During the economic collapse of Chrysler and General Motors in 2009, several brands of car lines were terminated at GM, while Chrysler escaped with most of its brands still intact. Expect that brand and model attrition to continue for both manufacturers in the coming months as well as at several other automakers.
A reflection of the marketplace’s changing economics is also evident in small pickup trucks, or rather the slowing sales of small pickups. Once a mainstay offering of all the major automakers, only the Asian car companies have been able to sustain any reasonable sales levels of late as Ford, GM and Chrysler’s Ram brand have heavily invested in their full-size truck lineups.
Toyota has consistently led small pickup sales — and they still do today with a wide variety of Tacoma offerings. Ford’s Ranger used to be a chief rival, but the Ranger hasn’t been significantly upgraded or altered in over 10 years.
Sales reflect this lack of product commitment and Ford’s product planners state that the Ranger will end production this year. The Dodge/Ram Dakota pickup will also disappear this year as sales have slipped to barely 1,000 units a month.
GM’s Shreveport, La., truck plant used to build Hummer H3s and Chevy and GMC small pickups. With Hummer production gone, and Canyon and Colorado pickup sales dwindling, look for these two small trucks to end production soon as well.
That leaves the Tacoma, the Nissan Frontier and Honda’s Ridgeline as the only alternatives to full-size pickups.
If you’ve been a fan of full-size GM sedans, several of these models will end production in 2012.
The Buick Lucerne and Cadillac DTS, which share a platform, will end production this fall, as will Cadillac’s STS sedan. Cadillac will roll out a new large car platform next year, while Buick will substitute the slow-selling Lucerne with a compact car based on the Chevy Cruze called the Verano.
Chevy will lose its smallest car this year. The Korean-built Aveo won’t be down for breakfast, but a new built-in-the-USA model called the Sonic will take its place about the time you are reading this. Rumors persist that the HHR compact wagon might disappear as well, but strong sales of late might warrant continuing the car for one more year.
Other deletions this year: the Dodge Nitro, a version of the Jeep Liberty, will end production while Mazda has announced that the rotary-engined RX-8 sports car will no longer be built for America or any other markets. Mazda claims to have a more powerful, more fuel-efficient rotary engine set for production, but no models have been identified for its use. Perhaps a Miata with an optional rotary engine?
On the Swedish front we have two losses. Volvo, Sweden’s best selling car line (now owned by the Chinese), is dropping two more models in its short lineup this year. Long known for its station wagons, Volvo will soon have only three crossover wagons in its line — no conventional station wagons. Earlier this year, the once popular V70 was deleted and later this fall, the small S40 sedan and compact V50 wagon will also go away.
And last, but by no means least, Saab’s ongoing financial issues paint a very dark forecast for this Swedish automaker. No new cars have been built in Sweden since March, plus vendors and workers are not getting paid. The planned sale of a sexy version of Cadillac’s SRX as the new 9-4 crossover wagon has also been held up due to money issues. Given the state of economics in Europe, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Saab makes it beyond this problem.