By on November 7, 2012

Gamblers, speculators, automotive industry sadists, and TTAC Best and Brightest™: welcome to the selection of the next candidates for Death Watch, where you get to have a say on which brand we should promote to the Throne of Irrelevancy.

After the events of Monday – American Suzuki’s Chapter 11 filing and subsequent ending of new car sales in the United States – there are still a few brands which are hanging out at the cliff waiting for a final push or in dire need of a savior to bring them back to the collective consciousness of the buying public.

Thanks to Timothy Cain’s Good Car, Bad Car, the latest sales numbers as of October 2012 have been tabulated and here are the brands who have sold under 100,000 units for the first 10 months of the year (excluding high-luxury brands, Maserati and Bentley):

Infiniti: 95,353 YTD, +20.6% vs 2011
Lincoln: 69,032 YTD, -2.7% vs 2011
Scion: 62,377 YTD, +50.1% vs 2011
Volvo: 55,826 YTD, -2.2% vs 2011
MINI: 54,419 YTD, +15.7% vs 2011
Mitsubishi: 50,103 YTD, -28.7% vs 2011
Land Rover: 34,803, +17.8% vs 2011
Fiat: 36,462 YTD, +130% vs 2011
Porsche: 28,226 YTD, +13.2% vs 2011
Suzuki: 21,188 YTD, -4.7% vs 2011
Jaguar: 10,249 YTD, +0.2% vs 2011
Smart: 8309 YTD, +103% vs 2011

There isn’t much red ink in this list, but the red ink that does exist tells an interesting story about each company.

Mitsubishi, with double digit percentage losses in sales over last year, is losing nameplates and has only introduced a low volume electric vehicle, the i-MiEV, and the new Outlander Sport/RVR in the last couple of years. The Lancer, a sharp looking car when first introduced, garners horrible fuel mileage and is getting on in age with no replacement in sight. Also, Mitsubishi’s volume seller, the Colt, isn’t available in the US or Canada. I could go on and on about the faults of Mitsubishi’s line-up and lack of excitement regarding future product, but my keyboard can only take so many keystrokes in a lifespan.

Then we get to Lincoln, which has turned into more a trim level for Ford products than an actual brand of its own and has been struggling for years to remain relevant. Ford did the right thing when euthanizing Mercury (it was only available in the US as it had been previously killed in Canada years before). Lincoln, on the other hand, has to survive in some form or another if Ford wants to successfully amortize the millions of dollars spent inventing in its platforms. With no real publicly known plan or future product exciting those of us under the age of 103, Lincoln’s continued existence looks bleak.

Which brings us to one of Ford’s previous properties, Volvo, which was sold off to Geely so the Dearborn automaker could pay its bills. Volvo may be popular in certain areas, but for the most part it has become a brand lost between volume and luxury. Volvo’s newest model, the V40, won’t even be making it to North American shores, which is a very telling move on behalf of the Chinese-owned Swedish brand. The always fashionable C30 hatch will be going the way of the dodo before not too long. And, Volvo’s line-up is SUV heavy, with only the S60 as a newer sedan in their range. Does Geely care about the North American market? Or would it rather bolster Volvo’s image in China while spurring on sales in Europe? Time will tell.

So, with that said, what do you think is the next brand to take a long drive off a short pier? Are we at the end of the Car Cull? Or are there still a few companies looking to exit stage left?

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149 Comments on “Ask The Best And Brightest: Which Brand Is Next For A Death Watch?...”


  • avatar
    NotFast

    Mitsubishi. But I guess they’ve been on The Watch for ~ 5+ years.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark Stevenson

      Mitsubishi President Osamu Masuko said, “We have no intention whatsoever of withdrawing from the US market.”

      Is there a history of car company head’s named Osamu driving their brands into oblivion in America or is this a new phenomena?

    • 0 avatar
      forraymond

      TTAC should get a Death Watch for how slanted the reporting has become.

    • 0 avatar
      L'avventura

      Mitsubishi is sheltered by the fact it still has the plant in Normal Ill. While the plant has the burden of the UAW, it still protects Mitsubishi from the high yen.

      It’ll serve as a production centre for the next Outlander, which can even be sent back to Japan. The new Mirage is also made in Thai-land, meaning the US may see a larger portion of their cars built outside of Japan imported to the US. Mitsubishi will survive for a little bit longer, but without a larger player it can’t stay relevant in the US market much longer.

      You follow the money when you see who can and cannot survive in the US. If there is no local production the currency which the car is made becomes the most important (which is really what killed Suzuki in the US). The extraordinarily weak Euro shelters companies like Smart, Fiat, Jaguar/LR, the Krona may be a problem for Volvo, but they are sheltered from larger companies like Chery as Jaguar/LR shelters Tata. If the euro significantly strengthens expect those smaller European brands to suddenly disappear from the US market.

  • avatar
    Viquitor

    Lincoln.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark Stevenson

      Ford has said they have a plan for Lincoln but nobody in the press has really seen it. I also have a Cartier watch that’s so precious I cannot show it to anyone.

    • 0 avatar

      The deal with Lincoln goes roughly like this:

      – Audi is making a HUGE amount of $ around the world, esp in China. This does not go un-noticed at Ford (or at GM, but that’s a different tale);
      – Ford hires the (very very smart, very clueful) guy (Jim Farley) who used to run Lexus. First they make him Ford’s marketing chief, and then… they put him officially in charge of turning Lincoln into a sort of American Audi;
      – Ford puts some real money behind this idea: dedicated design studio, separate model lines, etc., and some real thought, not just dart-throwing. Like, they really want to actually emulate the Audi model, not just badge-engineer and call it a day;
      – (c. 2015 or so) Roll it out around the world and profit.

      Do I think they can do it? Go drive a new Fusion and tell me if you think Ford’s current leadership can execute on ambitious plans to upgrade.

      • 0 avatar
        MrWhopee

        Your scenario seem overly rosy to me, almost wishful thinking rosy. 2015 isn’t that far away, and your first point is that Audi is making a HUGE amount of money in other countries around the world. Lincoln has zero presence outside of the US. And they’re not even started with that today. Establishing a name, much less cachet in a brand new country takes a long time. Just ask Lexus. A decade seem to be the minimum, If Lincoln started today, that would be 2022, not 2015. They don’t even have a car that can sell, or at least positively regarded in America, much less other country. It’s like predicting someone would win world tennis championship, while the guy haven’t even learned to play tennis yet.

      • 0 avatar
        Viquitor

        Audi relies on a sporty image that Lincoln will match only six months after the hell freezes over.

        And if Ford couldn’t make it with Jaguar or Volvo, then how came they’ll get it right with Lincoln?

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        @Viquitor, not sure what you mean by a ‘sporty image’ of Audi. Maybe back in the ’80s when the Quattro Hatch was hot. Audi just does really, really well in the demographic that wants All Wheel Drive, but doesn’t want to be seen in the plebian offerings of Subaru or worse, Suzuki; and who also does not want to drive the high bling of a lux American SUV.

      • 0 avatar
        Mark Stevenson

        @dolorean Yes, because people who drive R8s just don’t want to be stuck in an Impreza Outback.

      • 0 avatar
        Viquitor

        @Mark Stevenson Lol

      • 0 avatar
        Viquitor

        @dolorean Audi does really well in many demographics, not just the ones who really need AWD and are ashamed of driving Subarus.

        And I’m talking about Le Mans, ALMS, Auto Union, DTM, GT3… Audi has a very rich sporting heritage, it’s not just the Quattro. Although the Quattro still is very important for the brand image.

      • 0 avatar
        Joe McKinney

        Back to John’s orignal comment – Audi’s recent success was not cooked up overnight. Volkswagen aquired Audi in the 1960’s and for the last 40+ years has been building the Audi brand, developing the Audi model line-up, and expanding Audi’s presence in the global market. During this same 40+ year time frame Ford has allowed Lincoln to languish into irrelevance. I do believe Lincoln can be saved, but it’s going to take a lot of time, money and focus, just like the approach VW took with Audi.

      • 0 avatar
        Acd

        It took Audi a long time to get where they are now in the U.S. Remember the 1970’s 100LS and Fox? Or the 1980’s 5000? Lincoln doesn’t have that kind of time to establish themselves as something other than a tarted up Ford like they are today.

      • 0 avatar

        Guys, I didn’t say they’d be done in 2015, I said they’d roll it out around 2015. I do think it’ll take years before Lincoln is taken seriously as anything like a peer of Lexus and/or the Germans, but I also think (for good, informed reasons) that that’s roughly Ford’s intent, and that they’re really really serious about it, and that their recent track record should inspire some confidence.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I’m thinking Lincoln will survive because Ford needs the brand, and has the resources to rebuild it. But it’ll definitely be a project.

  • avatar
    Acd

    Mitsubishi
    Fisker
    Tesla
    Mazda
    Lotus
    Smart

    • 0 avatar
      Mark Stevenson

      Lotus and Fisker, while on the brink, aren’t really worth mentioning as they are low volume players. Tesla will come out ahead (I think) in the end as they can sell cars with high margins.

      Mazda needs a partner but they still perform well in the US in comparison to some rivals and have a fresh model range with desirable power plants.

      Mitsubishi, see above quote.

      smart … I’d put my long money here.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I mostly agree with this list. Of the list, I see Mazda going last, they could turn things around. The others, I’m not seeing a bright future.

    • 0 avatar

      I think Tesla’s likely to make it because it has a big fan base, a totally unique niche, and those who drive it really love it. Also it gets to breakeven on about 10k cars a year and it already has an order backlog of about 13k cars. Impressive considering almost nobody has actually gotten to drive the car more than a handful of miles. I think once people drive the car, and once the circa $50k model becomes available, it will be compelling for a lot of people.

      Fisker, on the other hand, is not great to drive, has a laughable electric range (less than the Volt) and has little going for it other than its looks. Not to mention being the butt of vehicular pyromaniac jokes.

      However, Fisker seems to have a marketing edge in South Florida for some reason. I’ve seen them at the boat show (which is a popular venue for high-end car displays as well) and at the Aventura Mall, a place flooded with high-income folks. This kind of presence is a clear advantage of using the franchise dealer system instead of company stores. It’s safe to say this is why more people have heard of Fisker than Tesla.

      However, there’s no question I’d rather buy at Apple Stores than Best Buy. So I look forward to seeing Tesla’s Lincoln Road (South Beach) shop when it opens.

      D

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Mazda just returned to profitability, and they seem pointed in the right direction, but they have a long way to go before being healthy. They seem to do very well in areas they service, but I understand there are huge sections of the country where they simply don’t exist.

      With their new plant in Mexico, I believe if they make it through the next few years, they will be okay.

      • 0 avatar
        Acd

        Mazda’s profit last quarter came from Japan where they made $320 million but they continue to lose money in the U.S.–big money compared to their overall profits–which is why I have them on my watch list. Without a partner they have little room for error.

  • avatar
    segfault

    Mitsubishi, Lincoln, and GM, in that order.

  • avatar
    mjz

    In order of vunerability: 1)smart, 2)Volvo, 3)Mitsubishi 4)Lincoln. Bet we don’t get the “next” smart here. Volvo seems to be slowly eliminating its models, death by attrition. Volvo can’t command the pricing structure of the top tier luxury brands, and will lose money with the exchange rates the way they are. Mitsubishi has a plant here and it will cost a bundle to pull out unless they can sell the plant, will probably give it one more round before they pull out. Gee, maybe Volvo should buy the Mitsu plant to lower their production costs. Lincoln will also try one more go ’round, but unless they can establish Lincoln as a global luxury player (doubtful), it will fold as well in a few years. By the way, I don’t think eliminating Mercury was a great idea. Together, Lincoln-Mercury offered an alternative to Ford buers, who wanted a slightly different look and dealership experience. Eliminating Mercury put Lincoln in a very vunerable position, which it may not recover from.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark Stevenson

      The argument can be made that Mercury was a potential Buick competitor or just another Oldsmobile. Either way, that decision has already been made. Unfortunately, in the process, Lincoln has become the new Mercury due to its lackluster model line-up which apes Ford vehicles a bit too closely. They need something different to get a new generation of buyers into the show room. Something with sex appeal, style, and performance. Ford has a new Mustang platform coming out and a high-lux Lincoln sports coupe based on Mustang underpinnings would be a great addition to the brand (or maybe that’s just wishful thinking).

      • 0 avatar
        mjz

        I just don’t see the Lincoln brand being a big player in the luxury market on the global stage. They would have been better off to scrap the whole L-M division and just start over with a new international luxury marque.

      • 0 avatar
        Mark Stevenson

        mjz — It would have been interesting to see Ford come up with a new brand that slotted below Aston Martin and then sell them in the same dealerships. But, at the time, it was much cheaper for them to hold on to Lincoln than kill it and start a new brand. Ford’s name was mortgaged and there wasn’t much extra cash floating around to burn on a new marque.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        The fact that Lincolns are basically Fords with different styling and a few other flourishes probably ENSURES its survival. If Ford can make money selling Lincolns, it will keep the brand, regardless of whether we believe it is irrelevant.

        Spending money on a bunch of unique platforms and engines for a relatively low-volume marque is not a good strategy.

        Oldsmobile, for example, ran into trouble when it spent a bunch of money bringing out new models (some with engines not found on other GM products) that didn’t sell well. That made it ripe for the axe when GM first hit trouble in 2000.

        It’s easier to make a profit selling gussied-up Fords than it is to make a profit on unique platforms that will have to go head-to-head with established competitors.

        Like it or not, directly going against the Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7-Series or even the Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5-Series is a losing game for Lincoln. It just doesn’t have that level of prestige.

        Ford needs to engage in clever platform sharing, and abandon any thought of competing directly with the Germans. It can take a page from its own history book on how this can be done.

        The 1961 Thunderbird and 1961 suicide-door Continentals shared quite a few number of parts under the skin, and were made at the same factory, but appealed to completely different audiences.

        Lincoln needs to take the platform for the next Mustang, and stretch it into a four-door sedan and formal coupe. With these cars, it can take aim at the Chrysler 300C, which is a much more realistic target.

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        @Geeber, “Oldsmobile, for example, ran into trouble when it spent a bunch of money bringing out new models (some with engines not found on other GM products) that didn’t sell well. That made it ripe for the axe when GM first hit trouble in 2000.”

        Disagree with you here. You just described Oldsmobile’s mission statement since inception; to be the latest-technology-out mark, in essence, the ‘Rocket Brand’ (examples of this 1901 Curved Dash first to be mass-produced, the Rocket V8, pioneered use of chrome [first to do so in 1926], automatic transmissions, and front wheel drive). The reason Oldsmobubble failed was due to its ham-fisted attempt at changing its market share from Octegenarians to Yuppies, which failed miserably. Add to that, Olds was just one brand too many for GM to maintain, a foreshadowing to 2008.

      • 0 avatar
        geeber

        The problem is that, by the 1990s, GM simply didn’t have the money to offer unique engines that would be used by one division. Note that even Cadillac abandoned the Northstar V-8, and now uses corporate engines.

        It was no longer cost-effective for GM to have Oldsmobile fill its original mission as the “innovation division” of GM.

        GM could afford to allow each division to use its own engines (and, in some cases, transmissions – see Buick’s use of Dynaflow) when each division only offered one basic car in several trim levels. By the early 1970s, each division was offering several models on different platforms. Combine model proliferation with CAFE regulations and Clean Air Act standards, which required expensive certification procedures for EACH drivetrain, and it quickly becomes apparent that even GM could no longer afford to be…GM.

        Oldsmobile’s innovations had largely centered on powertrains – the first Hydramatic; the “Rocket” ohv V-8; early turbocharging with 1962 Jetfire; and first postwar front-wheel-drive American car with the 1966 Toronado. By the 1980s, it was harder to justify limiting the use of a new powertrain or transmission to just one division.

        The fact that Oldsmobile was ever thought of as the favorite ride of senior citizens was another failing.

        Oldsmobile had been a favorite of young and middle-age families with the Cutlass Supreme and Delta 88 in the 1970s and early 1980s. The troublesome front-wheel-drive replacements in the mid-1980s for those cars drove away those buyers to the Honda and Toyota dealerships.

        Only the traditionalists were left – hence, the desperate “Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile” ad campaign of the late 1980s, and the attempt to revamp the entire line-up, starting with the Aurora.

  • avatar
    Robert

    GMC. Maybe they should just only build Denalis level vehicles as a seperate brand with out the GMC badge. Maybe it would make them more exclusive to some people if they have less association with lower trims.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark Stevenson

      GMC makes GM a TON of money. All they have to do is package a Silverado slightly different, add a different badge, and they already have a $1000 premium going out the door. Managing the GMC has very little input yet returns tons of cash to GM. I can’t see it going anywhere any time soon.

      • 0 avatar
        Acd

        GMC is a car company’s dream: dress up an existing design, sell it at a higher price point and fill up factory capacity. This is the last of the 1970’s high profit/low invenstment badge engineering and GM needs to ride this wave as long as they can.

  • avatar
    DanDotDan

    Ford needs Lincoln as its premium brand but they need to do a better job of it.

    It’s hard to justify a Mitsubishi these days. Just about every offering is done better by a different manufacturer. So my vote goes to Mitsu.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark Stevenson

      I give Mitsu 12 months to get its shit together. Sometime in the near future they need to announce SOMETHING that isn’t an Evo. A comprehensive plan for brand revitalization would be amazing to see, but I get the feeling it won’t be happening.

      Their bottom line will be their death, not a voluntary retreat.

      • 0 avatar
        mjz

        The problem with Mitsu pulling out is that they still have that factory in Normal, Illinois, building Outlander Sports for NA. and for export to other markets. Pulling out of the North American market would cost them a fortune if they have to also close that plant down.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        Lot of GMCs and Buicks in garages where the owner can afford to buy more expensive rides. I put this in the wrong response, shoud’ve been about GMC. My apologies.

    • 0 avatar
      JK43123

      Absolutely. Plus a co-worker had one and it was a total pile of crap. What is the point? Mitsu Death Watch!

      John

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    I’d say only the small and the red need apply.

    Smart will likely find a way to stick through an inevitable legal scheme from a meddling government.

    Lincoln won’t get axed because too many of those sales would be lost rather than shift to Ford. More poor performance needed first and they may wise up and build a fleet car.

    Volvo will trim it’s line but hold on as the Chinese see the value of the name and network.

    Mitsubishi wins the prize. They make some good looking cars. Good commercials. Eco is a cult car. And they lose on depreciation. Most people won’t say anything about depreciation when saying why they choose, but I think when it gets bad enough you are like a plane losing altitude and gaining speed. Look out below.

    • 0 avatar

      I wouldn’t think it’s depreciation per se as much as high lease monthly payments thanks to it, which makes their cars uncompetitive even with nominally more expensive vehicles that hold their value.

      D

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        I don’t know what percent of fools, err “buyers”, actually lease. (I know leases make sense for a very small group, but not the vast majority).

        Still, what you said is really key. I would love to see some behavioral Econ guys look into this sort of thing. I bet depreciation, is one of those things that people prioritize quite highly but don’t think they do. At best they buy durability, or a better lease deal, or something else that’s related. In the end though, depreciation really matters.

        Either that, or it’s the result rather than the cause. Maybe it’s just circular.

  • avatar
    Sundowner

    Lincoln.
    everything they’ve done so far is floundering.
    They’re still trying to define ‘luxury’ when everyone else has moved on to ‘premium’. Luxury died when you could get Benz bells and whistles in a Hyundai for 1/5 the cost.

    • 0 avatar
      JLGOLDEN

      Spot-on regarding the evolution of luxury as Hyundai products offer Benz-like premium features. Lincoln has real hurdles to clear, trying to create an image and a percieved value, while commanding a price premium over comparably-equipped Fords. All non-lux brands offer a backup camera, a booming-subwoofer sound system, and heated seats. The competition can do cool styling, oversize sunroofs. What can Lincoln do to be unique? It’s image, image, image that will attract those who are willing and able to move up the price ladder.

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    Tarnished though it is, Lincoln is the crown of FoMoCo. I don’t see them letting it go. Mitsubishi has been walking dead for years. Other than as a parts/engine supplier, I don’t see them being around much longer.

  • avatar
    rnc

    this is just the american marker, mitsu, followed by mazda (mazda’s joy at becoming independant will quickly turn into reality when new platforms are required, everything new they’ve brought out or will in the next few years were already planned out while ford was footing a majority of developmental bill).

    Lincoln won’t die but should if they are just going to keep going as they have, however they have the Australian platforms, I’m sure some sort of retention of intellectual property from the Jaguar XJ/XF platforms and the new mustang, so they could build a real grouping (Continental, Arrow and Zephar for sedans and MkX IX for a coupe), but would need some way of amortizing it (perhaps could purchase the Bristol name for Europe, China and everywhere else that isn’t in NA above mexico). amortizing is the big if for what Lincoln will become.

    • 0 avatar
      100 mph fastball

      It makes sense for Toyota to acquire Mazda – there are very few product overlaps, and most importantly, their respective keiretsus (Mitsui and Sumitomo) are in the same bed financially.

      Mazda could become Toyota’s driver-oriented division with sporty handling sedans and affordable sports cars.

  • avatar
    65corvair

    Lincoln are what Mercury should have been, but not at Lincoln prices.

    Smart is pointless. Only 38 mpg on the highway.

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      But who in their right mind would drive a Smart on the highway? It’s a city car, period. Let’s talk about city mileage, and parking advantages, rather than writing it off because of some measurement irrelevant to its purpose.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    So, tell me again, why TTAC is bullish on the negative? Is it not possible to look favourably upon a car maker, as in, who will be the next to garner the title of world’s biggest seller? Or who’s going to be the next “must have” of products coming? Or at the very least, who’s got the most cupholders for the money?

    Bit tired of all the negative waves, Moriarity.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Articles like this are part of TTAC free blog business model. Lots of click throughs and the article is a fluff piece. The masses get to pontificate. Somedays ya gotta fill the blank spots in the page.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark Stevenson

      If you want speculation on the biggest automaker of the year in terms of sales and production, we do that, along with almost every other automotive news outlet. If you want to count cupholders, Consumer Reports has you covered, along with car reviews here on TTAC. As far as new products coming, NAIAS is in January and I am sure we will have coverage of that, too.

      But, to ignore the facts surrounding the health of the smaller ‘volume’ players in the US market is disingenuous. Sure, Death Watch is a tough phrase. But, it’s aptly applied to a number of these smaller manufacturers.

      Monday night I was not a happy man by any stretch of the imagination. The end of Suzuki in the US put a nail in the coffin for a once well respected niche player. When Suzuki brought the Samurai to North American shores, it was a game changer because they had the balls to risk bringing something to market that had never been seen here for a long, long time. The Cultus (Get Metro, Chevy Swift) in many respects was a game changer as well, proving you could have a small, reliable car that was fun to drive. But, Suzuki lost their way, betting on mainstream instead of playing to its strengths and giving us something different.

      Subaru, on the other hand, has been beating a dead horse with their all-wheel-drive ethos and winter weather states can’t get enough of them. Subaru found their niche and they stuck to it until just recently with the introduction of the BRZ. They were one of the few automakers that, during the recession, were still experiencing sales growth.

      My goal throughout all of this is to call on manufacturers to do a better job. It is not my responsibility to hold Suzuki’s or any other company’s hand and show them the way to prosperity (I am not sure if I could do that anyway). Also, people who are truly interested in the automotive industry want to know the good AND the bad. As the press, it is our duty to interpret the smoke signals, because when their is smoke, there is fire, and we don’t want to let anyone get burned unnecessarily.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “But, to ignore the facts surrounding the health of the smaller ‘volume’ players in the US market is disingenuous”

        Well, there’s ignoring it, and then there’s beating it to death. TTAC had a virtually identical article about this just three months ago.

        Incidentally, in that article, I predicted the eventual demise of US operations of Suzuki and Mitsubishi, and the end of Lancia and Lincoln.

        http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/dead-brand-pool-2014-the-brutal-retreat/#comment-1923070

        I’m sticking with that prediction.

        I believe that Ford will let the Lincoln dealers starve themselves out of existence before shutting it down. Lincoln doesn’t mesh with the “One Ford” model, and it makes no sense for FoMoCo to maintain a luxury brand that doesn’t have a global presence and or any reasonable chance of ever having one.

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        PCH,
        Gratz on the Suzuki call, +1

        Mark,
        I suggest complaints about a subject matter or type of article be against the site rules. If one doesn’t appreciate an article vote by not reading or commenting. Its the most ignorant and rude sort of whinging. The complainer had the opportunity to read the headline and simply pass. It’s just wrong to try to shut down a type of conversation you don’t like when you have to make an effort to be part of it.

        • 0 avatar

          Per commenting policy

          No ‘what not to write’ requests: We appreciate suggestions of what to cover, we do not appreciate suggestions of what not to write and to ignore. The decision of what to select as TTAC content is solely that of TTAC editors.

          Mark has volunteered his time and effort to do this series. He should be commended for the high quality journalism he’s produced over the past few months. Rather than pontificate about what sort of product would have saved Suzuki, Mark took time out of his day to interview, report and write on this topic before it was on anyone’s radar. Respect is a mutual proposition. We value the commenters immensely and frequently solicit your ideas and opinions. Reciprocity is important, especially when the writer in question is volunteering his time to produce content for the readers.

      • 0 avatar
        Mark Stevenson

        Landcruiser — I believe it is against the rules. However, I do not possess the ban hammer, nor is it my duty to email people to give them warnings. Thanks for your support!

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        @Landcrusher, ” The complainer had the opportunity to read the headline and simply pass. It’s just wrong to try to shut down a type of conversation you don’t like when you have to make an effort to be part of it.”

        I love the way you avoid answering the question by perceiving me as a complainer, not someone who simply voiced his opinion that TTAC used to be a bit more positive. Simple observation inclined to create discussion, not trash someone personally as you have.

        The irony in this is that it never occurred to you to do exactly as you stated with my blog addition.

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        Dolorean,
        Sorry about that. My comment was not directed at your post, but rather at the recent rash of posts as I described. I can see how you would think I was including you, but that wasn’t my intent. I brought it up because Mark’s comments made me think of it.

        I find nothing wrong with your comment. Again, sorry.

      • 0 avatar
        Syke

        Keep in mind where TTAC started. A little essay entitled “GM Must Die”. Its something in the site’s blood. While there’s lots of good and interesting information here, what this site does best is kick a car maker when they’re down. And the majority of the responders love it, and happily get in a few kicks of their own every chance they get.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      +1

      The Schadenfreude is getting a bit old.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTheDriver

      Heh, negative waves, at least *I* get the Kelly’s Heros reference ;} At the risk of being banned I have to agree with you dolorean. TTAC has certainly gotten a bit negative of late with all the we-hate-EVs, politics, deathwatch stories.

      @Landcrusher For what it’s worth calling other commenters “rude” and “ignorant” is also grounds for banning, just sayin

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        John,
        That’s not the case AFAIK. You can’t call someone rude or ignorant, but you can label their post or behavior that way.

        We all behave lay badly, but very few of us are bad people. PCH and I go at it a lot, but I don’t think anything bad about him. He is a bright guy, we just disagree.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Mitsubishi – The sub-prime Japanese brand of choice
    Smart – Joke from day one
    Volvo – Already a bit player with no new product
    Lincoln – Mercury part 2, will get new product and hopefully live to fight another day

    I’m going to add one not on the list who may soon be on there, Mazda. Right now things may be stable, but in five years they could be in trouble in the US market. They may survive here as a niche brand (RX and Miata fans are common) but will that be enough to survive on the world stage?

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I’ve been expecting Mitsubishi to pull out of the market at any time since about 2006, when they pulled the Montero, and the Galant got ridiculous looking and couldn’t compete. Their current model lineup isn’t impressive and doesn’t run the gamut of the “fit all needs” thing they NEED to pull off to be a major player.

    I did see an i-MEV yesterday, but it’s the only one I’ve ever seen. Mitsu has not made anything interesting since the early/mid-90s (think Galant AWD, Diamante wagon, 3000GT), and screwed up when they didn’t bring the next model Shogun over here to compete as a Land Cruiser sized vehicle.

    Looking back at the opportunity Mitsubishi missed irritates me, so I just try not to think of it – and realize that within 5 years they’ll no longer be sold here.

    I think Smart has no place in the US, with their outdated and uncompetitive, ugly products. I won’t miss them.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    Did we just get another site redesign? Can I make two requests, dear omnipotent webmaster?

    1) The site not log me out once a week? Some sites I visit haven’t logged me out in *years*

    2) When I click on “Comments” from the front page, can it take me directly to that article’s comments and not the top of the article itself?

    Back on topic- I vote Mitsubishi

  • avatar
    jaje

    Deciding this solely on total sales volume means little as that would mean Ferrari or Lamborghini should close up shop. Instead volume is only important to low margin products that need to move significant quantities. Also expenses of selling cars from simply borrowing space in an established dealer network or having to field and maintain an entire network on your own, not to mention expenses from advertising, sales etc.

    Don’t even belong on any deathwatch list: Porsche (why are they here as they are not a volume seller and make major profits on their current lineup?)

    Safe b/c fields no unique dealer network so costs are much lower: Scion / MINI / Fiat / Smart

    Safe b/c sales #s are low but larger than normal transaction prices and near luxury: Infiniti / Lincoln (to an extent) / Land Rover / Jaguar / Volvo

    Next to close its doors: Looking this over Mitsubishi they have no more product have to run a plant in Normal, IL and field their own dealer network and they don’t sell higher than average priced cars and rely on slim margins.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I think any brand with declining YoY sales this year is in danger. It has been a bullish year for sales in the NA market and anyone not coming along with growth is really hurting with the major players growing so much.

  • avatar
    jimble

    The smart brand may not survive in the retail marketplace, but Daimler has found a niche for it as a fleet vehicle for its Car2Go car-sharing service, and if that pans out it may hang on indefinitely.

  • avatar
    ABankThatMakesCars

    GMC (or Buick)

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      If they lose GMC they will almost have to shutter Buick, since I don’t believe Buick does enough volume to warrant its own standalone dealerships… or consolidate the dealerships of the remaining brands as Chrysler did, which I’m sure the Cadillac dealers won’t be thrilled about.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTheDriver

        can’t shutter Buick ‘cus of Wuling (or whatever their Chinese operations are called these days) …

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        “can’t shutter Buick ‘cus of Wuling (or whatever their Chinese operations are called these days) …”

        Really? Can’t they just sell Buicks in China only? I mean, they don’t sell Holdens North America because Australians buy them at home.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTheDriver

        “Really? Can’t they just sell Buicks in China only? I mean, they don’t sell Holdens North America because Australians buy them at home.”

        This is exactly my point. Holden sells (among other things) badge engineered Chevys in Australia.
        Take away the Chevys and, well, you see my point? Hence Buick (research, development, engineering) must survive in some form or other for GM to continue selling them in China.

  • avatar
    ABankThatMakesCars

    Mitsubishi is a huge conglomerate with deep pockets. Making cars is more of a hobby to them. Won’t be Mitsu next.

    • 0 avatar

      Like airplanes are a hobby of Honda, right?

      • 0 avatar
        Freddy M

        Funny you mention that, Honda started out as a motorcycle company that decided to make cars as a hobby. Now the auto manufacturing aspect has become their main enterprise (though their bike division is still one of the world’s biggest).

        But IMO the Honda Jet venture… yeah… not one of their best moves.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve65

        Honda did not start making cars “as a hobby”. They started making cars because Soichiro wanted to grow the business, and spread the Honda design ethos into the 4-wheeled market. And he had to fight the Japanese government to be allowed to do it.

        Honda started out strapping war surplus generator motors to bicycles. Or making piston rings for Toyota, if you go back far enough.

      • 0 avatar
        Freddy M

        Yeah I know, I was just trying (failing) to be funny :)

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      @ABTMC: The article is referring to US presence. Mitsubishi won’t stick around if it’s bleeding money in the US.

      Similarly, Suzuki owns India, but they finally had to bail on the US market.

  • avatar
    photog02

    I don’t consider companies like Smart, Scion, Fisker, Tesla, and (sadly) Lotus to be real car companies. So that leaves Mitsubishi. My justification is two-fold and half-stolen. First, any company that has a “commitment to the United States market” on their website- seriously! Go read it! is automatically on death watch due to the protest too much principle. Second, and all credit to Dr. Twofish, can you name three current Mitsubishi vehicles? If you can’t hold brand-recognition in the enthusiast community, you are screwed in the general purchasing population.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Self driving cars will be the savior of Lincoln.

  • avatar
    highdesertcat

    I think that we are at the end of the car cull. Looking at the list the gut reaction would be to say Mitsubishi, but that will never happen because of the UAW connection.

    Each of the other brands listed has a small, niche following and a larger parent company to keep them alive.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Assuming the parent companies want to keep pumping money into niche brands when they hit the skids.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Yeah, that’s always a variable, but the parent companies have been pumping money into these niche brands for decades now. I think for them it is all about a presence in the US. It’s like bragging rights.

        Actually, there wasn’t anything major wrong with Suzuki either. My brothers had a Suzuki franchise, until they sold the dealerships, and they rarely had anything go wrong with them.

        I owned several highly advanced Suzuki motorcycles among which was a 3-cylinder, water-cooled, 2-stroke 750 that hauled @ss big time. Since it fired on every down-stroke it was like riding a six-cylinder crotchrocket.

        It could keep up with my BMW R90S which a Honda 750-4 could not do. And the Suzuki car engines were derived from the engineering done to their motorcycle engines, except for the inline-six which was designed by Porsche.

        One time when I was in Los Angeles in 2009, my brother let me borrow a little Suzuki sedan off the demo lot and it had an inline six-cylinder engine in it with a slushbox. It was hot!

        I took the 405 down to the I5 and goosed it more than once to get to Solana Beach and I was impressed.

        The problem was that the car was butt-ugly! It was a blast to drive because it was a freebie but I wouldn’t want to put my own money in one.

        If I put my own money in something of that class I’d put my money in an Elantra, Mazda3, Corolla or a Civic even though they only have four-bangers.

        I think we’re pretty much at the end of the car cull.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    Not being a wise-ass here, but does the B&B think Chrysler is out of the woods yet? I am surprised Chryco hasn’t been mentioned. While their sales have been booming, anything can happen. If they don’t sustain what they have done recently, I think it’ll be curtains for them.

    • 0 avatar
      mr_muttonchops

      I would also be concerned with their reliability records in the long run. With many of their products refreshed or totally new, we don’t really know what those cars will be like in 3-5 years of reports.

      I would like to see Chrysler & Friends keep going, though.

      • 0 avatar
        Viquitor

        Well.. So, anybody could be subject to the Death Watch. Chrysler could be gone by now, but they’re doing OK. They might be even in better shape than GM and Ford in the long run.

    • 0 avatar
      Acd

      Chrysler only made around $381 million on sales of $15.5 billion in Q3 which seems like an awful small profit for that amount of sales. If we see another spike in gas or fall back into a recession and their sales decrease they could be back in the negative very easily.

      Count me as a Chrysler owner who would like to see them succeed but they’re not out of the woods yet.

    • 0 avatar
      ranwhenparked

      Maybe not all of Chrysler Group, but Dodge may well belong on the list. Fiat seems have developed a habit of turning Dodge’s model lines into stand-alone brands of their own, if the trend continues, there may not be anything left for Dodge to sell.

      • 0 avatar
        Acd

        Great point. One of the reasons to make Ram a seperate make is so they can close down Dodge at some point but keep the high profit trucks without going into a last minute fire drill to re-badge them.

  • avatar
    mr_muttonchops

    Numbers wise, Jaguar. However Jaguar has always been in a weird position in the states, and they DID see an increase in sales. Sales wise, definitely Mitsubishi on a short term, and possibly Lincoln or Volvo long term. Lincoln might have plans for product, but we’ve yet to see any strong indication of what that will be like. Volvo on the other hand seems to be cutting models left and right and leaving the U.S out in the cold right now.

  • avatar
    ranwhenparked

    MINI and Fiat don’t really belong on any Death Watch list, because they’re both niche brands that are essentially built on just one model (Fiat literally has only one model, while MINI is doing what Olds once did with the Cutlass and trying to fool people into believeing 3-4 different cars are really all the same model). Neither is intended to be a six figure seller, as long as they meet profit forecasts, they’re safe. MINI has always been very profitable here, Fiat got off to a rocky start but seems to be gaining traction.

    Ditto Porsche, they’re a specialty brand. With their price range and product mix, selling ~28,000 cars in the first 10 months is plenty respectable.

    Volvo, Smart, and Mitsubishi are the ones to watch right now.

    It’s going to take a lot more than a goofy little electric and one middle-of-the-road SUV to turn Mitsu around. The Lancer is old and uncompetitive, and the Galant has just been killed with no replacement, meaning they now have no entry at all in the most popular car size segment, and they have not given any indication of bringing over really anything else.

    Volvo’s going the same route as Mitsubishi. If they keep killing nameplates and abandoning key market segments, they’re going to kill themselves through self-inflicted attrition.

    Smart’s Uncar campaign seems to have stemmed some of the bleeding for now, but the ForTwo is still woefully unsuited to the needs of American buyers and it’s hard to see how they can justify the cost of federalizing the 3rd gen model based on current sales. There are a lot of “ifs” about the new car – IF it becomes a 2+2, IF it gets a fuel economy bump, IF it’s a bit cheaper, it might be worth sticking it out. If it’s more of the same, they should throw in the towel.

    • 0 avatar
      Viquitor

      The thing about Mitsubishi is that they seem to have lost interest in making US-bound products. They do have some new hardware to show, but not for the american tastes.

      What makes me think they still have a shot is the local production. But, who knows…

  • avatar
    100 mph fastball

    Mitsubishi, despite its product mismatch with the U.S. market, is actually quite profitable right now – they are doing brisk business in Southeast Asia and the Middle East with its pickup trucks and Pajero SUVs.

    Like someone else mentioned, Mitsubishi Motors is just a tiny slice of the huge corporate family encompassing many industry titans; its elder sibling Mitsubishi UFJ is the world’s second largest bank by deposits – it saved Morgan Stanley during the great financial crisis by (literally)writing a 9 billion dollar check.

    • 0 avatar
      ranwhenparked

      Mitsubishi Motors still needs to stand on it’s own. They’re a separate, publically traded company with lots of other stakeholders to satisfy. Other keiretsu members, like MHI and BoT-MUFJ, constitute a significant shareholding block, but they still don’t hold a majority. So far, they’ve been willing to extend Mitsu Motors favorable credit terms to keep the company afloat, simply to protect the integrity of the Mitsubishi brand name, but there’s got to be a limit somewhere if they don’t start showing results.

      • 0 avatar
        100 mph fastball

        You are correct that Mitsubishi companies are independent corporate entities; note that I referred to Mitsubishi Motors as a member of the family – just like in real life, family members do not all live under one roof, but still helps each other in tough times.

        Mitsubishi Motors is also not the deadbeat cousin of the family anymore – it made 10.10 billion yen in net profit last quarter due to brisk sales in SE Asia and the Middle East. Even though they are losing money in both Japan and the U.S., all things considered the three diamond brand is in a pretty sweet spot in SE Asia – the economy there is booming, the demographics are good (Indonesia alone has 300 million people, mostly under 30), and abundant natural resources.

      • 0 avatar
        ranwhenparked

        @100 mph fastball

        They are a *relatively* healthy company outside the US, but so is Suzuki. The question is when will Mitsubishi corporate get tired of their lackluster performance here and pull out in order to focus on those areas where they are successful. Because there is no way that Mitsubishi Motors North America can be said to be pulling their weight at all in relation to their other global operations.

      • 0 avatar
        autobots

        @100 mph fastball
        correction: Indonesia only has 240+ million, but you are right about the majority young & productive age group.

        Mitsubishi is not doing well even in their home market, not doing well in Australia too. Mitsubishi is in 3rd placing YTD on Indonesia’s sales chart, but 80% of sales are Mitsubishi & Mitsubishi Fuso’s light & medium commercial trucks. Mits Fuso is in fact 89% owned by Daimler AG.

        Maybe they should follow Isuzu’s footstep of selling only commercial vehicles?

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        @100 mph, that 10B JPY profit is only 120M when converted to USD. Compared to Toyota, GM, VW, Ford etc, it is quite anemic, and hardly worth the cost of capital.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Mini – they are in the same boat as Hummer: their entire product line is (was?) based on one iconic vehicle. How this works is beyond me. I can understand a niche manufacture but even Porsche builds/designs more “models” then Mini. Most Mini dealerships I’ve seen are connected to a BMW lot. Can they really function alone? You can add Fiat and Smart to the list under the same logic.

    Its one thing for the luxury/sport cars brands to function will little product because they command higher prices and specialized dealer experiences… but Fiat? Think of the infrastructure and overhead for that one vehicle. Shouldn’t it just be a Dodge model? Same goes for GMC and Lincoln, they should return to the mothership and just become a trim level.

    Sadly (as the owners of a C30) I think Volvo will be the next to die, following along the lines of Saab. Since “quirky” isn’t really a mainstream feature.

    • 0 avatar
      Dimwit

      I would dispute that. I think Volvo is doing the 80/20 rule. 80% of their sales are coming from 20% of their product line. They will prune the models but not impede the sales nearly in proportion. That saves money.
      I can see Volvo doing quite well will only a few models.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      JMII BMW owns Mini, I think the original marketing concept was to collocate them at BMW dealerships. The 500 is a European/US/Brazilian I don’t know where else model. GMCs are viewed by many of their buyers as more upscale than Chevrolet, what’s a few badges cost?. Don’t forget Buick/GMC dealers and Cadillac/GMC dealers. Lincoln is a mess. Volvo just needs to bring back some work boot tough wagons.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    Here is an example for Lincoln.

    We here on TTAC like the new 2013 Fusion pretty well.

    I cannot think of a single reason to buy a Lincoln MKZ over a Fusion Titanium. Not one. The Fusion Titanium has AWD, leather, Nav, 240hp, good mpg, nice trim, etc.

    What does the Lincoln do better? It is a big price jump for nothing.

    That right there is an analogy for Lincoln.

  • avatar
    Steve65

    Well, we know who the author is leaning toward.

    Smart has just started a major advertising campaign. Whether they’ll stay or go is still open to question, but clearly Daimler-Benz (or whatever they’re calling themselves these days) has committed to trying to pump some life into the brand. They’re not going away any time soon.

    And I swear, if one more person screechs about how they’re a bad car because they’re small and don’t get spectacular highway mileage I’m going to pitch a fit. Faulting it for failing to be something it’s not intended to be says nothing about the car, and everything about the complainer. If you don’t want a small city car, great. Nobody says you have to. But stop telling people who DO want a small city car that some other option that you prefer is “better”. When the goal is to fit into tiny parking spaces so you aren’t subject to the vagaries of the public transit system’s schedule and clientele, “bigger” is not better, and highway mileage is beyond irrelevant.

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    Mitsubishi is the obvious choice, for many of the same reasons as Suzuki.
    I think Smart may also be in trouble in the US since their current product is a one trick pony with a dubious value proposition. On the other hand Smart is part of Daimler-Benz so it would make a logical US outlet for the Mercedes A Class and possibly B Class which would give Smart more product and allow selling the sub C level cars in the US without further cheapening Mercedes.

  • avatar

    As far as I’m concerned, Ford’s cars are getting so overpriced that the company will have to push Lincoln further upmarket if it has any hope of a viable future…

  • avatar

    Let’s see…the MKX is a pale clone of the Edge, the MKT looks like a whale, the Navigator is irrelevant, and I do not think the 2013 MKZ is the answer Lincoln has been looking for, as its shape dooms it to be a specialty vehicle. And we already talked about how ridiculous Lincoln’s nomenclature is. As far as I’m concerned, the only vehicle worth keeping in the Lincoln lineup is the MKS, although the 2013 revamp did not do the front-fascia any favors stylistically.

  • avatar
    LALoser

    I bought a new Ralliart about 7 months ago. Great car. Drives and corners nice and an overall blast to drive. AWD and a bit of boy-racer thrown in for fun. Of course, the interior does not match the new age requirement of everything padded and a Better Homes and Gardens seal of approval…but that does not matter to me. Paid appx 25,500 with 0.9% interest. People can laugh and call it a sub-prime car; that’s OK, I got a lot o’ car for the dollar.

  • avatar
    Joss

    I don’t think Ford gave a pooh about Lincoln. I think for years Lincoln was a “kept” marketing decoy so GM spent heavily on Cadillac.

    Remember the illustrious “We don’t want bailout money..”

  • avatar
    gslippy

    In my garage, it would be Volkswagen and Honda on the Death Watch. They’ve each lost me as a customer for a long time to come.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    I cant see the Smart surviving with little or no updates to the design.
    As to the Fiat 500..Its too cool to loose the luster for now.
    Lincoln is a mess…Bring us a REAL bad boy Lincoln or fold the brand once and for all!
    Chrysler will do fine as long as their sub-prime financing can hold together.
    Mitsubishi will fall to the Koreans.
    Mazda will be folded into a Ford brand..or disappear.
    Subaru will also fall to the Koreans once the niche wears off.
    Jaguar will ALWAYS be in the U.S.no matter who ownes them!

  • avatar
    oldyak

    I cant see the Smart surviving with little or no updates to the design.
    As to the Fiat 500..Its too cool to loose the luster for now.
    Lincoln is a mess…Bring us a REAL bad boy Lincoln or fold the brand once and for all!
    Chrysler will do fine as long as their sub-prime financing can hold together.
    Mitsubishi will fall to the Koreans.
    Mazda will be folded into a Ford brand..or disappear.
    Subaru will also fall to the Koreans once the niche wears off.
    Jaguar will ALWAYS be in the U.S.no matter who owns them!

  • avatar
    Tstag

    JLR are actually working on 40 new models at the moment. And there are something link 16 new Land Rover/ Range Rover products being lined up for launch by the end of the decade.

    If anything the 1 we can safely say won’t be going anywhere is JLR. But the impact of 40 new Jaguar Land Rover products is bound to hurt companies like Lincoln and Volvo unless they sort themselves out.

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      @Tstag

      I thought SAAB and Suzuki find a partner and sort themselves out – but I was wrong. Dead wrong. I admire JLR, so I hope they survive, and Lotus too in some form.

  • avatar
    Piqutchi

    This post made me think: what if Mitsubishi and Suzuki combine their US automotive operations? With the way Mitsubishi seems to be taking their automobile line, that marque could serve as the economy/efficiency brand, while Suzuki could be more of a sporty/performance brand.

    Being a performance brand would allow Suzuki to increase margins, helping to pay for their vehicles in spite of the strong Yen (plus, the Kizashi could be produced at Mitsubishi’s Normal, Il plant). Mitsubishi could pursue their new strategy without alienating the audience for their driver-oriented offerings from past times.

    The two brands could combine their dealership networks and sell all of their wares at each dealership, which should greatly increase their retail footprint. Advertising costs could cover both brands at the same time, and vehicles from one marque could easily be redesigned to go under another.

    With double the power and fewer operating costs, I could see a Suzuki/Mitsubishi cooperative in the USA going places.

  • avatar
    wsn

    “excluding high-luxury brands, Maserati and Bentley”

    How to interpret this line?
    1) High-luxury brands plus Maserati and Bentley? So, both are considered a grade lower than Ferrari and RR, and thus not high-luxury brands?

    2) High-luxury brands as Maserati and Bentley? In that case, either Ferrari is not a high-luxury brand, or it sold more than 100,000 YoD. Impressive.

  • avatar
    RatherhaveaBuick

    I saw a new Galant today and I laughed a bit out loud.

    Mitsubishi is next. Rightfully so.


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