So long, Mercury, we hardly knew ye.
Well, actually we did – the Mercury automotive brand has been around since 1939, when it was created to build a brand that was slightly more upscale than Ford, slightly less than Lincoln. After 2010, Mercury will retire, though parent company Ford has pledged to beef up the Lincoln lineup to help take up some of the slack.
Buick, could pick up some sales from those customers who find themselves orphaned by Mercury.
In this space last year, we held out hope that both Hummer and Saturn would live on – Saturn under the ownership of auto and racing mogul Roger Penske, and Hummer as part of a Chinese conglomerate. As you likely know, both those deals feel through, and we've seen the last of Saturn and Hummer, as they've joined Pontiac in the history books. For a while, the future of Saab and Swedish cousin Volvo were in question, but Volvo was acquired by a Chinese company, and Spyker, a tiny manufacturer of niche sports cars, bought Saab. Both are expected to maintain a presence in the U.S. market, but exactly what form that will take long-term remains to be seen.
Of the other vehicles that head to the automotive graveyard after 2010, perhaps the most popular is the Chevrolet Cobalt, the darling of rental fleets everywhere. Never a great car but always a serviceable one, the Cobalt is being replaced by the Cruze, which has been sold overseas for several years. Look for more and more of this global car-sharing – another example is the Ford Fiesta, as well as the upcoming new Ford Focus – as manufacturers are trying hard to design one car for many markets, rather than a different car for the U.S., for Europe, for China and other countries.
Other notables getting the ax after 2010:
--The Dodge Viper goes out with a bang thanks to the superb ACR-X model that is immediately at home on any racetrack. The idea that the Viper may return for 2012 or so was bolstered by a showing of a car that could be the next-generation Viper at a Chrysler dealer meeting in September.
--The Chrysler PT Cruiser, one of the most successful vehicles of any type in the past decade, will finally be retired as the Mexican plant where PTs are built will be making Fiats for the U.S. market. Exactly why Chrysler singlemindedly refused to update the PT Cruiser, allowing it instead to stagnate and sales to drop as a result, is a good master's thesis for some MBA candidate.
--The Ford Explorer Sport Trac is sort of dying a natural death – it was based on the Ford Explorer, which has always been a truck-based, moderately conventional SUV. Since the Explorer becomes a car-based (on the Ford Taurus platform) crossover for 2011, that left the Sport Trac without a donor platform, and Ford thought it was too much a niche product to encourage them to keep building it on the old Explorer platform, or find new underpinnings for it. It's possible a small four-door pickup could return to the Ford lineup – the ancient Ranger, rumored for extinction for years, may finally gets its walking papers after 2011. Ford has a new Ranger in the works, but it may not be sold in the U.S.
--Chrysler tried to exploit the Jeep brand, which went almost overnight from having too few models to too many. One judged "too many was the upright, roomy Jeep Commander. If you can find one left over on a Jeep lot, you'd likely get a good deal on a vehicle that was far better than sales suggested, but too close to the redesigned 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee to survive.
--The BMW 6-Series, always intended to be sportier than other big BMWs and invariably premium-priced, rolls off into the sunset. It has been years since BMW really had a handle on the 6-Series, and the last model will be missed only by the BMW true believers.
--So long, Kia Rondo. If you don't know what the Kia Rondo is, that could explain why it's going – it's sort of a seven-passenger people-mover that looks a bit like a minivan, but doesn't have sliding doors.
2011 New Car Preview