Discontinuing a car line isn’t like closing a Broadway show or cancelling a television series. In addition to hundreds of millions of dollars in sunk cost, a lot of marginal profit is being sacrificed — the profitability of a car line can actually increase as it ages because the development costs have been amortized.
But at some point, a mercy killing for the weak is required. Sales have fallen too low, another model has come along to replace it in the product lineup, or the car has simply become an embarrassment.
At least two of the three were the reasoning behind Daimler’s decision to stop making all five Maybach models in June, six months ahead of schedule. Often compared to an airport executive lounge on wheels, the car never found an audience among either the established or nouveau rich. Its sales had sunk to a pitiable level. Through July, only seven Maybachs had found buyers this year vs. 224 for Rolls-Royce, according to numbers compiled by Automotive News.
Here are some other models that will be breathing their last at one point or another in 2013:
GM is getting ready to launch a new platform for its full-size pickups and decided not to make a reengineered Avalanche one of the spin-off models. Sales of the once-popular truck/SUV combo have been slipping for six years in the face of higher fuel prices and the greater availability of crew-cab trucks. In past years, GM might have kept the old vehicle in production as a “classic” — its owners are exceptionally devoted — but that doesn’t appear to be in the cards this time.
Dodge Caravan/Chrysler Town & Country
Chrysler is starting the 2013 model year with two minivan brands, but it will likely end the year with just one. Badge engineering is a no-no for CEO Sergio Marchionne, who says customers are smart enough not to be fooled by minor cosmetic differences. It remains to be seen whether the Caravan or Town & Country gets the ax.
A crossover unlike most others, the CX-7 was an outlier in the segment with its minivan-like interior packaged in an aerodynamic shell. It makes way for the smaller CX-5, which is already winning kudos for its efficient use of space and unusually sprightly handling.
The Eclipse has struggled through the 2012 model year — only 601 have found buyers since January — and it will not make it to the starting blocks for 2013. The last one was built in August 2011. Those with long memories will recall that the Eclipse was introduced in 1990 as triplets. Two versions were marketed by Chrysler divisions now defunct: the Plymouth Laser and Eagle Talon. Now a senior citizen by sporty car standards, the Eclipse outlived both of them.
Toyota stopped building this hybrid in January, though it waited until May to confirm that production was ending. Customers clearly objected to paying a $10,000 premium for what they viewed as an upgraded Prius, and only four HS’s were sold in July. Its demise was hastened by the looming arrival of another Lexus hybrid, the ES 300h, which gets to dealers in August.