Fun fact: the longest continuously running nameplate in American automotive is the Ford F-Series pickup, in production since 1948. For Bowtie fans, Chevy’s not far behind with some form of Corvette produced every year since ’53. For the truly nitpicky, it can be argued that even though these nameplates have lasted, the models they’re attached to are fundamentally different, making vehicles like the Suzuki Jimny* or Benz G-Class senior with no fundamental changes made to them over the years- they’re still the same platform as day one.
But we’re not talking about those today. Instead, we’re revisiting some models- and indeed, entire brands- that are gone, maybe too soon, but not forgotten. We’ll start with my personal favorite of all the cars I’ve owned.
In its first incarnation (known elsewhere as the Toyota bB), the Scion xB is the finest gasoline powered automobile of the last quarter century. Don’t bother trying to change my mind on this- I’m on my second first-gen xB and considering collecting a small fleet for spare parts as they become harder to find. The second generation, rebadged-Corolla-Rumion version of the xB isn’t bad either, but there’s something utilitarian but more fun about the smaller, more efficient original version.
Scion as a brand came to a sad end after the 2017 model year, though a handful of models lived on rebranded as regular Toyotas. Toyota’s reasoning for axing the Scion lineup was that it was originally conceived as a starter line from which buyers would graduate, and by the end those buyers were already skipping Scion for the standard Toyota roster. Fair enough, but I suggest Toyota consider bringing an update of the xB/bB to the States: Japanese domestic market replacements exist as well as a moderate-but-loyal fan base here.
Pontiac, especially the Firebird and GTO
It’s hard for people of at least a certain age to imagine, but not only is the marque gone, GM rolled out the last Pontiac-branded vehicles a decade ago this year. It might also be difficult to remember (especially for those of us too young to remember), but there was a time when Pontiac represented more than sort-of sporty, reliable “parent” cars and not-quite-Camaros.
Way back when, Pontiac was the “driving excitement” portion of GM. While the brand began production in 1909, under the direction of Bunkie Knudsen and engineering of E.M. Estes and John DeLorean, Pontiac made a major mid-Century shift toward performance with newer technology and design. Thus began the golden age of Pontiac, perhaps best represented by the DeLorean-designed GTO, complete with its own 1969 psych-pop jam from Paul Revere and The Raiders. The DeLorean name dovetails nicely into cars perhaps gone too soon, and there’s a new documentary about the f(r)amed former GM head and DMC founder due in April, featuring Alec Baldwin as DeLorean in reenacted scenes.
Ford Ranchero, Chevy El Camino, Subaru Brat and/or Baja
With 69% of US Market share, there’s not exactly a shortage of trucks in general these days. Crew cab/short bed variants that offer the comforts of a passenger car and the ability to cart cargo aren’t rare. That said, they’re not quite the same idea as any of these three juxtapositions of car and truck. Crossovers and sorta-SUVs don’t quite match the fun factor either.
An argument can certainly be made that some trucks and SUVs might be roomier, able to tow heavier loads, or carry more cargo, but a truly modern, fuel efficient (maybe even hybrid or electric) throwback to any of these could serve drivers well when and if fuel prices rise enough to make the current popular fare less appealing. Throw in the all-wheel drive of the Brat or Baja, and you’d have a fun, all-terrain recreational transport vehicle somewhere between a car and truck that could be a real winner.
Cars. Plain, vanilla, regular ol’ Cars
Speaking of SUVs, trucks and the seemingly never-ending parade of crossovers, the recent deletion of traditional cars from the rosters of major marques may have consumers longing for the good ol’ days of sedans and compacts should gas prices go back up, to say nothing of concerns over climate change.
As noted above, as an xB driver and fan, I personally have little room to lament the total loss of “regular” cars in the US. Even so, it seems almost inconceivable that so many makers are completely dropping what has been the default automobile design paradigm for basically a century. Time will tell whether the traditional sedan has truly gone the way of the dodo, but it’s entirely possible that what many of us have grown up with as representing what a “car” is could become a rarity very soon. While this makes marketing sense given what American drivers apparently buy, it still somehow just feels weird.
If you have a customer looking for a specific model –discontinued or not– your service lane can be a valuable asset in sourcing pre-owned vehicles. Service Lead Management from AutoAlert not only presents your service customers with credible deals to trade keys into a new vehicle today, it includes “wish list” functionality to alert your staff when a desirable vehicle has entered the service drive. SLM can provide a win-win-win for your dealership, your service customers, and buyers looking for something specific. You could even use it to find a gone-but-not-forgotten “one that got away” for yourself…
*(right?!? They do still make it, and though it’s not available in the US currently, I kind of wish it was!)