those with long memories will recall that the Eclipse was introduced in 1990 as triplets. Two versions were marketed by Chrysler divisions now defunct: the Plymouth Laser and Eagle Talon. Now a senior citizen by sporty car standards, the Eclipse outlived both of them.
Production in Sweden of Volvo’s only convertible ends in 2013. On the market since 2006, critics saw it as proof that Volvo should stick to making station wagons. It was underpowered, handled poorly, and its hardtop convertible roof occupied most of the trunk space. No successor is planned by Volvo’s new owner, China’s Geely.
Lexus HS 250h
Toyota stopped building this hybrid in January, though it waited until May to confirm that production was ending. Customers clearly objected to paying a $10,000 premium for what they viewed as an upgraded Prius, and only four HS’s were sold in July. Its demise was hastened by the looming arrival of another Lexus hybrid, the ES 300h, which gets to dealers in August.