There may have been true love there, but it wasn’t enough to sustain the relationship in the long run.
Americans who fell for small cars like the Honda Fit, Chevrolet Sonic and Toyota Yaris had something real for a while. Yet passenger cars have fallen out of favor among most people, leading to an ugly breakup. The Fit, Sonic and Yaris are among a slew of cars that were discontinued by automakers in 2020.
While some will be still available on dealership lots well into 2021, every vehicle on this year’s discontinued list either ended production in 2020 or had its demise announced in 2020.
With very few exceptions, they are all passenger cars – a sign of the times, as about 3 in 4 vehicles sold are now SUVs or pickups.
“Cars are – surprise, surprise – slowly but surely fading away from our new car automotive marketplace,” said Karl Brauer, executive analyst at vehicle-shopping site iSeeCars. “If you are a car fan or you’re nostalgic for cars, then it’s a little depressing, but there’s just no denying the reality in terms of market demand.”
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Vehicles discontinued in 2020 posted sales of nearly 559,000 units in 2019, representing fewer than 1 in 20 models sold in the U.S., according to car-research site Edmunds. That was down from 1.02 million in 2013.
“These were actually important vehicles at some point,” Edmunds senior manager of insights Ivan Drury said.
Here are some of the major vehicles discontinued in 2020:
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.
GM featured the subcompact car in a 2012 Super Bowl commercial in a skydiving stunt to the tune of the band Fun’s song “We Are Young.”
Bolstered by the 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.
Both the hatchback and sedan versions of the Toyota Yaris are going away after the 2020 model year.
Toyota remains committed to more-popular passenger cars like the midsize Camry and compact Corolla. But Toyota has been paring down its lineup of small cars for several years. The company discontinued its Scion brand in 2016 and recently discontinued the Prius C, a smaller version of the main Prius hybrid.
Sales of the Yaris were closely correlated with gas prices, Drury said. When gas prices declined, so did the Yaris.
Talk about fading away in the night. The Honda Fit was often hailed as symbolic of Honda’s ability to appeal to younger buyers. But the car was discontinued quietly in 2020, placing it in the same boat as the Yaris and Sonic.
They are simply the latest in a series of subcompact cars that have been eliminated in recent years, including the Ford Fiesta and Fiat 500.
Honda is trying to transition Fit buyers into the HR-V, a compact crossover. But some fans were disappointed.
“It does have a quasi-cult following,” Drury said.
Small cars aren’t the only body style that’s fading away. Large cars are struggling, too.
Luxury buyers are flocking to SUVs, and that was bad news for the Cadillac CT6, which never gained traction despite strong reviews. The CT6 was “super well executed,” Brauer said.
General Motors was so proud of the CT6 that it selected the vehicle for the first use of its semi-automated highway driving system Super Cruise. That system will outlive the CT6.
The Continental, a direct competitor of the CT6, is meeting an identical fate.
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.
“That was the backbone of their car line,” Brauer said.
But a special version with so-called “suicide doors” was the only variant of this large car that had much success, Drury said.
GM announced the demise of the Impala, along with the discontinuation of other cars like the Chevy Volt and Chevy Cruze, back in 2018. But Impala production continued into early 2020.
This large sedan once occupied prime real estate in the American automotive landscape. Despite a critically acclaimed redesign earlier this decade, it couldn’t overcome the full-size car segment’s demise.
One of its only competitors, the Ford Taurus, was also recently discontinued.
Dodge Grand Caravan
The minivan isn’t dead. But it’s losing territory to SUVs.
That means there’s not as much room left for stragglers like the Grand Caravan, which hadn’t been redesigned in ages. Fiat Chrysler, which made the model, made a strategic decision several years ago to turn its attention to the new Chrysler Pacifica.
It kept the Grand Caravan on the market for a few additional years as a bargain play. But its days have finally come to an end.
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.
That left little room for the more family-oriented Journey, Brauer said.
The Ford Fusion’s demise was announced years ago, but it wasn’t officially phased out until 2020.
The Fusion enjoyed a successful run in competition with other midsize cars like the Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima. But its sales declined in recent years as the passenger car market dried up and Ford turned its attention to SUVs and pickups.
“It was a great seller for quite some time,” Drury said. “They’re axing it when they need to.”
This car serves as a cautionary tale for automakers: Being a luxury brand isn’t enough to succeed at electric vehicles.
The BMW i8 has its fans, in part due to its quirky styling. But quirky might not be what BMW buyers are looking for. And Tesla, at least so far, has largely cornered the market for luxury electric vehicles.
BMW “hoped to make a bigger splash” with the i8, Drury said.
Other major models discontinued in 2020 include:
- Acura RLX
- Ford Mustang Shelby GT350/GT350R
- Honda Civic Coupe
- Jaguar XE
- Lexus GS
- Lincoln MKZ
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.