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Where did all the cars go? Automakers are killing off the venerable sedan

10/25/2019


If you love the American-made sedan, these aren't happy days.

The American car is going by way of the dinosaur.

American automakers have killed off entire brands.

Ford (NYSE: F) killed off its Mercury brand eight years ago. And Mercury made lovely cars like the Cougar (I loved the flip-up headlights) and the big, ole Mercury Grand Marquis. I’ll never forget the Grand Marquis; I learned to drive in a station wagon model of that brand in the ‘70s, and no teenager ever will refer to a Grand Marquis station wagon as a “chick magnet.”

Now the only car that Ford will be selling in the near future will be the Mustang, Ford announced in April. It’s not that the Mustang is a bad car, but it’s significant that it’s the only car Ford will sell. Good-bye Focus, Fusion, Taurus and Fiesta.

Ford historically made some great cars. My first car was a 1970 Ford LTD, bought for $300 in 1980. Sure, it guzzled gas, I had to keep the windows open to vent the gasoline fumes coming from the engine, and it only had an AM radio, but for the last few years of grad school, that car was indestructible. The LTD model died in 1986. My 1970 LTD is probably still running at a ranch out in East Texas.
General Motors (NYSE: GM) is also killing off its cars.
Gone are famous car brands like Oldsmobile (killed in 2004), Pontiac (killed in 2010), and Saturn (in 2010).
GM’s current slate of cars is also getting trimmed. In November, GM said good-bye to the Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Impala, Cadillac CT6, Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid, and the Chevy Cruze.
Thank goodness the company is still investing in the Chevrolet Corvette. In July, Chevy unveiled its new model, which is the first mid-engine Corvette in the model’s history.
The most tragic, I believe, is the death of the Impala, because one of the prettiest cars I ever saw was a red 1966 Impala convertible that my brother owned. When that white convertible top was down, I don't think there was ever a lovelier red car on the road.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles once owned the Plymouth brand, which was killed at the turn of this century. Fiat Chrysler (NYSE: FCAU) still sells Chrysler and Dodge cars, but today the company’s biggest-selling brand is its Ram pickup truck line.
How important are pickups for Fiat Chrysler? The Ram pickup sold nearly 300,000 units in the first half of this year. The next best-selling Fiat Chrysler product is the Jeep Cherokee (also not a car), and Ram truck sales more than doubled the first-half sales of the Cherokee (123,272 units).


Why all the car deaths? Because people aren’t buying them.
It's not news, but Americans love trucks. The best-selling vehicle in the country is Ford's F-150 pickup truck. Ford sold nearly 450,000 F-150s in the first half of the year. That compares with 197,000 sales of all Ford cars for the same time period.
People want to buy sport utility vehicles and crossover vehicles (I refuse to call them CUVs) these days, and they want to read about them as well. In the past year, nearly all of my car columns for American City Business Journals were about SUVs, pickups and crossovers, including the Jeep Wrangler and Toyota Rav4, the Kia Telluride and the Mazda CX-9, the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross, the Chevy Blazer (and the GMC Sierra pickup truck), and the GMC Terrain.
Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that so far this year sales of sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks captured 70 percent of the market. One of every five cars sold was a mid-size sedan in 2012; today it’s barely one in 10, the Times reported.
What’s all this mean if you’re a car lover? It means you’re probably going to be looking overseas to fill your sedan craving.
Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, and the South Korean car companies all have a bevy of coupes and sedans that they sell in the U.S. Indeed, Hyundai has such success with its sedans that it has initiated a new brand of upscale luxury sedans, called Genesis.
For car lovers, that's the only comforting news: Your U.S. pickings for cars are declining.

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