Goodbye to the American car?

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal (paid subscription required), Ford and General Motors are planning to kill off some well-known models in the near future.

Ford, which has already moved production of the Focus to to its plant in Hermosillo, Mexico,  has announced that it will build next generation of the Fusion in China — and may not even bring the next Fusion to the U.S. market at all, though that’s not set in stone at this time.

Ford

The WSJ report said Ford is likely to stop importing the subcompact Fiesta; these are built in several countries but those for for the U.S. are built at Ford’s plant in Cuautitlán, Mexico.

Also on the block is the slow-selling Taurus. While ending the Taurus would also mean Ford would exit the police sedan market, the Police Interceptor sedan only makes up about 19% of Ford’s law enforcement vehicle sales and about the same percentage of total Taurus deliveries. With fewer than 8,000 sales in 2017, continuing production makes no business sense.

If all these come to pass, Ford’s car lineup in the U.S. would be restricted to the Focus and the Mustang. Ford has already said it intends to derive 90% of its sales volume from light trucks. It’s well on its way: in 2017, sales of the F-Series pickup alone were 1.6 times the combined sales of its entire car line.

General Motors is also looking into trimming its lineup by cutting the Impala and Volt.

chevy volt

The Impala has fallen a long way from its 1965 record of 1,074,925 sales, a number that has never been equalled. In 2017, Chevy delivered 75,877 Impalas, a 93% plunge compared to the glory days. That’s also a 72% drop from 2008, just ten years ago. Despite a major refresh for the 2014 model year and a larger platform shared with the Cadillac XTS, the Impala is consistently outsold by the Dodge Charger, and sales continue to drop.

Cutting the Volt makes sense, as Chevy wants to focus on the Bolt EV, and the two models are essentially cannibalizing each other’s sales. This is somewhat like when Chevy developed the Avalanche pickup with the idea of beating Ford in the top-seller race for the first time since 1978. Instead of beating the F-Series, the Avalanche simply took sales away from the Silverado.

When asked about the rumors, Steve Majoros, Chevy’s marketing director for cars and crossovers, said: “Nothing formal to report today. But I would say for all three of those products [Sonic, Impala and Volt] we are committed to those. They’re a part of our portfolio today, they’ll be a part of our portfolio here in the future.”

Cadillac ct-6Cadillac just launched the new CT6 sedan, which is the same size as the XTS.

One factor that might spare the Impala from the headsman’s axe is the Cadillac XTS — the best-selling Cadillac passenger car, the best-selling American-brand premium car, and a solid performer in China. In addition, the Impala and XTS are built at GM’s Oshawa Assembly Plant in Canada, and closing the plant could create some unpleasantness for GM in Canada.

The continuing reduction in passenger car lines isn’t surprising. At the end of the first quarter of 2018, American-badged cars accounted for for less than 22% of total passenger car deliveries and the Detroit automakers are hard-pressed to make them profitable, especially since a hefty percentage of the American cars go to daily rental fleets.

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