By this point in the calendar year, we know which models the manufacturers will be killing off by the end of 2020. Like a dead man walking, these are dead cars rolling toward their inevitable demise.
It’s always a bittersweet time. Some models are well past their prime, and at this point, it’s time to put them out to pasture. But for others, sometimes you’re just not ready to say goodbye.
Car and Driver recently published their dead cars list. In this post, I’m naming the three dead cars that are the most overdue for cancellation. For one reason or another, it’s time to put these cars out of their misery.
And for the three models to which I’m not ready to say goodbye, stick around for my next post.
Oh, Acura. I haven’t been terribly kind to Honda’s luxury division. I named their smallest sedan, the ILX, one of the 2020 cars to avoid. I’ve written about how Acura lost its way with their sedans, struggling to express an identity or purpose. And Acura’s largest sedan, the RLX, is a prime example of this. Check out this graph I made of sales figures pulled from CarSalesBase.com.
The predecessor of the RLX, the Legend, was a critical and commercial hit after its introduction in 1986. In 1996, instead of continuing to cash in on the goodwill of the Legend name, it was replaced with the uninspiring and completely forgettable RL. Even in the RL’s best sales year, it was still short by 587 units of the Legend’s worst year. As for the RLX, in 2019 Acura sold barely more than 1,000 units. Acura sold more Legends in its one worst selling year than they’ve sold RLXes in total since 2013.
Granted, not all of this is Acura’s fault. Sales of large luxury sedans have been on the decline for decades. But the RLX hasn’t helped its own cause. Acura marketed it as a “premium performance” sedan. But it’s not luxurious enough to be compared to the large sedans from Lexus or Mercedes-Benz. It’s not sporty or athletic enough to compete with BMW or Audi. It’s just another example of an Acura sedan trying to be all things to all buyers, but in effect, satisfying none. And its abysmal sales figures reflect this. So long, RLX. You won’t be missed.
Dodge Grand Caravan
The Dodge Grand Caravan is a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, it’s truly an iconic nameplate. The Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager created the minivan segment back in 1984, and in the 80s and 90s, they were literally everywhere. But, as minivans faded in favor of SUVs and crossovers, first DaimlerChrysler and later Fiat Chrysler couldn’t justify the expense of keeping the current Grand Caravan up to date and competitive with alternatives like the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. The 2020 Grand Caravan hasn’t received a full overhaul since 2008. For reference, the Honda Odyssey has been completely redesigned twice in the same span of time.
The Grand Caravan name may be dying, but its role in the Chrysler lineup is filled by the far more modern and competent Pacifica. While I hold the Grand Caravan in high regard for its contribution to Americana, as we know it today, it’s long overdue for its date with destiny in the big parking lot in the sky.
I’ve had a lot to say about the Dodge Journey already. I named it as one of my 2020 cars and SUVs to avoid. But, I was right: the 2020 model year is the Journey’s final… uh, journey. Now that it has its date with the executioner, typing more about its many shortcomings just feels cruel. I’ll refer you back to that previous post if you’d like to better understand its failings. Goodbye, Journey. Sorry that your parents didn’t care enough to keep you up to snuff.
As a genuine car lover, it’s sad to watch a model languish, be starved of ongoing development, and whither on the vine. But that’s exactly what happened here. While Acura could have picked a lane with the RLX, and Dodge could have tried harder to keep the Grand Caravan up to date, external shifts in consumer preferences also played a major role in the diminished success of those two models over the years. But in the SUV and crossover-crazed U.S.A., the fact that Chrysler couldn’t see the value in keeping the Journey competitive, with minimal updates for 12 entire model years is lackadaisical.
In my next post, I’ll name the three models that I’m saddest to see leave us after 2020. Thank you for reading!