By on March 30, 2020

Image: FCA

Events of the last month (and the foreseeable future) will surely cause more than a few auto manufacturers to reevaluate their portfolios. Numbers for Q1, scheduled to be released this week but potentially delayed for understandable reasons, will surely be quite dismal.

Leaving one’s own personal views about the current economic shutdowns aside, do you think car companies might be forced (or choose to take the opportunity) to scrub a few underperforming models — or even entire brands?

Several brands vanished in 2009, facilitated by corporate sojourns through bankruptcy. For all concerned, your author dearly hopes that scene is not repeated. But, even in the absence of insolvency, the financial strain of these tough times might result in a few nameplates disappearing for good.

Fiat has been in the doldrums for a while, losing even its city-runabout 500 namesake. There’s little to cheer about at the house of Chrysler, either, with essentially just two models: the ancient 300 plus the Pacifica and its various iterations. It wouldn’t take much to rebadge the Pacifica as a Dodge once it’s standing on its own after the 300 disappears.

Will the current world situation hasten decisions such as these? Sound off below. Stay well and stay safe, folks.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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89 Comments on “QOTD: Disappearing Models, Vanishing Brands?...”


  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    I think by the time this all shakes out Nissan is going to get rid of the Nissan brand.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      They could go back to being Datsun!

      Seriously, I do disagree here. After all, if we’re going to have an economic downturn, someone’s gonna have to peddle cars to people with bombed-out credit scores. Nissan to the rescue!

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      I think Nissan would do well to bring back the Datsun brand and properly re-create the Datsun models that were so popular. And personally, I would like to see the return of the 2-door coupe rather than all these hideous, four-door, lookalike sedans and crossovers.

      But that’s just me.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        bringing back the Datsun brand would be like Chevy reviving the Bel Air nameplate.

        anyone who remembers and/or cares about them has long gone elsewhere.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          @JimZ: “anyone who remembers and/or cares about them has long gone elsewhere.”

          — Ummm… No, they haven’t. I’m not all that old and I easily remember both the Datsuns AND the Chevy Bel Air. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I live near a town named Bel Air, either.

          • 0 avatar
            deanst

            Ummm…you may not consider yourself old, but car companies do. Datsun left in 1975, so you are at least 50 to remember them. At that age, car companies are only interested in selling you your expensive retirement car!

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            Actually in North America Nissan only began aggressively changing over from the Datsun name in 1981.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            “Actually in North America Nissan only began aggressively changing over from the Datsun name in 1981.”

            Well that changes it. I thought it was a really long time ago, but it turns out it was back when Reagan was first getting sworn in and MTV was wowing the world with “Video Killed the Radio Star”. I mean that was like last week!

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        I think Nissan not only survives, but thrives. Think of it this way: if the economy get stinky, what are people going to buy – stupidly overpriced CUVs and trucks, or cars? And who has 1) a better selection of decent, lower-priced stuff and 2) a better ability to deal with credit-damaged customers than Nissan? Infiniti is probably dead, but I think Nissan might come out of this smelling like a rose. Ditto for Hyundai.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          @FreedMike: I think Nissan’s biggest problem right now is that nearly all of their cars have Continuously Variable Transmissions, meaning a form of ‘belt drive’ that simply isn’t as reliable as conventional transmissions and far less reliable than pure electric drives. Simply put, a CVT cannot handle the torque of a stronger engine in “lively” driving. Oh, they’re better than they used to be but they still can’t survive the lifetime of their original vehicle.

          Now is a very good opportunity to redesign their drivetrains to make more efficient use of the energy their engines put out. Electric motors are far more durable than mechanical transmissions and can offer far more torque. You don’t need a giant engine to power a 3000# to 4000# car as long as said engine is powering a generator that can output the required voltage and amperage to feed one or more motors directly. Moreover, you no longer need a mechanical driveshaft to drive front and/or rear axles to put that power to the road. Vehicles could be made significantly lighter without the need to use expensive composite or carbon-fiber mechanicals. Remember, while an engine can output a certain amount of torque, much of that torque is lost through the mechanicals before it reaches the road.

          That also means the cars could be made much less expensive both to build and to sell.

          • 0 avatar

            Subaru is pretty much all CVT hasn’t hurt sales a bit. The average consumer doesn’t care unless it breaks.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            Yeah because Nissan is swimming in cash right now and has plenty to revamp a bunch of low margin vehicles.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @mopar4wd: “Subaru is pretty much all CVT hasn’t hurt sales a bit. The average consumer doesn’t care unless it breaks.”

            … and from what I’ve been reading, the typical CVT doesn’t even last 100,000 miles and often barely over 60,000 miles while it is cheaper to replace the CVT than to repair it because of the way it’s built. That doesn’t bode very well for Subaru’s ongoing value.

          • 0 avatar
            bullnuke

            @Vulpine – “the typical CVT doesn’t even last 100,000 miles and often barely over 60,000 miles”, “That doesn’t bode very well for Subaru’s ongoing value.” The CVT utilized by Subaru since 2010 hasn’t seen nearly the issues as these transmissions by other manufacturers. The complainers on the various Subaru owner websites (and man, they b*tch about minutia) very rarely talk negatively about the Subaru CVT’s. My wife’s ’11 Outback CVT is fine at 154k miles. I’d agree if you target your comment concerning longevity toward the Jatco’s in Nissan vehicles. As for ongoing value, check the prices of used Subaru’s including 100k plus mileage vehicles.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @Bullnuke: I did not single out any one brand’s CVT; I clearly stated “typical CVT”. My wife was recently looking to buy a new AWD to replace her Jeep Renegade (before Covid-19 became so big) and even she questioned Subaru because it has a CVT. She’s more willing to trust Jeeps 9-speed automatic over any CVT due to the AVERAGE reputation of the type, despite their improvements. Sure, the Subaru might be better but even Subaru is having to battle a poor reputation from the mid-’00s.

        • 0 avatar
          eng_alvarado90

          Hyundai and Kia are as good if not better than Nissan when it comes to good selection of cheap cars as well as good financing even for those with bad credit. The Koreans have a better warranty as well.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Agreed, if I were in the market for a cheap car, Hyundai would be my first stop. But the fact remains that with the D3 completely leaving the cheap-car biz, there’s room for competition with Hyundai, so Nissan will definitely benefit.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            well, pinning their hopes on 1%-to-negative margins doesn’t sound like it would be a winning strategy, but what do I know…

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            If I were in the market for a cheap car, it would be a GM3800 Buick or a Crown Vic.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            @Art, and that is why the cheap car market will be hit the hardest, the person who would have been in the market for that cheap car will likely go used instead.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            Yep @scottdude. Buyers of high end German metal don’t get hosed in situations like this. It is the Versa buyer that now can’t go to either of their jobs that got hosed.

      • 0 avatar

        And what the difference will it make? What Datsun will make better cars than Nissan? It makes more sense to bring back Pontiac than Datsun and still it will never happen. BTW the Grammar Correction does not recognize the word Datsun but recognizes Pontiac.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          The difference is that Datsun would bring back DIFFERENT cars, while the Nissan brand models would be eliminated. They could be near-identical copies of existing models but if they carried the legacy names AS what they were then, like the 200SX being a ‘mid-sized’ coupe/sedan, the Sentra being a true compact, etc. and yes, even bringing back the 240Z with the old proportions, I think we’d see a revival of the brand with relatively unique models vs what we see today.

          • 0 avatar

            “Datsun would bring back DIFFERENT cars,”

            And where they will come from? I thought Datsun is just another name for Nissan. Like Mercury and Ford – you get the idea. Datsun is a name invented for America to make you feel good. To my ears Datsun sounds no more magical than Nissan.

      • 0 avatar
        RHD

        RWD Datsun 510… now we’re talking!

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    Personally, I am scared for Mazda. They are independent and hold very small market share in the USA and globally. They moved 300,000 vehicles total in the USA last year. They don’t have much room to absorb a big hit.

    Outside of the COVID crisis, I have long suspected that Mazda would get absorbed by Toyota or another large manufacturer. Maybe that will now come sooner rather than later.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve203

      Toyota took an equity stake in Mazda a couple years ago. As of last fall, new Mazdas are financed through Toyota Financial.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      Mazda has but one model (CX-5) that sells any reasonable volume in the USDM. In “good times” the vaunted MX-5 sells in relatively small quantities. These two models are just about all Mazda sells (and all that folks in the US market may recognize) that keeps them in the USDM. They have a much larger market outside the USDM, a market 5 times larger. Regardless of their Toyota crutch I see them gone pretty soon if this COVID-19 crisis continues for any extended length of time.

  • avatar
    Steve203

    The nice thing about bankruptcy is it allows a company to tear up contracts without paying restitution.

    Short of bankruptcy, closing out a brand is expensive.

    My suspicion is FCA is trying to starve the Fiat dealers out. The 500 accounted for a third of Fiat sales. With a hit like that, on top of already declining sales, I expect most Fiat stores to simply drop the brand, a de-facto withdrawal from the market.

    Of the Fiat stores in metro Detroit, only one has ordered any 2020 Fiats. That store’s name recently changed, implying new ownership. The new owner is probably “irrationally exuberant” and, with such a heavy inventory, will probably fail by the end of the year. The other three Fiat stores in Detroit and Toledo, seem to be running down their existing inventory of 2019s, prior to dropping the brand, as none have any 2020s.

    Two of the four Alfa dealers in Detroit/Toledo have dropped that brand over the last couple months as well.

    All that was going on before the virus shutdown.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      @Steve203: Your argument is illogical, since nearly every Fiat store has been operated by former CJD stores pretty much from day one. Oh, FCA would love to divest themselves of some of those abusive CJD franchisees but the 2009 lawsuit prevented them from simply pulling those franchise licenses that were the worst-performing and high-complaint operations. The simple fact that Jeep and Ram in particular are their two top-selling brands means that they simply can’t starve those dealerships out unless they simply stop producing product.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve203

        >>…since nearly every Fiat store has been operated by former CJD stores pretty much from day one.<<

        It isn't a matter of getting rid of substandard CJDR dealers. It's a matter of eliminating the costs of a brand that sells small numbers of low priced/low margin vehicles.

        The original qualifications to have a Fiat franchise required an existing CJDR dealer to build a separate "studio" for Fiat, a substantial financial undertaking for the dealer. That rule was changed in 2017, so that Fiats could be sold in the CJDR showroom. The dealers probably also have to make an investment in parts inventory and training to be able to service the cars.

        A dealer would not take kindly to Fiat being dropped after making those investments, and demand restitution if the brand was killed. On the other hand, by slowly starving Fiat of product, FCA makes carrying the brand not worth the bother, and dealers give it up willingly, saving FCA the cost of paying restitution for the dealer's stranded investment. That is exactly the thinking I would expect from an MBA.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          @Steve203: “It isn’t a matter of getting rid of substandard CJDR dealers. It’s a matter of eliminating the costs of a brand that sells small numbers of low priced/low margin vehicles.”
          — That isn’t what you said earlier. You expressly stated they were trying to drive the DEALERS into closing, which is completely different. That is the point to which I was disputing.

          Yes, they did have to open a separate “studio” but in the intervening time they have changed that policy and many (but not all) of such ‘studios’ have already been closed UNLESS they wanted to remain separate from the other brands.

          By your earlier statement, it sounds like at least one of those ‘studios’ has since been purchased by a private individual attempting to retain the Fiat/Alfa/Maserati brands to the exclusion of Chrysler/Jeep/Dodge/Ram. Honestly, I would hope that individual manages to survive but I will also acknowledge that he will be bucking a horrendous reputation for the brands. He’ll be needing to do his damndest to keep his overhead as low as possible–hopefully by actually owning the location and not leasing it from a third party. I don’t know anything about that location so I don’t have any idea of how much trying to maintain that location is going to cost.

          • 0 avatar
            Steve203

            >>That isn’t what you said earlier. You expressly stated they were trying to drive the DEALERS into closing, which is completely different. <<

            I may not have expressed myself clearly. I figure FCA is trying to push dealers who carry Fiat to give up on the Fiat brand in despair.

            Of the local dealers, Yark, Suburban and Golling all have CJDR stores. I don't find either a "Lakeside" or "Genesis" CJDR store, so I don't know if the former Lakeside Fiat/Alfa, now Genesis Fiat/Alfa is owned by a CJDR dealer or not.

            Suburban and Yark both had separate buildings for Fiat/Alfa. They both dropped Alfa a couple months ago and moved Fiat into their CJDR stores. Golling's Fiat "studio" is an extension added on to the side of their existing CJDR store, while their Alfa store is free standing. I was in Golling's Fiat store last summer. The former Fiat showroom space was occupied by the desks of their used car salesmen, while the desk of the lone new Fiat salesman was in a back corner.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @Steve203: I can accept that reasoning. Regretfully, I am fully aware that FCA doesn’t intend to ship any more Fiat 500s into the states, though the 500L/X and the 124 may stick around a while. I’d like to see the Abarth versions stick around as well, but…

            I do believe said independent (Genesis) may need to advertise itself as a collector’s or EuroSport type of dealership and find some way to market these more as fun, toy cars instead of econoboxes or everyday cars. I’d be interested in learning more about that one’s intent.

            As a former Fiat 500Pop owner, I fully enjoyed my ownership, even though the car wasn’t the most practical thing around. Even so, it easily handled my typical once-per-month visit to a big-box store that even included large packs of toilet paper and/or paper towels, along with other boxed goods and freezer foods. If my wife hadn’t needed a bigger daily driver with a reliable AWD system, I’d very likely still have that little 500Pop. Or I might have traded up for a 500 Abarth or a 124–I’m not sure.

          • 0 avatar
            Steve203

            >>As a former Fiat 500Pop owner, I fully enjoyed my ownership, even though the car wasn’t the most practical thing around.<<

            I was looking very seriously at 500 Cabrios last year, but the condo needing a new HVAC system took care of the bank balance.

            The Cabrio is much more pleasant to drive with the top open than a Beetle convert, due to much less buffeting and noise. A Pop Cabrio also costs a lot less than a Bug. But, the MBAs in Auburn Hills stuck a fork in it.

            I e-mailed Suburban after they dropped Alfa asking where a person in Ann Arbor would take their Alfa for service. They said take it to an Alfa dealer, without qualifying whether the service was warranty work or not. I may be wrong, but, in the back of my mind, is the thought that, the moment their last new Fiat is sold, they drop the brand and leave Fiat owners on their own to find service elsewhere. So, that put me off of buying any sort of Fiat.

  • avatar
    Jon

    The truly depressing shutdown is my favorite Mexican food restaurant… permanently!

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Yeah I have been making a real effort to get takeout from my local restaurants I frequent. I have no clue how they are going to get through this.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick_515

        I eat more out now than normal precisely because of this. In my small town, I am literally friends with restaurant owners. We literally sat down and made a list of businesses where we’ll promptly burn $100 should any gov checks appear (as opposed to clearing credit cards). I am very concerned about small businesses.

        One of the three CrossFit gyms I attend already closed permanently. We’re not a bro scene, we’re friends working out together. It’s a real loss.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    No doubt a few brands were waiting for a good excuse to bullet themselves. Or their sub brand.

    Closing a business is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Fiat (obviously)

    Jaguar

    Maserati (are they still in the US market?)

    Mini

    Genesis is growing, and Infiniti still sells more than enough to be viable. Nissan isn’t going anywhere. Alfa is a halo for FCA, so I doubt they’d kill it.

    Mazda is quite viable, but they have the flattest market share of anybody.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Interesting that you mention Genesis – I think they might come out of this in great shape. After all, people are still going to want luxury, but may not want to overpay, Mercedes/BMW/Audi/Lexus style, to get it.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        So if one no longer cared about brand, why not just get an Avalon or something.

        If people are broke or lost their job, they can’t afford the Real luxury brand or this. The people that can don’t want a Hyundai.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Not everyone’s going to be broke, and absolutely no one is going to confuse anything Genesis makes with a Hyundai (product-wise, at least). And Lexus showed that it is possible to create a new luxury brand if you have the right product, and more importantly, the right buying experience. The latter helps build prestige.

          And that last piece is what the Genesis brand really lacks right now – they were very slow to build standalone stores, so too many of their outlets share space with Hyundai. But the standalone stores look to have the right lux stuff to me.

          There are going to be plenty of people who have money through this downturn, just as there were plenty of them during the last one, At a minimum, if times get leaner, people are going to feel better about not being hit with Mercedes-level overcharging but will still want something that looks, feels and drives like a luxury car. I think Genesis’ product is there, and if the dealerships can be improved, they have a real opportunity. These guys could be the Lexus of the 21st century if they play their cards right.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            Lexus was all in from the get go. Never at any point in their history did you go purchase them from an “EVERYBODY RIDES!!!YOU GOT A JOB…YOU GOT A PULSE…YOU GOT A RIDE!!!” dealership. Genesis is a half arsed effort. They weren’t all in at the get go, the cars look like they are trying too hard, and Mercedes is Mercedes…Say what you will about displacement and power adders, but you won’t recognize bits of your Benz in an Elantra.

            Lexus of the 21st century is Lexus. Sure you see the Toyota DNA, but people are OK with that…Toyota is Toyota. You don’t have Builly Fucillo or whoever the local sleazeball is relentlessly hocking them on the credit challenged.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Fiat might seem obvious, if FCA were to remain a stand-alone, but it’s in the process of merging with PSA. Peugeot, Citroen, and Opel are in their stable, and one or more might fill in for the Fiats.

      Opel, in particular, has experience making Buicks for GM, and could compete with GM’s Chinese-built Buick models, or offer Buick-like sedans that Buick has stopped making.

      I’m not aware of any restrictions being placed on PSA in importing to the US, though Opel is still making Buicks for GM. The latest Opel models are now using PSA architecture, so they could be imported under the Opel name, probably.

      Even Peugeot could be a candidate for the Fiat stores, since it would fare much better having the FCA parts distribution and repair network to back it up.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve203

        >>I’m not aware of any restrictions being placed on PSA in importing to the US, though Opel is still making Buicks for GM. The latest Opel models are now using PSA architecture, so they could be imported under the Opel name, probably.<<

        iirc, the terms of the Opel sale agreement prohibit PSA selling any Opel that uses a GM platform in any market where GM has a presence. PSA is moving with speed to switch all the Opel nameplates to PSA platforms.

        iirc, PSA said it did a survey in the US regarding which of their brands had the best reputation here, and they said Peugeot was better thought of than Opel. But, by acquiring FCA, future products will probably be Pugs, with a Dodge or Chrysler badge on them.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        Those PSA brands all departed the US market in shame, years ago. Any attempt to bring them back will be a colossal failure, particularly in this toxic/viral market.

        Exhibit A: Fiat.

        If they try it, they’ll spend billions establishing dealer/service networks, Federalizing vehicles, marketing, and importing. Then, after the initial novelty wears off (as it did with Fiat), they’ll close up shop after 5-10 years.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          @SCE to AUX: Your example is invalid; Fiat is still in the US, only one model has been discontinued here and that is the Fiat 500 itself.

          And we all know why that model “failed”, it wasn’t able to overcome an obsolete reputation. By comparison, I would wager the Fiat Panda would have done quite well, along with some of their other, less iconic, models.

          Peugeot, on the other hand, simply doesn’t have a reputation in this country. It stands a much better chance of survival on that reason alone.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    The coming downturn may or may not be as apocalyptic as it’s being billed as, but this much is for sure: when the economy hits the skids, people start buying cheaper vehicles. That means a move away from (stupidly overpriced) CUVs and trucks, and back towards sedans and hatches.

    You heard it here first – I’m predicting the Sedan Deathwatch gets put on hold.

    Given that, no one has more to lose than FCA, for obvious reasons. They depended on people being able to overspend on stupidly overpriced Cherokees and even more stupidly overpriced Ram trucks, and that game is about to get a lot smaller. Worse yet, they have ZERO in the pipeline for the lower-priced segments, and it’ll take years for the stuff they’re going to get from their upcoming merger to actually hit showrooms here. These guys are going to get hit…hard.

    Ford is also going to take a big hit – can you see people gobbling up F-150s and Explorers at the rate they do now? I can’t. In fact, given all this, I bet you might just see them reverse course on the “no cars” approach and start selling the Euro-market Fusion and Focus here, and hang on the Fusion as well. Remember the Focus Active? I bet it returns to the radar screen.

    GM will get hit as well, but they still have lower-priced stuff in the pipe, and they have a good selection of cheaper CUVs as well. I expect the new Trax (or whatever they call it) is going to be a winner.

    I think the big winners are going to be anyone who can still sell a good quality, lower-priced CAR. I can’t think of anyone who this benefits more than Hyundai/Kia, with Nissan being a very close second. In fact, I think this downturn might be just the thing to help Nissan clamber back into the game – joke about their products all you want, but they have tons of cheaper, smaller stuff in their product mix, at a time when their competitors (the Detroit 3) have either zero, or close to it. And Lord knows they’re talented at selling to people with bombed-out credit scores. Maybe there’s an opportunity here for them.

    Toyota and Honda will be fine.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Cheap gas, high incentives, and government incentive checks may keep people in those high-end vehicles.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Look at the last downturn, SCE…the biggest loser segment was trucks, CUVs and SUVs. It makes sense – they’re overpriced transportation fashion toys. People are still going to need transportation, but the number of people who are able to overpay for it will be down.

        I think this at least temporarily halts the slide of the sedan into irrelevance.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          F-Series was still the #1 seller in 2009, the nadir. The industry hit the skids when annual sales dropped from 16 million to 10 million within two years.

          and the other thing the people who say what you’re saying never address is how they’re going to make those “cheap” cars *profitable.*

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            I didn’t say no one will buy F150s anymore…just that sales of the model will go down. Problem is, that’s Ford’s meal ticket, so their cupboard is about to get leaner.

            I do think they’re better positioned to move forward than FCA, though – at a minimum, if the market really moves down, they have a whole range of product in Europe that they can simply start making here. FCA has ZERO of that in the pipe until the merger happens, and even after that, they’d still have to “domesticate” all that French product, which isn’t going to be easy at all.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          In the last downturn CUVs were the winners, with many name plates seeing significant increases. That was mainly driven by high gas prices though and that represented people trading in mid size SUVs for compact CUVs.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        “Cheap gas, high incentives, and government incentive checks may keep people in those high-end vehicles.”

        You know, I was really looking hard at a used Nissan Sentra, but since I’m getting that 1200 dollars of Government Cheese I think I’ll grab a new M5 instead!

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      “The coming downturn may or may not be as apocalyptic as it’s being billed as, but this much is for sure: when the economy hits the skids, people start buying cheaper vehicles.”

      no they don’t. they stop buying vehicles.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        No, they won’t stop buying vehicles altogether – they’ll just buy fewer of them, and those that are bought will be less expensive. That bodes really poorly for CUVs and really well for traditional cars.

        You heard it here first.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        The couple of times my life hit the skids and I ended up needing a car in order to continue a job search, I got the best sub 1000 dollar GM 3800 powered car I could find.

        New car dealers arent in the business of selling to the unemployed.

    • 0 avatar
      theflyersfan

      I think there will be a culling of the herd. Do we really need 4 CUVs in every imagined microniche (I’m looking at you Germany)? Are the differences between an Equinox and a Blazer, and the Edge and Explorer enough to carry and support building and marketing models of similar sizes and capacities?

      I think people will still buy CUVs and trucks, but if this drags on and the job losses are as bad as some fear, I think the high-profit trims are in trouble. The Escape might still be an option, but questions will be asked if a $40,000+ Escape is worth it. Same with other based on small-car bones CUVs like the RAV4 and CR-V. And some vehicles that seem to exist because they can…X1 or X2 anyone…based on Mini-roots and really overpriced – I can see those being lease leaders or a really hard sell.

    • 0 avatar

      During the last recession Trucks got hit hard with a bad economy and high gas prices at the start. Once gas prices came back down the trucks came back up. In this case gas was already low and going lower when the economy tanked. The big 3 know people still want trucks and right now they make high margins on them. As long as gas prices stay low my guess is they can run deep discounts to survive unless gas prices go up. It’s a slightly different storm then last time.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      @FreedMike: “Given that, no one has more to lose than FCA, for obvious reasons. They depended on people being able to overspend on stupidly overpriced Cherokees and even more stupidly overpriced Ram trucks, and that game is about to get a lot smaller. Worse yet, they have ZERO in the pipeline for the lower-priced segments, and it’ll take years for the stuff they’re going to get from their upcoming merger to actually hit showrooms here. These guys are going to get hit…hard.”

      — I have to disagree with you as FCA has a number of less expensive models already on the market, with the Compass and Renegade among those lower-priced models. Both are still relatively popular though the Renegade only recently experienced a minor update that could raise their popularity as well as their economy somewhat.

  • avatar
    dwford

    I have been making the case for killing Fiat and Chrysler brands for years in the comments here. Consolidate to Dodge/Alfa/Ram/Jeep. Dodge and Alfa are 2 sides of the same coin American/Italian sport. Could easily share platforms and engines.

  • avatar
    JLGOLDEN

    I suspect that with an economic downturn, luxury brands will see fewer buyers “stepping up” to get in their models. Loyalty, not conquest sales, will be the only way those dealers will make it. At the same time, I can see an emerging desire for the back-to-basics small truck. People will value humble utility over glitz and glam, as they rebuild their way in a new era.

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      There will never be another regular cab, crank window, RWD stripper truck smaller than a 1/2 ton sold in the country. Sorry to be the one to break it to you guys again.

      They aren’t any cheaper to build, they don’t get any better fuel economy, the parking size is irrelevant for 95% of their buyers, and even fleets are ditching the regular cab. With 72+ month financing, very few buyers are willing to put up with the lack of creature comforts when a well equipped and/or larger model is available for $30 more a month.

      The closest you’ll see is the Courier/Santa Cruz type crew cabs with 3 foot beds built on a FWD platform.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “With 72+ month financing”

        What if there is no more 72+ month financing?

        • 0 avatar
          jack4x

          I think that’s unlikely to happen for a number of reasons:

          -6 year old cars are worth more than ever.

          -The Fed has already announced a $4T backstop to ensure lending continues. This isn’t the same type of crisis as 2008.

          -Interest rates remain historically low, so even wealthier customers who could pay cash or a shorter loan have no reason not to extend to a longer term.

          -If nothing else, the automakers themselves will extend credit to move metal; we are already seeing 0 percent for 84 months from multiple companies.

  • avatar
    cprescott

    GM should cancel Cadihack and then push GMC further upmarket and less like a professional grade Chevrolet. Buick is useless. Cadihack is so overpriced and under delivered – they spend all that money on chassis and engines and destroy it with those interiors and non-beautiful exteriors.

  • avatar
    warrant242

    Don’t forget the big difference between 2009 and today.

    Gas prices.

  • avatar
    warrant242

    In 2009 the change was driven by MPG. People panicked about the spiking cost of gas and ditched their trucks. Now that gas prices are plummeting, the change will be driven by purchase price instead.

    If Ford et al can give up a bit of margin on their cute little CUVs, they might not need to bring cars back.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      “In 2009 the change was driven by MPG. People panicked about the spiking cost of gas and ditched their trucks.”

      Not so; the F-150 remained the #1 vehicle.

      The Obama Administration began raising CAFE requirements into the stratosphere, but that had no effect on consumer taste.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “Not so; the F-150 remained the #1 vehicle.”

        People always bring this up, but the trend was most certainly not going in the favor of trucks in ’08-’09. The F-Series (which is more than the F-150) outsold the Camry in 2009 by 56,801 units and the Toyota did outsell the Ford during certain months. The Ram nearly fell out of the top 10, the Silverado had a 32% drop and lost 2nd place.

        Just because truck and SUV sales didn’t drop to Maserati levels in the last downturn doesn’t mean they weren’t hurting badly.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Yup, fact is a FWD CUV isn’t really any more expensive to build than a FWD car based on the same architecture. So there is more than enough room to discount a CUV down to near car prices and still have a decent margin.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    I would be very surprised if Chrysler 300 or Grand Caravan production resumes.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Mazda, Acura, Infiniti, Fiat, Alpha: These are the ones I believe would be the first to go.

    Of this list: Infiniti is the leading candidate. Nissan is in serious trouble and is a world wide brand; Infiniti is not.

    I do kind of feel bad for the guy in Denver whose massive dealership is: Infiniti, Fiat, Alpha Romeo, Maserati, & McLaren. He has got be sweating bullets with the stock market the way it is; which I would think has an impact on Maserati for sure and some on McLaren.

    As for lower priced cars selling due to the economy…From what I saw in 2008-2010 buyers shifted to the used market rather than buying a new (from the factory) car.

  • avatar
    cardave5150

    Maybe I’m biased as a lifelong Mopar guy, but why go through the expense of shutting down Chrysler? It costs next to nothing to keep it open, even if for just the Pacifica (when my 300 finally dies its long, slow death). They don’t have standalone dealers (aren’t they virtually all Chrysler/Jeep/Dodge/Ram facilities already?). It seems to me it would cost more to re-tool everything on the Pacifica to make it appear to be a “Dodge” than it would to just let Chrysler hang on with one model until (maybe, hopefully) the PSA merger allows it to gain a couple new models.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Yes this does not bode well for many brands and models. I however disagree with many poster’s sentiments in that small cars and cars in general will be the hardest hit.

    The financial implications of this pandemic are going to vary significantly across industries and of course their workers.

    The people who will be relatively unaffected are those most likely to have the money to buy new cars. The people that will be most affected are those that most likely didn’t have money to buy a new car in the first place.

    Many salaried white collar workers are able to continue working from home and will not see a reduction in pay. So while they may delay their purchase, they are very unlikely to trade in their Pickup/SUV/CUV/Luxury car for a cheap compact car.

    At the other end you have the people who are paid by the hour and especially those that rely on tips for a significant portion of their income. They will be hardest hit because they work at those businesses that are being closed in many areas. However many of those people do not make the kind of money to be able to buy a new car in the first place. Those that do would have likely been in the market for that low cost car. Those that have been saving money for that new car are likely to quickly burn through that savings. For them that new car purchase just got pushed out indefinitely.

    Then you have the fleet vehicles. Many segments of the gov’t fleet are still rolling. Many fleets replace their vehicles based on mileage or age, which ever comes first, and their current vehicle budgets are already allocated. Ditto for big commercial fleets. So most of those will continue on with a little hiccup.

    You also have some industries that are doing great in today’s economy. Grocery stores are doing booming business, with lots of over time and hiring of new employees. Ditto for Amazon. They have ads running like crazy that no experience or resume is required. If you have a pulse and new fever you can start immediately. Lyft has even told its drivers to contact Amazon Flex as a way to keep the wheels turning and the $$ coming in.

    So when all is said and done I predict:

    The F-series will take the #1 title for 2020.

    Trucks and CUVs will see the least drop in sales.

    Cars will see the highest drop in sales, with the low end hit hardest.

    • 0 avatar

      I think this is something that gets lost. I think one of the reasons new car transaction prices are getting higher, isn’t just cost of new cars, but the fact that now most new cars are bought only by the top 20% of household incomes in the country. Sure other people buy new cars but much less then the past. That’s why cheap Nissans etc aren’t rolling out.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        And this will only make the divide much worse. It essentially stops the redistribution of wealth from the high to low wage earners.

        Living in Seattle we have lots of software people working for the likes of Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook and the like. As I mentioned they will not take a cut in pay and they will actually have more money at the end of the month.

        Not driving to work or to go out, fuel expenses go way down. Not going into work also means not stopping for a Latte on the way and not going out to lunch or having something delivered. Not meeting the buddies at the bar Fri night, another savings, both at the bar and on the Uber there and back. No dinner and a movie with the wife/date Sat night, more money still in the bank. No brunch with the family Sun or round of golf, again money not spent.

        Which really makes me wonder what kind of a long term shift we will see in our economy. All those $5, $20, $50 purchases that are made can really add up and you have to wonder how many people will go wow, I have an extra $x since I didn’t spend it on all those things. Then ask themselves do I really need to spend that much money on Lattes, drinks at the bar, ect?

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      Scout..

      Very astute analysis.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @cprescott–Buick is staying because of the Chinese. Anyway Buick is no longer a car company in the US it is a crossover company.

    @Scoutdude–Agree and there is also room for manufacturers to offer a value model and still make a profit.

  • avatar
    apl

    Way past due for the Buick division to be discontinued by General Motors, at least in North America.

  • avatar
    bobdajeep

    Sad to see the Fiat 500 go. I loved my Abarth and had almost zero problems but bad dealerships and lack of parts helped kill that car.

    My next Fiat was a 500 X. Loved it also but totaled it last year and bought my next Fiat a Jeep Renegade Limited. I have a few problems but my dealership.,Ellis Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, has been super in getting them fixed, all in all it’s been great.

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