3 Discontinued Vehicles That Should Be Brought Back

Innovation is the name of the game when it comes to the automotive sector. At any given time there are dozens upon dozens of different brands with a bevy of car and truck models competing for your attention.

Ultimately, the chances of a single car or truck model standing the test of time are pretty slim. With the exception of the Ford (NYSE: F  ) Mustang and General Motors' (NYSE: GM  ) Chevrolet Corvette -- which technically was only produced in prototype form in 1983 and not sold to the public -- no other car models have been sold for such a long period of time without interruption. In other words, it's only natural for consumers to expect automakers to refresh their lineups from time to time, which could mean that a current favorite model of yours may one day be discontinued.

2015 Dodge Challenger, Source: Chrysler Media Group.

The good news is that "discontinued" doesn't mean buried for good. A number of car manufacturers are finding incredible success by reviving brands which had been previously put to rest. The Chevy Camaro, and Fiat Chrysler Automobile Group's Jeep Cherokee and Dodge Challenger are all a testament to the success experienced from bringing back a previously retired model.

With that in mind I asked two of my Foolish auto-focused colleagues, Dan Miller and senior auto specialist John Rosevear, to join me in speculating what discontinued vehicles should be brought back into production next. Here's what they, and I, had to say...

John's take
Here's what General Motors needs to bring back: A Cadillac that Elvis would be proud to ride in.

Or Gene Autry, or John Wayne, or any of the other stars of decades past who made a Cadillac their preferred ride.

What the Cadillac brand needs, simply put, is a Cadillac. A big, opulent, powerful, imposing car that a person transported forward in time from 1960 would instantly identify as a Cadillac -- and a modern buyer thinking of a Mercedes-Benz S-Class would love to have instead. 


Last year's Cadillac Elmiraj show car might be a preview of a future Eldorado. Source: General Motors Co. 

Back when Cadillac really was (at least arguably) "The Standard of the World", as its old advertising tag line said, cars like the Fleetwood and Eldorado were its standard-bearers.

Those were cars with massive presence -- and something else that we often forget: The latest in high-tech luxury features. Cadillacs were among the first cars to have features like air conditioning, automatic transmissions, and power windows, revolutionary in their time.

Today's Cadillacs like the ATS and CTS are fine, competitive luxury sedans, but they lack the presence, the charisma, of the Cadillacs of old. (The big Escalade SUV is the closest Cadillac gets nowadays. The new one is really nice, but we all know it's a different sort of thing.) And right now, Cadillac is something of a me-too brand, clearly following in the Germans' footsteps. If GM really wants the Cadillac revival to succeed, the brand needs a car that recaptures -- and updates -- what once made it so special.


When GM unveiled the Cadillac Ciel show car in 2011, some said it was the most Cadillac-ish Cadillac seen in decades. Will it ever be produced? GM isn't saying. Source: General Motors Co.

The good news is that a Cadillac like this might well be in the works. Two recent show cars, 2011's Cadillac Ciel and last year's follow-up, the Cadillac Elmiraj, show that GM is working to figure out what a Cadillac-of-Cadillacs might look like in the 21st Century. They're both great -- in fact, on looks alone, the Elmiraj could be put into production pretty much as-is. Call it the 2016 Eldorado. 

GM has promised us one more big Cadillac show car. That's expected to be a sedan, one that just might rival the S-Class. Here's hoping that it's just as impressive as the Ciel and Elmiraj, just as much a proper Cadillac -- and that GM finds the money, and the chutzpah, to produce it.

Dan's take
I own stock in both Ford Motor Company and General Motors. As such, for years I've been shouting that GM needs to bring back its very popular Pontiac G8, which was killed when GM discontinued its entire Pontiac brand during its bankruptcy in the recent recession.


Source: General Motors.

If you think about it, for GM to bring back the Pontiac G8 under a different brand name makes a lot of sense. Bring the G8 back as a Chevy or Buick model to compete in the midsize car market, one of the United States' best-selling vehicle segments.

For those savvy gear heads reading this, you might know that GM is selling the Chevrolet SS, rumored to be the Pontiac G8 reborn. However, it's manufactured in Australia then imported to the United States and has yet to sell even 2,000 units here. Here's why GM should move production of the reborn G8 to America, and enable sales to race higher.

If GM were to bring the G8 back, it could prove to be a winning move similar to Ford's Fusion which has become one of the automaker's most successful vehicles. The Fusion came into the midsize sedan segment, historically dominated by the Japanese automakers, and offered a much more aggressive design, at a reasonable price, which won consumers over instantly.

Personally, I wish the G8 would be branded as a Buick with a more premium interior -- think a poor man's luxury Cadillac ATS -- that would include higher-quality materials and a more modern look than competing sedans. Also, with a V8 putting out 400-plus horsepower, and rear-wheel drive delivering a sporty performance, yet with improved fuel-economy compared to previous sport sedans or muscle cars, it would be a very compelling option in the midsize segment.

That combination would warrant a medium to high price range in the midsize sedan category, but consumers would gladly pay for a G8 that offers a step up from the underwhelming performance and bland designs that have historically dominated the midsize sales race.

Furthermore, with the medium to high price point in the midsize category it would compete less with GM's current slew of vehicles -- finding a gap in products is difficult under the massive GM umbrella -- such as the Impala or Malibu. A Buick G8 could be a profitable and highly successful move for GM.

Keep an eye on the Chevrolet SS, an undercover and perhaps reborn Pontiac G8, over the next few years as GM works out the kinks; it's the brand's first V8 rear-wheel-drive performance sedan in 17 years. If production switches from Australia to the United States, it could very well be GM's newest big-hit vehicle. 

Sean's take
For my selection I'm going to step into the way-back machine about 13 years and suggest that Honda (NYSE: HMC  ) get to work on unearthing the Prelude for a curtain call that could help it boost U.S. sales.


Source: Antii, Flickr.

On one hand, it's not as if Honda's existing lineup is doing poorly per se. The Accord, Civic, and CR-V all sold more than 300,000 units in 2013 and yielded slightly more than 1 million total units sold last year. Another way of thinking about this is that Honda's customer base has continued to turn to the company for economical and no-frills vehicles.

However, with the exception of the Civic Si Coupe and Accord Coupe it's not as if Honda really offers anything sporty in its lineup.

Now I know what you're probably thinking: "You just said Honda's customers want economical and reliable! Why should Honda bring back the sportier Prelude?" The answer is simple: Honda's customer base has evolved and the economy would certainly support the reemergence of the Prelude.

When the Prelude was discontinued in 2001 it was facing stiff competition from the Acura Integra (Honda owns the Acura brand) and from the cheaper Civic. Younger buyers were either turned off by the price of the Prelude or simply preferred the styling of the Integra. But, times have changed and the majority of the Prelude's previous competition has been retired as well.

These same buyers who were choosing practical cars in 2001 are now well into their 30s and 40s, they have better-paying jobs, and they're probably willing to step up to a Honda that would stand out from its current conservative lineup. It also doesn't hurt that the U.S. economy is clicking on all cylinders, fueling buyers' willingness to purchase cars that are not only economical, but fun to drive as well.

Perhaps the biggest benefit is the advancement in Honda's engine and production technology since 2001. Back then, the Prelude's price was a serious turn-off, but technological advancements, as well as the possibility of completely redoing the drivetrain to make it a rear-wheel drive vehicle (one can hope, can't one?), could really enhance its "sportiness" without breaking consumers' budgets.

Finally, recent weakness in Acura TL and TSX sales could possibly be offset by strength from Prelude, which would offer a less expensive but similarly modeled vehicle. It would also be somewhat befitting that Prelude would benefit from Acura's weakness since Acura played a primary role in its original retirement.

I'd suggest Honda give a Prelude redesign a serious look as it could reinvigorate its tenured consumer base, bring in younger buyers, and likely boost Honda's bottom line.

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