DRIVE AMERICAN: Cars that are going away in 2021

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By KEVIN WEAKS

A couple of years ago auto industry analysts predicted that by 2021 passenger cars would make up only a third of vehicle sales. They were wrong; three in four vehicles sold are now SUVs or pickups.

Passenger cars have fallen out of favor among most buyers. A slew of them were discontinued by foreign and domestic automakers in 2020. While some will be still available on dealership lots well into 2021, the new year will bring far fewer two-door coupes, four-door sedans and what’s left of minivans. It also means fewer small economy cars as they’re replaced by small, economy crossovers.

There are some exceptions: Chevrolet Suburban has been running strong for 85 years now, but most models have enjoyed much shorter lifespans because at some point, when the market turns against them, they are forced to bite the dust. Some die only to be reborn, like the Ford Bronco. What follows is a list of discontinued cars in 2021, models that are meeting their ends – at least for now.

THE VERY LAST CHEVY SONIC produced rolled off the line Oct. 19 at General Motor’s Lake Orion facility in Orion Township, Mich.

CHEVROLET SONIC
The very last Chevy Sonic produced rolled off the line October 19 at General Motor’s Lake Orion facility in Orion Township, Mich. When it came out nearly a decade ago, the Chevy Sonic was billed as an example of Detroit’s ability to make small and youthful cars. Bolstered by a youth-oriented marketing effort, the Sonic attracted a base of millennial buyers at a time when gas prices were still high enough that Americans were interested in smaller vehicles.

But like most subcompact cars, its body style simply grew out of step with the average new-car buyer’s preferences. It hasn’t helped that gas prices have plunged from their high of more than $4 when the Sonic was flying high. As a reminder, the 2020 Chevy Sonic is powered by the turbocharged 1.4L four-cylinder which churns out 138 horsepower and mates to a six-speed automatic transmission. Both a sedan and hatchback model were produced. Currently, no replacement for the Chevy Sonic is in the  tea leaves.

THE CADILLAC CT6, the first car to receive General Motors’ high-tech Super Cruise semi-autonomous driving system, is leaving showrooms for 2021 as luxury buyers flock to SUVs.

CADILLAC CT6
The first car to receive General Motors’ high-tech Super Cruise semi-autonomous driving system is leaving showrooms for 2021. Luxury buyers are flocking to SUVs, and that was bad news for the Cadillac CT6, which never gained traction despite strong reviews.

The names Fleetwood, DeVille and Seville carried substance, presence and prestige wherever they went. But with a name like CT6, this last of the large Cadillac sedans didn’t stand a chance. Not even with the 4.2-liter, 550-hp, twin-turbocharged, DOHC, 32-valve, Blackwing V-8 under the hood of the CT6-V high-performance version. CT6 sales in the U.S. peaked in 2017 at 10,542 units. Only 7,951 made it through dealers in 2019. Sales for this big sedan were better in China.  Small cars aren’t the only body style that’s fading away. Large cars are struggling, too. Read on.

HANDSOME, HISTORIED and broad-shouldered, the Lincoln Continental has been usurped by the Navigator SUV, now firmly the flagship of the line.

LINCOLN CONTINENTAL
The Continental, a direct competitor of the CT6, also will pass from the scene after 2020, it’s not likely to be the very last Continental that Lincoln builds. After all, the name first appeared in 1939 only to die in 1948. Then it came back from 1956 and lasted until 2002.

When Ford, which makes the Lincoln brand, decided to revive the Continental, fans of the legacy nameplate were hoping it would regain a foothold in the luxury market. But a special version with so-called “suicide doors” was the only variant of this large car that had much success. Handsome and broad shouldered, says Car and Driver magazine, the latest Continental has been usurped by the Navigator SUV, now firmly the flagship of the line.

PRODUCTION OF THE 2020 Chevrolet Impala ceased in January. Introduced in 1958, the Impala was Chevy’s largest sedan and offered stylish good looks and plenty of space for a family.

CHEVROLET IMPALA
The last Chevrolet Impala was produced Feb. 27, 2020, at General Motors’s Hamtramck plant in Michigan. A mere few days later, the coronavirus hit. GM announced the demise of the Impala, along with the discontinuation of other cars like the  Volt and Cruze, back in 2018. But Impala production continued.

Chevrolet has used the Impala name on and off for over 60 years, so it seems unlikely this will be the end. It may just be too good a name to resist using on some future crossover.

One of the most popular General Motors nameplates in its history, the Impala story started back in 1956, when Chevrolet introduced it at the GM Motorama show. The Impala was reintroduced in 2000 as a mid-size front-wheel-drive car. Ed Cole, Chevrolet’s chief engineer in the late 1950s, defined the Impala as a “prestige car within the reach of the average American citizen.”

From 1958 until 1965, the Impala was Chevrolet’s most expensive full-size car.

This generation of Impala — introduced in 2014 — has always been a solid choice in the comfy cruiser segment, offering a roomy interior, a spacious trunk, smooth acceleration and a ride quality that’s plush without being overly soft. One of its only competitors, the Ford Taurus, was also recently discontinued.  Stay tuned, the Impala may yet run again.

DODGE HAS NO PLANS to replace the Grand Caravan. That effectively kills off the storied minivan nameplate, which dates back to the 1980s. Buyers are now offered the Pacifica and Voyager versions of the iconic family mover.

DODGE GRAND CARAVAN
The minivan isn’t dead, but it’s losing to SUVs. It’s long been known that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles plans to move the Dodge Grand Caravan minivan to the back burner and leave the Chrysler Pacifica and Voyager as the group’s only minivan options. (The Voyager is essentially a low-spec Pacifica sold at a discount.) The Pacifica, meanwhile, is upgraded for 2021 with fresh styling, newly available all-wheel drive and a plush Platinum trim level.

The Grand Caravan is perhaps best known for the state-of-the-art Stow ‘n Go seating option that debuted near the end of the previous generation model’s life. The setup allows the second-row seats to fold flat into cubbies hidden in the floor; when the seats are raised, those cubbies turn into hidden storage compartments. The feature lives on in the Pacifica and Voyager and remains a standout in the segment, where many competitors still force owners to remove seats from their minivans entirely for a flat, open cargo floor when hauling large items.

While it’s sad to see this workhorse go, opines Motor Trend magazine, “perhaps it is sadder that Dodge has no plans to replace the Grand Caravan. That effectively kills off the storied nameplate, which dates back to the 1980s. And with the Town & Country name gone, too, Chrysler’s lone link to its original minivans is the oddball Voyager.”

The Dodge Grand Caravan, a simple box powered at the end by Chrysler’s familiar 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 was inexpensive to buy and incredibly useful. Just ask my wife. Long live the minivan.

THE DAYS OF DODGE offering something for practically anyone – ranging from small cars to family SUVs like the Journey – are long gone. Fiat Chrysler will focus on performance models like the Challenger and Charger, ironically both sedans.

DODGE JOURNEY
Car and Driver calls the Dodge Journey its least favorite SUV. “Journey is the last vehicle sold by Fiat Chrysler with a four-speed automatic transmission, and a vehicle no one thinks about unless Avis doesn’t have anything else at the airport,” says the magazine. The 2020 Dodge Journey is hands-down the cheapest three-row SUV you can buy today. Despite a design that is showing its age and features that are increasingly outdated, it undercuts the pricing of its competitors by thousands.

Think of the Journey as a tall wagon version of the Dodge Avenger sedan. All 2020 Journeys are front-wheel drive and equipped with a 173-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. The days of Dodge offering something for practically anyone – ranging from small cars to family SUVs like the Journey – are long gone. Fiat Chrysler has pivoted the brand to focus on performance models like the Challenger and Charger, ironically both sedans.

FORD FUSION AND LINCOLN MKZ
We don’t usually mention vehicles not made by union craftsmen in North America, but it bears noting the significant demise of these two midsize sedans, both produced at the Hermosillo Assembly plant in Sonora, Mexico. Although the Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ might look different inside and out, they are built on the same platform and share most features and running gear.

The Fusion will be discontinued for 2021 with the Mustang and GT as Ford’s only remaining passenger cars. The cancellation of the MKZ leaves Lincoln an all-SUV brand offering the Aviator, Nautilus and Corsair crossovers.

BUICK HAS ENDED U.S. production of the Regal, its last remaining sedan and only station wagon, after the 2020 model year. Buick will offer three SUVs instead.

BUICK REGAL
Like Lincoln, Buick has become an all-SUV line for 2021. After nearly 50 years on the market, GM has canceled the Buick Regal as part of its shift away from passenger cars. This also includes the TourX station wagon, which combined practicality with a sporty nature. With great looks, a chassis engineered in Europe, a182-hp 2.4-liter inline-four, six-speed automatic, and front-wheel drive as standard (a 259-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four and all-wheel drive are optional), it is a good all-around sedan for families, yet Buick sold fewer than 2,500 Regals in 2020. When the last Regal is sold, Buick will end its continuous production of passenger cars since 1903.

FORD F-150 RAPTOR
Not to worry; the Ford F-150 line is here to stay, perhaps forever. More than 700,000 F-series trucks were sold last year. And Ford’s Baja-style performance truck isn’t gone for good, just on hiatus while the company rolls out the most popular versions of the redesigned 2021 F-150.

To tide truck buyers over, a new F-150 Tremor model tries to plug the hole in the lineup until Ford releases the next-generation Raptor. However, Car and Driver thinks the Tremor is going to need to be pretty darned magnificent to unseat the new Ram 1500 TRX from its perch as the truck to beat.

THE FORD MUSTANG SHELBY GT350 and the GT350R are being discontinued to focus efforts on the supercharged 760-hp Shelby GT500.

FORD MUSTANG SHELBY GT350
The Ford Mustang is the most popular American car in the world and it’s not going away, but two of the Shelby marques are. The Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 and the GT350R are being discontinued to focus efforts on the supercharged 760-hp Shelby GT500. The discontinuing of the GT350 and the GT350R marks the end of an era for manual transmission Ford Mustang Shelby cars.

(Contact Kevin Weaks at kweaks@labortribune.com)

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