The customer is frequently right. It's hard to argue with that conclusion when you look at the cars and trucks automakers pulled the plug on this year.
Some were misbegotten projects that should never have been built. Others had their moment, but outlived their usefulness. A few, I'll miss.
This is not a complete list because I'd probably forget some if I tried to name them all.
Tell the truth: You forgot about most of these years ago, didn't you?
ACURA ZDX: I love designs that stretch the envelope. I love hatchbacks. Not even I could love the outlandish and impractical Acura ZDX luxury hatchback. I'm still baffled that Honda managed to get so little usable passenger and cargo space out of a car that was longer and heavier than a BMW 535i.
The strongest – perhaps only – praise I ever heard for the ZDX was from an authority on automotive design who said, "It takes a lot of nerve to build a car that looks that much like a concept vehicle."
Amazingly, the ZDX's homelier Honda-brand cousin, the Crosstour hatchback, has yet to bite the dust. Stay tuned.
CADILLAC ESCALADE EXT: It turns out that America's voracious appetite for pickups didn't extend to a luxury crew cab with a $63,060 base price. I guess Oscar Wilde was right: You can't know what's enough until you know what's too much.
GM expected the cabin's rear wall, which opened to expand cargo space – would revolutionize pickups. It turned out nobody much cared.
Buyers loved the EXT and Chevrolet Avalanche's four-door layout, though. Crew cabs were a minor player before EXT/Avalanche arrived. Today, they're the best-selling pickup style.
The Escalade EXT is gone, but count on GM to explore the heights of pickup pricing again when the GMC Sierra Denali goes on sale next year.
NISSAN ALTIMA COUPE: Really, why bother? The coupe looked a little better than the Altima sedan, but failed to offer any concrete benefit to offset its less-practical body style.
Two-door models once dominated American car sales. They're a blip on the radar screen today, because sedans got better and coupes stagnated. This is how a market segment dies.
TOYOTA MATRIX: I still can't believe Toyota abandoned this gem. The Matrix compact wagon helped create the super-hot segment of crossovers that combine SUV looks with passenger-car fuel economy. The Matrix – and its clone, the Pontiac Vibe – gave owners a practical, affordable, easy to park alternative to big, thirsty SUVs.
GM filled the void left by the Vibe with the Buick Encore this year. Don't be surprised if Toyota introduces a successor to the Matrix in the near future.
VOLKSWAGEN ROUTAN: A vehicle launched because Volkswagen execs thought they needed a minivan, but not badly enough to do it right. This rebadged version of the Chrysler Town & Country should have come with vanity plates that read "Obligatory."
Given minivans' undeserved reputation as bland vehicles driven by boring people, the Routan probably deserves some credit for a series of Brooke Shields-starring commercials that managed to make minivan owners seem pretentious and self-important.
VOLVO C30 AND C70: The C30 hatchback was a spacey-looking little performance compact. It aimed to make Swedish design and engineering appealing to a hip new generation of buyers. Sadly, the C30's target audience ignored it like vegetarians walking away from the meatball stand at Ikea.
The C70 hardtop convertible had less going for it. Heavy, underpowered and overpriced, it was the antithesis of the mischievous C30. Who would've guessed a pitch that amounted to "I may be boring, but I also have a barely useable rear seat," wouldn't sway drivers intoxicated by the sun on their face and the wind in their hair?
The C70's shortcomings notwithstanding, we can hope these aren't the last compact Volvos we'll see. The automaker is developing a new generation of vehicles, including compacts it may sell in the U.S.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Mark Phelan is the Detroit Free Press auto critic. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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