Taking a car off the market is always a sad moment. However, there are times when a last edition is just the type of ceremony it deserves
Nothing lasts forever. That sentence is cliché, of course, but that does not make it any less valid. In the car world, automakers invest a lot to establish a product in the market, so they cling to it for as long as they can. However, as successful as it may have turned out to be, they have to end its life cycle sooner or later.
The reasons why a company takes a car model off the market are numerous, but they all share the trait of being sad events. The Volkswagen Gol above is only the latest example of that. This article is going to dig deeper into last edition cars and why they are important not only to the car industry, but also to society.
Cars are a part of our society
They take us to work, to school, to run errands. Traveling in them can be very fun. Many of us even like to see them compete. The truth is that cars have become a major part of our lives even when we do not own one. Some cars become popular enough to make us specifically remember them, such as the VW Beetle.
Automakers love it when cars “bond” with people like that because that increases sales and trust in their image. Many buyers, whether they are enthusiasts or not, favor a specific make or model because of that. They refuse to shop elsewhere because they trust that particular product and do not need to change it.
Since they work so hard to establish that emotional connection, it is only natural that they cherish it at the end. Final edition cars are an opportunity to acknowledge how people see that car, what it meant to them through time, and how grateful the company is. After all, we are talking about years of customer loyalty.
Why do makers discontinue cars?
That is a good question because establishing them in the first place is hard. Everyone can build and sell a competent car from a technical point of view. The trick is to build a relationship with it. Good advertising, reliable aftermarket service, and giving the car a reasonable life cycle are all important parts of that work.
Removing a product from the lineup is giving up on all that. The automaker will always have to invest in technical improvements because, again, that is the bare minimum to survive in the market. The problem is that any new car demands it to execute those “social” parts of its development work all over again.
Despite all that, carmakers still go through with that because it is worth it. We live in a world where things change at a fast pace. Products which have always sold well may easily succumb to new, subversive ones. Not to mention that there are events such as the 2020 health crisis, which quickly change everything.
Outdated product type
The video above celebrates the Ford Fiesta’s life cycle in Europe. Even though the car was a best-seller for years, people are turning to SUVs now. It is as simple as that. The company has discontinued the Focus in favor of the Kuga/Escape, and now is time to have the Puma take over. It will even get an electric version.
SUVs became the best-selling body style after minivans, and those dethroned station wagons in the past. Every now and then, new market trends come and change what people buy. The Fiesta has always been a hatchback, primarily, and Ford already has an SUV of similar dimensions in line. It was a matter of time.
Mitsubishi tried a different solution not long ago. It decided to name its compact SUV Eclipse Cross to try and recover some of the popularity of the sports car it sold years ago. However, the cars are too different. The only thing the company achieved was to make its SUV fodder for jokes during its first years on sale.
Saturated design or concept
Here, we talk about the car itself. The Chrysler 300 shown some paragraphs above follows the old-school recipe of North American sedans: large size, rear-wheel drive, and large engines. While sedans as a whole still have room in the market, they are embracing electrification now. The 300’s image became obsolete.
Specific design traits like that, BMW’s double-kidney grille, or the VW Golf’s thick C-pillars are amazing at making the car recognizable. However, it is usually difficult to adapt them to newer trends over and over. In the end, the car becomes trapped in its own visual identity, so the only solution is to get a clean sheet.
It is also common to see this move on purpose. There are times when the company wants to mark a new phase, whether because of a big event like a merger, or simply because it wants to revamp its line. In that case, any car that has strong ties with the outgoing phase is likely to be replaced with a totally new one.
This case is more objective than the others: it happens when people downright dislike the car. The easiest way to find examples is checking any “ugliest cars” list online. Beauty is subjective, of course, but the fact that so many people have the same negative opinion about the car does not really help it perform well.
To automakers, the development of every new car represents the dilemma between innovating or keeping their traditions. The former is a gamble: the car may end up selling well and creating a new market niche, like the Mercedes-Benz CLS. Or it may become a global reference of ugliness, like the Pontiac Aztek.
Fortunately, there is still hope in some cases. The eight-generation Honda Civic was received with heavy criticism for many aspects in 2012, one of them its inexpressive design. Given its importance in the lineup, the company gave it an emergency facelift right in 2013, in order to specifically address all those issues.
Should I buy a last edition car?
First of all, those editions represent the final chance to get the car. If that is not enough, keep in mind that they are usually fully equipped and have exclusive visual items. Last, but not least, those cars will become collectible. If that is something you want, you will surely be able to resell yours for a profit in the future.
Now, the main downside is maintenance; it will be harder to get spare parts over time. Besides, that car’s technology will become obsolete, which harms connectivity, efficiency and safety compared to new ones. It is also important for you to know that limited editions sell out very fast. In many cases, very, very fast.
The best advice is to always make an informed purchase. However, the points above clearly show that the target audience of final edition cars are enthusiasts. People who appreciate that specific company and/or model and want to keep it for years. Newer, regular cars are much more suitable for rational purchases.
This article has showed you the multiple reasons why carmakers make the hard decision of discontinuing their products. Now that electrification is on the rise, we can only expect more of those events to happen. What other examples of final edition cars do you know? Would you buy one if you had the opportunity?