Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY
When autumn comes, the auto industry fills with hope over its new and refreshed models. But just as the sleek new cars make their way to showrooms, a raft of familiar names are headed straight to the automotive dustbin.
This year, the Volkswagen Routan minivan is waving goodbye. So is the Acura ZDX car crossover, the compact Volvo C30 car and C70 convertible. Others have quietly faded out during the year as production ended, such as the Chevrolet Avalanche sport pickup and the Jeep Liberty SUV.
Why do models die? "If they are eliminating a model, it's because it is being replaced by a new model or it was a failed, outrageous try at something new that didn't work," says Jesse Toprak, senior analyst for TrueCar.com.
With automakers getting bolder and taking more risks in designs, Toprak expects the disappearing act will pick up speed in coming years.
There is more competitive incentive for emotional design, standing out in a crowded field. But with that, there always are models - as with TV shows or movies - that may be hits with critics, but flops with consumers. All that glitters at auto shows is not gold.
The biggest proof that a model has bombed comes when it can't lure buyers from other brands to buy it, says Alexander Edwards of consultants Strategic Vision. The Avalanche, for instance, was a fun sport truck, but its core fans were already Chevrolet loyalists. "Half of them come from a previous Chevrolet," he says of Chevy buyers. "That's not a good place to be if you want to have success."
Harder to explain are some mainstream-brand models that are living on despite minuscule sales numbers that beg the question of why they aren't being killed outright. Nissan sold only 78 Murano CrossCabriolet convertibles in August and only 977 so far this year, Autodata reports. And the Volkswagen Eos steel-top convertible is running on fumes with only 382 sold in August, 3,160 through the first eight months this year.
Here's a look at models that will vanish for the 2014 model year:
• Volvo C30, C70. Of the two, the C30 coupe was known for its style. "The C30 definitely made a statement for us," says spokeswoman Laura Venezia.
But both it and the C70 steel-top convertible are being shown the exit as part of a "global decision," by the Swedish brand now owned by Chinese automaker Geely. Volvo says it has enough C70s in stock to last through the end of the year, however.
• Chevrolet Avalanche. When Chevrolet redesigned its full-size pickups for 2014, Avalanche got buried. The novel pickup-based vehicle, which could have one or two rows of seating and a short or long bed became a cult favorite and also was notably a consistent top scorer in J.D. Power & Associates quality surveys and Consumer Reports truck rankings.
But its sales popularity had shrunk to a "small, but passionate" group of buyers, says Chevy spokesman Tom Wilkinson. Chevy announced its days were numbered and offered a special farewell edition.
• Jeep Liberty. The sporty, fun, earnest-looking Jeep crossover SUV is giving way to the sporty, fun but decidedly different-looking Fiat-based Jeep Cherokee. It's turned into almost a gap year in the Jeep lineup, since production of the Liberty ended last August, though with enough built to remain on sale into this year as a 2012 model.
Continuing delays for the Cherokee mean there still is not a replacement on sale. "We will only introduce a vehicle to consumers when we are completely satisfied," said Chrysler in a statement last week.
But Jeep chief Michael Manley says the new Cherokee, when it arrives, will far outdistance the departed Liberty when it comes to gas mileage.
• Volkswagen Routan. The minivan was made for VW by Chrysler, and was based on the Dodge Caravan, but with some exterior VW cues and with the interior and suspension tweaked to make it feel more like a VW.
Edwards says, however, that as a family hauler, Routan never quite fit into a VW lineup that's heavy on sportiness and on cars.
• Acura ZDX. It's a car. No, it's a crossover. There was little agreement on that. But a lot of folks found the looks of the tall, all-wheel-drive, hatchback, four-door coupe a little odd - and sales were minuscule. Now the one thing everyone can agree on is: It's history.