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December 30, 2011

News & Features

End of the road: 17 vehicles that won't return in 2012

The New York Times

deadcars_604.jpg

Left to right, top to bottom: Nissan Altima Hybrid, Lotus Elise, Ford Crown Victoria / BMW ActiveHybrid X6, Mitsubishi Eclipse, Volvo S40 / Dodge Dakota, Honda Element, Mazda Tribute

The turn of the automotive model year usually brings a host of discontinued cars, and this go-round is no exception. As 2011 winds down, some 17 models have gotten the ax, from market weaklings to long-running strong sellers. Here are some of the dearly departed.

BMW ActiveHybrid X6
Two years after its debut, this slow-selling, expensive hybrid ($89,775) withdraws from the U.S. market, though overseas sales will continue.

What we lose: Another iteration of the clever two-mode hybrid system jointly developed by BMW, DaimlerChrysler and General Motors.

Buick Lucerne
As Buick chases younger buyers, this retiree-friendly sedan — first offered as a 2006 model — dies for the cause.

What we lose: An old-GM relic that wasn't very exciting.

Cadillac DTS and STS
Like Buick, Cadillac yearns for younger customers. The similarly styled DTS and STS, though mechanically different — the DTS is driven by its front wheels, the STS from the rear — speak to the same aging demographic.

What we lose: Two classic Caddies, in exchange for the appealing 2013 XTS.

Chevrolet HHR
The compact retro wagon arrived as a 2006 model after Chrysler's PT Cruiser became an overnight sensation.

What we lose: A fine-driving car that never achieved the cult status of its rival.

Dodge Dakota and Ford Ranger
Ford's ancient but successful compact pickup perishes because it cannot meet coming government standards without expensive updates. The second generation of the slightly larger Dodge truck simply never caught on in the market.

What we lose: Two smaller haulers with big hearts.

Ford Crown Victoria
The ubiquitous taxicab and cop car is the last of the old-school body-on-frame American sedans. Long a fleet favorite, the Ford's solid construction and thirsty V-8 made it a remarkably durable — if outdated and inefficient — icon.

What we lose: One of America's most charming workhorses.

Honda Element
The distinctive Element was supposed to sway buyers from cookie-cutter SUVs. But with disappointing mileage and few updates, sales peaked early.

What we lose: A style statement that said little.

Lotus Elise
This flyweight (2,000-pound) sports car was the best-selling Lotus yet, but no good thing lasts forever. The Elise's Toyota-supplied engine is being discontinued.

What we lose: A focused gem of a sports car.

Mazda RX-8
The sharp-handling RX-8 has been, of late, the only car on the market with a rotary engine. But its high fuel and oil consumption contributed to slow sales.

What we lose: A balanced, distinctive sports car that defied labels.

Mazda Tribute
The aging crossover, essentially a 2008-11 Ford Escape in Mazda drag, is giving way to the 2013 Mazda CX-5.

What we lose: An uninspiring vehicle.

Mitsubishi Eclipse and Endeavor
Mitsubishi says it is shifting its focus to smaller, more-efficient vehicles, making the Eclipse, whose sales have sagged of late, and the midsize Endeavor utility wagon irrelevant.

What we lose: A dated street-racer favorite and an unimpressive crossover.

Nissan Altima Hybrid
Nissan licensed technology from Toyota to develop its first hybrid car. But availability was limited to just a few states, and sales were lackluster.

What we lose: A competent fuel-sipper lost in a crowded market.

Volvo S40 and V50
These related sedans and wagons didn't meet sales expectations.

What we lose: A charming, comfortable small sedan and wagon.

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