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The only thing truly constant, it’s said, is change. With the possible exceptions of the Porsche 911 and every model built by the Morgan Motor Company, nowhere is this adage more true than in the automotive industry.
We said goodbye to a fair number of cars in 2012, including some that were one-time favorites and others that, frankly, we’re glad to see go. Some went out with a flourish, while others simple went gently into that good night of automotive oblivion.
The following is an obituary for 14 models that will be signing off in 2012 or 2013. Bow your head respectfully, and read on.
Proving that the wealthy can have an environmentally sensitive side, too, Tesla managed to sell every $100k-plus Roadster it built. Impractical as anything other than a sunny-day toy, the demise of the Lotus Elise in the U.S. signaled the end of Tesla Roadster production.
Chevrolet Avalanche / Cadillac Escalade EXT
Part truck, part SUV, the Chevy Avalanche helped to create the market for crew-cab pickup trucks. Ironically, the growth in crew-cab sales came at the expense of the Avalanche, which has seen declining sales in recent years. Whether or not the Cadillac Escalade EXT (a badge engineered Avalanche) was a success depends upon your perspective: it never sold in large quantities, but it did out-live the Lincoln Blackwood luxury pickup. Both models are going away in the 2013 model year.
There’s one reason and one reason only to buy a Chevy Aveo: it’s inexpensive, and you need basic transportation. A prime example of why domestic automakers have been losing ground to import brands, the Aveo should have been killed off years ago. It’s replacement, the Sonic (which, ironically is built on the same platform), is a superior car in every way.
Ford Escape Hybrid
If ever there was an automotive “Little Engine That Could,” it was the Ford Escape Hybrid. Doubt that hybrids can be as reliable as conventionally powered cars? Tell that to the thousands of trouble-free Escape Hybrids that plowed the streets of New York City as yellow cabs, delivering fuel economy up to 34 mpg. While the 2013 Escape promises to be better in every way (except city fuel economy), it’s got some big shoes to fill.
Lexus HS 250h
We’re still not sure if re-bodying a Prius, upping the luxury content and adding $13k to the sticker was sheer genius or pure desperation on Lexus’ part, but consumers voted with their wallets when the more affordable Lexus CT 200h hybrid was released. Sales of the HS 250h fell off a cliff in 2011, and they’re looking even worse in 2012. We’re not surprised that Lexus pulled the plug without so much as a simple goodbye.
Not quite a minivan and not really an SUV, Mercedes-Benz’s large crossoverish R-Class never caught on with U.S. customers. The odd styling and ambitious price tag certainly didn’t help, and U.S. dealer moved just 178 units in the first two months of 2012. If you’re a fan of the R-Class, fear not: it lives on in Canada and in China, where customers can’t get enough of the plus-sized-crossover.
Oh, what could have been had Saab not been purchased by GM. The once proud, quirky-but-stout brand from Trollhattan became too integrated with GM over the course of its ownership, ultimately deciding Saab’s fate even before the sale to Spyker. While the Saab 9-5 was a fine car, it felt more like a Buick than a traditional Saab. There’s little hope for a brand revival, but the marque will live on for decades in the hands of faithful and determined owners.
Proof that there is such a thing as too much compromise, the Volvo C70 was neither a good convertible nor a good coupe. Its power retractable hard top took up virtually all trunk space, requiring use of the rear seats for cargo hauling. Underpowered and ill-handling, the car delivered little entertainment value with the top up; top down, the C70 exhibited more flex than a yoga studio and possessed more squeaks and rattles than a day care center.
Korean automakers have shown they can take on the Japanese and American manufacturers with sedans and crossovers, but not with minivans. The only Korean-brand minivan currently offered in the U.S., the Sedona rides into the sunset after 2012, a victim of lagging sales.
While seven-passenger crossovers aren’t expected to deliver driving excitement, some are blander than others. In a market packed with solid choices from other manufacturers, the Veracruz’s uninspired styling, numb handling and surprising lack of cargo room proved to be its downfall.
Let’s pause for a moment of silence here, shall we? If you’re a sport compact enthusiast, you know that the Mitsubishi Eclipse actually died with the second generation. Since then, the car has shuffled through various iterations, all of which took it farther away from its original turbocharged, all-wheel-drive, take-no-prisoners-on-the-racetrack mission. It’s worth pointing out that the Eclipse GSX paved the way for cars like the Subaru WRX and Mitsubishi Evo, but let’s be honest here: the real Eclipse was killed off in 1999.
Who knew that Mitsubishi still built and sold a mid-size sedan in the United States? Aside from rental car agencies, the answer appeared to be “not many buyers,” leading to the Galant's demise in the U.S after 2012.
Designed specifically for the United States market, the Endeavor was Mitsubishi’s attempt to build a mid-size crossover that catered to American tastes. The automaker boldly forecasted annual sales of some 80,000 units, but never managed to hit half that amount. By 2010, sales had fallen to just over 4,400 units, making the Endeavor unprofitable to build. Like the Galant, it won’t be missed by many.