The global auto industry is expected to generate approximately $2.8 trillion in sales this year. That's down from a peak of a little over $3 trillion in 2018, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain issues wreaking havoc on the industry.
But this is an industry that's literally and metaphorically driven by innovation and change. By 2030, it's estimated that the global auto market could be generating $3.8 trillion in annual sales. This $1 trillion in estimated sales growth will likely come from the electrification of consumer vehicles and enterprise fleets, which will take decades to replace traditional combustion-engine vehicles.
As electric vehicles (EV), hybrids, and other green-energy vehicles make their debut, other popular vehicles are likely to be retired or potentially reborn in electric form years down the road. According to various automakers, the following four popular cars are all set to be discontinued by or before 2024.
Arguably the most popular car on this list that'll be given the ax by 2024 is the Dodge Charger. The Dodge brand, which features three core vehicles (Charger, Challenger, and Durango), is owned by Stellantis (STLA 1.71%), the company formerly known as Fiat Chrysler prior to its merger with PSA Peugeot.
Tim Kuniskis, the CEO of the Dodge brand, told MotorTrend in November 2021 that the Charger "will go out of production by the time we get to 2024." The plan, according to Kuniskis, is to introduce the company's first electric muscle car later this year, which will hit the roads sometime in 2024. This fits with Stellantis' broader plans to introduce more than 25 battery EVs (BEVs) in the U.S. by 2030, as well as more than 75 BEVs globally. Stellantis believes it can generate 50% of its sales in the U.S. from BEVs by the turn of the decade. For some context, Stellantis was selling 19 BEVs globally as of February 2022, along with 15 plug-in hybrids.
As for the Charger, it's had a nice run in the United States. Annual units sold consistently hit 80,000 to 98,000 between 2012 and 2019, with sales tapering during the pandemic. Since hitting the sales floor in its modern form in 2005, just shy of 1.5 million Chargers have been sold in the U.S., based on data from GoodCarBadCar.net.
Knowing its rich history, muscle car enthusiasts will undoubtedly be sad to see the Charger discontinued. However, Kuniskis does understand the value behind the Charger brand name, which potentially leaves the door open for a future EV version of the Charger to emerge.
In addition to the Dodge Charger, its muscle car sidekick, the Dodge Challenger will also be put to bed by 2024.
On the surface, the Challenger was never quite the hit with consumers that the Charger has been. Whereas the Charger's annual sales peaked at more than 119,000 units in the U.S., the Challenger's best year came in 2018 with a little over 66,700 units sold. However, playing second fiddle to the Charger still proved lucrative for Dodge and Stellantis. Since it was first sold in 2008, nearly 711,000 Challengers have been purchased in the United States.
But with Stellantis pushing its EV-focused Dare Forward initiative, muscle cars like the Challenger, which have seen sales slide notably since 2019, are no longer part of the long-term plan. Similar to the Charger, Kuniskis values the Challenger name. However, Dodge and Stellantis haven't yet divulged what their new EV muscle car will be called.
If there is a consolation here for those (like me) who love throaty/loud engines, Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares recently noted that the company is working on creating artificial sound for Dodge's electric muscle car. Said Tavares, "After they create the sound, they are thinking about how they make the sound louder and more powerful in function of the way you are using the car."
The large sedan carnage continues with the confirmed discontinuation of the Avalon, which is manufactured by Toyota Motor (TM -3.23%). According to Toyota, production of the Avalon will end this coming August after 28 years (yes, twenty-eight years!) on showroom floors.
Even without the electrification of consumer vehicles in the U.S., Avalon sales have hinted at an eventual discontinuation for years. After nearly hitting 71,000 units sold in the U.S. in 2013, Avalon sales have fallen in each subsequent year but one (2018). In each of the past two years, fewer than 19,000 units were sold in the United States. In other words, the writing has been on the wall for a while for this once-popular sedan.
Killing off the Avalon is easy for Toyota, with the Camry continuing to lead in the mid-sized category (almost 314,000 units sold in the U.S. in 2021). Further, demand for higher-margin SUVs has pretty much quelled interest in larger sedans. Year-over-year unit sales for the Toyota Highlander, 4Runner, and the Lexus RX were up by a double-digit percentage as of the company's December 2021 North America sales update.
Were that not enough, Toyota has plenty of reason to turn its focus away from shrinking brands like Avalon and toward BEVs and hybrids. All but one of the more than one dozen BEVs and plug-in hybrids in the Toyota and Lexus lineup saw higher sales in 2021 compared to 2020.
Lastly, we have the Passat (yes, another sedan), which has a rich heritage and has undergone more than a half-dozen design overhauls over the past five decades. The most recent iteration of Volkswagen's (VWAGY 2.19%) Passat was introduced into the North American market just a couple of years ago.
Last July, Volkswagen confirmed that it would ax the Passat from its lineup after the 2022 model year to focus on building the Atlas SUV and the ID.4, a compact fully electric SUV that offers between 245 miles and 280 miles of range. Last year, Atlas sales in the U.S. surged 32% to more than 115,000 units (including the Atlas Cross Sport), while ID.4 sales neared 17,000 units.
Volkswagen has made it clear that it'll spare no expense to become a leader in clean-energy transportation. The company has allotted a whopping 73 billion euros (about $79.2 billion) between 2021 and 2025 for the research, development, and production of future technologies. The goal is to generate half of its sales from BEVs by 2030 and be a zero-emission vehicle producer by 2040. For reference, the $79.2 billion Volkswagen is spending on next-gen technology is more than General Motors ($35 billion) and Ford Motor Company ($30 billion) have earmarked for EV and battery research through 2025 on a combined basis.
As for the Passat, the writing was on the wall in a similar fashion to Toyota's Avalon. Though U.S. sales surged to more than 125,000 units in 2012 and 109,000 units in 2013 following a redesign, the newest version of the Passat never quite stood out. In 2020 and 2021, unit sales failed to reach 25,000 in the U.S.
C'est la vie, Charger, Challenger, Avalon, and Passat!