Which car models are likely to get the ax in 2016?
Sometimes, when an automaker plans to discontinue a model, they make it obvious -- by announcing the plans or showing off the doomed model's successor. But other times, it takes some analysis to figure out which cars are likely to go the way of the Edsel.
Here are three models that our car-minded Foolish specialists think will disappear in the next year or so.
But, folks, I think the Ford Taurus is finally toast, at least here in America.
The current Taurus dates to 2010, although it was refreshed for 2013. It's due for replacement about now. But there are no signs that Ford plans to replace it. It's not gone yet -- there's a 2016 model -- but I doubt there will be a 2017.
Here's why: The Taurus hasn't been selling well, and Ford would probably love to use the factory space to make something more profitable instead.
Sales of the current Taurus have never been great, but they've taken a big nosedive in 2015. The Taurus' key competitors, General Motors' (NYSE:GM) Chevrolet Impala and Toyota's Avalon, are also down quite a bit this year.
The problem? More and more buyers are choosing sport utilities instead of full-size sedans.
Here it is in one pair of numbers: Taurus sales are down 27% this year through November, while sales of the Explorer are up 19%. The Explorer's gain could be even greater, but Ford's production line is just about maxed out. Given that both models are made in Ford's Chicago assembly plant, and given that the Explorer is probably a lot more profitable than the Taurus, discontinuing the Taurus so that the factory can make more Explorers just makes too much sense.
The Taurus isn't even selling well to police departments. American cops have long-favored big Detroit sedans, but even that is changing: The police version of the Explorer is outselling its Taurus-based counterpart by more than 2-to-1 this year.
It just makes too much sense for Ford to discontinue its big sedan and focus (so to speak) on making as many Explorers as it can sell while demand is hot.
As Alan Mullally recognized back in 2006, "Taurus" has been a valuable brand for Ford for many years. But even if Americans will no longer be able to buy a Taurus, the brand will live on: Ford just launched a brand-new Taurus -- in China. It's a handsome car, but Ford officials say that it's not coming here.
In all fairness to Dodge Grand Caravan owners and prospective buyers, minivan sales have been weak across the board in 2015. Total minivan sales are lower by 9% through November, or almost 48,000 units compared to last year. Among the biggest drags are two Fiat Chrysler products, the Chrysler Town and Country and the Dodge Grand Caravan, whose sales are down 34.8% and 31.3%, respectively, year to date.
What's wrong with minivans? In general, they've been viewed as necessity items for larger families and the so-called soccer mom. However, with the rise of seven-seat SUVs and crossovers, their demand is waning because, frankly, they just don't have much personality or flair. This doesn't mean minivans will disappear entirely, but their days as hot sellers appear long gone.
So then why the Grand Caravan? My contention would be that Fiat Chrysler is already double-dipping in a segment with falling sales with two extremely similar minivans. The Town and Country and Grand Caravan both boast the same standard engine, have nearly identical interior arrangements, and are separate by minute exterior differences, such as their front grilles. It would be more economical for the company to roll that core customer into one vehicle -- and why not the one that comes with more base features and also has a higher price tag (and presumably better margins)?: the Town and Country.
Based on its year-to-date pace, the Dodge Grand Caravan may generate its lowest sales total since 2009, when only 90,666 rolled out of U.S. dealerships, and total sales are down nearly 60% from the decade prior. It remains to be seen if Fiat Chrysler will push the Grand Caravan aside in favor of its growing SUV lineup and Town and Country, but my suspicion is that it's only a matter of time.
No? OK, then. But I'm still going to have to point out that GM's highest-profile attempt to get in good with the government's green-energy proponents is a flop. I'm speaking, of course, of the Cadillac ELR. As John himself pointed out earlier this year, GM sold only 1,310 ELRs in all of 2014. And it's gone downhill since.
Zerohedge recently pegged the Cadillac ELR as one of GM's three least popular car models, and it's no mystery why. According to TheTruthAboutCars.com, GM's electric Caddy cost about $75,000 last year, and is now selling for "only" $65,000. That looks to me like a blatant attempt to underprice Tesla's Model S, whose MSRP is $69,900 and up.
Problem is, according to Consumer Reports, the Tesla Model S is the highest-rated sedan it has ever tested. Cadillac ELR is not. (In fact, in what some might view as a vote of no-confidence in the car's future, despite GM having put out three iterations of the ELR so far, CR still hasn't bothered to assign it a rating.) And it's arguable whether many consumers will agree that "saving" $5,000 off the price of a car for a $65,000 unknown quantity is much of a bargain.
Indeed, according to TheTruthAboutCars.com's data, sales of the Cadillac ELR "plunged" 77% in August "to the car's lowest monthly total yet." In the whole month of August, GM sold just 45 ELRs. InsideEVs.com reports that sales continued to fall through September (when just three dozen ELRs were sold), before finally rebounding in a clear dead-cat bounce -- 82 units sold in October, then falling again to 67 in November.
At this point, it looks unlikely that GM will clear even 1,000 units by year-end. At which point, it will probably be time to call it quits on the Cadillac ELR.
John Rosevear owns shares of Ford and General Motors. Rich Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned. Sean Williams has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Ford and General Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.