The new year is always about “out with the old and in with the new,” and that’s no different for car manufacturers or auto dealerships.
As the world economy continues its recovery following the 2008 financial crisis, manufacturers are looking to trim their lines to make way for a new generation of designs. So, assuming you’ve already taken care of your auto dealer bond and are ready for the new year, let’s take a moment and look back on what brands we’re losing and what it means for auto dealerships in 2015.
- The Honda Insight
You may be surprised to learn that a hybrid tops the list of car brands leaving us in 2014, considering we’re in an era when SUVs are falling out of fashion. But the hybrid wars were fierce and the Honda Insight was simply never able to keep up with the more popular Prius. But while high sales continue to keep the Prius afloat, more widely, the death of the Insight signals more of a shift in how car companies are making hybrids. Dedicated models are being abandoned in favor of hybrid versions of existing ones like the Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla. In the future we may see the same process with dedicated electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt departing in favor of electric options on existing models.
- The Ford Flex
The death of the Ford Flex is one of many examples showing how difficult it has proven to keep the SUV trend going by making vehicles blending elements of that style with those of minivans. In spite of some notable success with SUV crossovers which blend the best of compact cars with the best of SUVs, this larger minivan-focused alternative hasn’t had the same success. Ford also went out on a limb here with unique styling, but it didn’t pay off in spite of some cult popularity. Ultimately, the Ford Flex simply failed to find its market in the US.
- The Dodge Grand Caravan
Here we mark the end of a line of minivans stretching back to its first loud arrival on the scene in 1984. We’ve all taken drives in a Dodge Grand Caravan, but now that Sergio Marchionne is in charge of Chrysler, he’s decided to cut this more affordable Dodge in a bid to push customers towards purchasing the more expensive Chrysler Town and Country. It’s an interesting move, but considering Marchionne’s success with Fiat, this push toward higher-end minivans should be something to watch going forward.
- The Mini Cooper Paceman, Coupe, and Roadster
Not all of the victims of 2015 are entire car models. In this case, BMW has decided to do some serious trimming to its somewhat bloated, but successful, Mini Cooper line. By cutting the previous 7 variations of the Mini Cooper down to 4, BMW is hoping to cut costs without hurting the impressive sales of the remaining versions. There’s also a hope that this trim down will help BMW put more emphasis on quality for this occasionally criticized model.
- The Ford E-Series
Unless you grew up somewhere with no schools, no churches, no community centers, and no team sports, you’re probably very familiar with the iconic Ford Econoline. It’s been a classic workhorse for about as long as most of us can remember. But the trend toward more efficient and small vans like the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has finally ended the E-Series’ run. Therefore, it seems style and efficiency are winning out even in areas where they often don’t seem to be much of a consideration.
- The Subaru Tribeca
The demise of the Subaru Tribeca is an excellent reminder of why it’s usually best for iconic brands to stick to what they’re good at, unless they’ve got a very good reason to do otherwise. Instead of marking Subaru’s breakout from its classic wagons, the company’s entrance into the high-end SUV market only showed that the consumers of the Tribeca weren’t willing to change their perceptions of Subaru. Unfortunately, add to this that the Tribeca never really offered anything groundbreaking, and it’s clear why it’s on the chopping block.
What This Means for Auto Dealerships
There are a lot of conclusions which can be drawn from these 6 examples. The biggest one seems to be that in spite of the rebound of the auto industry, manufacturers are trimming their lineups and focusing on a combination of innovators and solid standbys.
Aside from this, these trends show that the longevity of a model is no guarantee of its continued production. Public familiarity can’t be relied on to translate into sales.
At the same time, it’s more and more clear that if a manufacturer is looking to try something new, it had better be new. Several of these discontinued models show that entering into a new market without some way of standing out is a sure-fire way to bring about low sales and public apathy.
So auto dealers should be taking a look at what’s working and what’s not as they decide where to put their focus in 2015. Finally, you’ll also notice what’s absent from this list: pickups. They’re enjoying solid sales and brands are looking to expand there.
What do you see as the major industry trends in 2015 and how is your dealership adjusting to the end of these car brands? Let us know in the comments!
Photo Credit: Foter