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Say Goodbye To Small Cars In 2019


It's the big goodbye for some small cars. That's as more and more Americans buy larger vehicles like crossovers and SUVs. As Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton reports, some of the cars going away at the end of this year will be missed more than others.

TRACY SAMILTON, BYLINE: Some people will be sad not to see a new Cruze at the Chevy dealership. A few may mourn the Cadillac CT6, STS and Buick LaCrosse and wonder why Ford is axing nearly all its cars by year's end. And there's certainly nostalgia as Volkswagen ends the Beatle's exceptionally long run, fueled largely by its flower power image from the '60s. But the Chevy Volt? Oh, not you, too. John Schaeffer owns one. So does his wife. So do 3 of his 4 daughters.

JOHN SCHAEFFER: I plan on driving mine till the wheels fall off. I'm not planning on buying any other cars anytime soon. Honestly, you know, people say, well, what about when the battery dies? You know what? I'll put one in it.

SAMILTON: That passion is pretty typical for a Volt owner, but sales were anemic, as was the case for most of the cars being pulled out of production this year. Meanwhile, auto analyst Alan Baum says crossovers like the Ford Escape and Chevy Equinox these days come close to competing with many cars on fuel economy.

ALAN BAUM: The crossovers are very much like the cars they are replacing. The difference being, No. 1, they have more utilitarian value. And, No. 2, they're able to be priced at a higher level which obviously creates more profit.

SAMILTON: The end result? Fewer choices for consumers. Michelle Krebs with AutoTrader says some automakers, though, might see a bump in sales.

MICHELLE KREBS: Consumers who are on budgets, first-time new car buyers tend to go to the small car segment, for example. So they'll be going to things like Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic instead of Chevy Cruze and Ford Focus.

SAMILTON: But will Ford or GM someday regret ditching small cars? Stephanie Brinley with IHS Markit says, probably not.

STEPHANIE BRINLEY: Will they come to a point somewhere down the road where they need to figure out how to build another compact car again? Maybe. It's not likely to happen soon.

SAMILTON: Especially in the era of cheap oil and low gas prices. For NPR News, I'm Tracy Samilton. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.