10 Disappearing Sedans

The sedan is losing ground to pickups, crossovers, and SUVs, so automakers are culling the weaker ones from their lineups.
  • There was a time when the sedan was the go-to American automobile. Consumers in all categories—young and old, rich and poor, families and professionals—considered sedans their first choice.

    That, however, was during an era when buyers had fewer choices. Today, the sedan is losing traction to other vehicle types. As of April 2018, crossovers and sport utility vehicles combined to make up 46.8% of the vehicles purchased this year, whereas cars of all types (small, mid-sized, large, and luxury) accounted for just 32.1%, according to Statista.com. Pickup trucks, too, have cut into car sales, making up 15.8% of the vehicles bought during that period.

    These days, few sedans crack the top echelon in vehicle sales. In 2017, for example, only one of the top-seven-selling vehicles was a sedan. That was the Toyota Camry.

    The “disappearing sedan” trend became more apparent earlier this year, when Ford Motor Co. announced it would discontinue the Ford Fusion, Taurus, and Fiesta in North America. By 2020, the giant automaker said, almost 90% of its portfolio in North America would be trucks, utilities, and commercial vehicles.  

    And Ford isn’t the only one. Buick, Chevy, Chrysler, Dodge, Hyundai, Mitsubishi and Volkswagen have also removed sedans from their lineups in the past year.

    Here, we offer examples of 10 sedans that have been recent victims of automotive evolution. Click through the following slides to find out which ones are disappearing.

  • The Ford Taurus was an automotive giant in its day, reaching sales of 410,000 in 1992 and then stringing together five consecutive model years with sales in excess of 300,000 from 1999 to 2003. It is especially notable for designer Jack Telnack’s “aero design” of the mid-1980s. Purists originally disliked the rounded look, derisively referring to it as the “flying potato,” but the Taurus design turned out to be an industry game-changer, altering the shape of almost all vehicles in the following decades. By the late 1980s, its popularity was soaring and the more traditional boxy sedan was disappearing as a result. (During that era, Design News’ engineer-readers repeatedly named it their favorite car in DN’s annual automotive survey.) Sales dropped to 33,242 in 2017, however, and Ford announced last April that it planned to discontinue the legendary vehicle. (Image source: Ford Motor Co.)

  • Positioned between the full-sized Ford Taurus and the compact Focus, the Fusion is regarded as a mid-sized sedan. Starting in 2006, it became Ford’s go-to vehicle to compete head-to-head with the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, and it performed well in that segment. In fact, its competitiveness was still considered so good that in March of this year, Ford planned a redesign for the vehicle for 2019. By April, however, that had changed, with Ford announcing that it would discontinue the Fusion as it moved away from sedans. As of last year, Fusion still offered respectable sales. Although dropping off from 300,000-plus sales in 2014 and 2015, it hit numbers of more than 209,000 in 2017. (Image source: Ford Motor Co.)

  • The Sonic, which is available in a sedan version, made a big impact on Chevrolet’s small-car lineup, joining the Spark, Cruze, and Volt in that segment. Chevy bragged that 30% of Sonic buyers were under 35, so it would appear that it still had a promising future. But in April, The Wall Street Journal reported that Chevy will stop production of the subcompact later this year. Rumor has it that GM may be targeting the 61-year-old Chevy Impala sedan for discontinuation as well. (Image source: Chevrolet)

  • GM liked to use the word “muscular” to describe the Chevy SS sedan, which was made in Australia. And muscular may have been the right term, given its performance-oriented design. The SS combined a rear-wheel drive architecture with a V-8 engine that produced 415 HP and 415 lb-ft of torque. It was said to be one of the quickest sedans on the market, going from 0-60 mph in five seconds. Still, performance fans couldn’t save the SS, given the fact that GM closed the Australian factory where it was built last year. (Image source: Chevrolet)

  • The Chrysler 200 was a five-seat sedan said to be “inspired by iconic American design” principles. Its claim to fame was that it combined elegance and high-tech features, including a standard nine-speed transmission and 60 different safety features, in a package that was relatively affordable ($21,700 base price). Unfortunately, the car’s sales never took off the way Chrysler had hoped. It hit a high-water mark with 177,000 sales in 2015, but then dropped off sharply to 57,000 in ’16 before bottoming out at 18,000 in 2017. Production of the 200 ended in December 2016. (Image source: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles)

  • The Dodge Dart holds the distinction of having lived twice: from 1960-1976 and again from 2012-2018. In its second life, it served as a compact sedan, succeeding the Dodge Neon. But its comeback attempt was marred by the American consumer’s desire for SUVs and pickups, so the Dart struggled mightily in those years. Fiat Chrysler executives were later blunt about its lack of success. In a press conference at the North American International Auto Show, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said, “I can tell you right now that both the Chrysler 200 and the Dodge Dart, as great products as they were, were the least financially rewarding enterprises that we’ve carried out inside FCA in the last eight years. I don’t know one investment that was as bad as these two were.” (Image source: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles)

  • A large-size sedan, the Azera was Hyundai’s answer to the Ford Taurus, Nissan Maxima, and Toyota Avalon. Powered by a 3.3-liter V-6 engine, it cost approximately $34,000. Unfortunately, it wasn’t well recognized by the public and didn’t sell well. In its peak year of 2006, annual sales reached 26,833, but then dropped steadily for years afterward, until it fell to 3,060 in 2017 and was discontinued. (Image source: Hyundai Motor Co.)

  • The compact Mitsubishi Lancer sedan was introduced to the North American market in 2001. Powered by a standard 2.0-liter, 148-HP engine, however, it never really took off. In the last five years, it struggled to compete as consumer tastes changed and SUVs began crowding it out of the sales picture. In announcing its fate, Mitsubishi executives focused on the company’s future, only hinting at the real reasons for the Lancer’s problems in North America. “What we do know is the SUV strategy we undertook a few years ago is actually the right one,” a Mitsubishi executive told the media. (Image source: Mitsubishi Motors North America)

  • Although the Volkswagen CC four-door sedan received unfailingly good reviews for its European styling and driveability, it had little name recognition. So despite sales expectations of 26,000 a year in the US, it never really delivered in the SUV-crazy North American market. Sales bottomed out at 3,900 in 2015, making the CC Volkswagen’s lowest-selling model and marking it for extinction. Volkswagen, however, hasn’t given up on the segment. It has replaced the CC with the more powerful Arteon four-door fastback. (Image source: Volkswagen AG)

  • A compact sedan with luxury features, the Buick Verano debuted in 2011. Its claim to fame was its technology, which was unusual for its segment. Features included forward collision alert, lane departure warning, blind zone alerts, a rear-view camera, and heated steering wheel. It also included the option of a turbocharged engine that delivered 260 lb-ft of torque. But the handwriting was on the wall for the Verano after gas prices dipped. Sales dropped from 45,000 in 2013 to 30,000 in 2016, prompting Buick executives to phase it out in 2017. It is being replaced in the Buick lineup—not surprisingly—by the popular Encore compact crossover SUV. (Image source: Buick)

Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 34 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and auto.


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