We miss Ralph Story. He was a great historian of Southern California landmarks, most of which don’t exist anymore. We lament the loss of buildings that were shaped like dogs or cameras, as well as funky drive-in restaurants and oddball roadside attractions. Much like the kitsch of America vanishing, so, too, are the cars we once exalted and couldn’t live without. Here’s our list of 10 vehicles we — and most likely you — thought were long gone, but can still be bought today.
Toyota Matrix — 2013 YTD sales (Jan-March): Unknown
Toyota Matrix? What’s that? Such is the question people ask when you mention the Matrix. The vehicle was a joint effort with the now defunct Pontiac Vibe (and the now defunct Pontiac brand). It’s been made in Canada for years, and because domestic sales volumes are so low, Toyota lumps them in with the Corolla in order to avoid embarrassment and the inevitable question, why are they still making that?
Audi TT – 2013 YTD sales (January-March): 463
We understand that Audi is not the top-selling luxury brand in the U.S, and therefore will not have sales that match BMW or Lexus, but to have a sports coupe just so you can claim you have one seems to be a waste of cash. Kill it Audi, and spend that money in other areas, such as adding a power driver’s seat to the A3 instead of a manual adjustment lever.
Escalade EXT — 2013 YTD sales (January-March): 574
What was once a good idea to make a Cadillac version of the Chevrolet Avalanche now is a fading memory. As the Avalanche says goodbye, so, too, will the EXT ride off into the sunset. You can still buy one, however, but why would you? Everything that we all love about Cadillacs these days will not be found on the EXT. If you’re looking for a collector car, however, this might be the one. Park it next to your Lincoln Blackwood.
Ford Expedition/Lincoln Navigator — 2013 YTD sales (January-March): 7928/1827
While these two relics of more fun and free days gone by are putting up sales numbers better than the other rides in this article, they aren’t even close to what they did in the heyday of cheap gas, mega towing, and the “mine is bigger than yours” Joneses competitions. There are rumors that we will see newer versions of both models soon, and that’s good, because people who don’t want a truck still need to tow and carry people and cargo.
Honda FCX Clarity — 2013 YTD: Lease only, 200 in three years
Okay, the FCX Clarity isn’t really for sale, and considering Honda will lease about 200 of them in the Southern California region only over the next three years, it might be a stretch to lump them in this category. But Honda appears to be committed to the technology. However, I don’t know a customer who has driven one, much less seen one outside of an auto show here in the Los Angeles area.
Volvo C70 — 2013 YTD sales (January-March): 600
The C70 from Volvo is another model on life support. It should be saying adjö by the end of this year, but it’s still for sale now. Whether or not dealers have any is another story. The C70 started out as a good idea, helping Volvo in its quest to break out of the box — literally, and head toward more modern designs. But, as with most of us, the older it got, the heavier it became, and mid-level luxury coupes also have been falling out of favor for quite some time. The convertible hardtop was another good idea but never really lit Volvo on fire as the company wished it had.
Nissan Xterra — 2013 YTD sales (January-March): 4,890
Nissan’s Xterra has had a good run over the years, but the numbers have continuously declined, month after month and year after year. There was a big surge in March, selling more than almost January and February combined, so we have to believe there was some major discounting happening on the sales floor. The Xterra is getting lost amid the plethora of Nissan crossover vehicles, as well as crossovers from the competition. And we all still really hate the door handle shoved in the C-pillar. Obviously, Nissan does as well, since the new Pathfinder’s rear doors have been moved back to where God intended them.
Subaru Tribeca — 2013 YTD sales (January-March): 504
The Subaru Tribeca was pretty much DOA because of the grief the press gave it about the “horse collar” grille when it made its debut in 2005. In its prime, the Tribeca saw a sales high of 18,614, which is good, but not when you consider the Ford Explorer was selling more than 10 times that number. A facelift in 2008 has helped, but not enough to make this more than an “oh yea, Tribeca” afterthought.
Volkwagen Eos — 2013 YTD sales (January-March): 977
Doesn’t everyone want to pay $34,000 for a car with a convertible hardtop with a moonroof? WTH? We guess not, since sales are tanking faster than a dead guy’s blood pressure. Not that the Eos ever sold in giant numbers, but you can get into a V6 Mustang that offers tons more power and torque for about $7,000 less, and with more cargo volume and seating area to boot. Of course, you can always get into the VW Beetle Convertible, which is what most people will do. The nail in this coffin is that VW offers the Eos in an Executive trim for $41,000. Gulp.
Smart For Two — 2013 YTD sales (January-March): 2,193
Why is Smart even bothering anymore? That 2,193 number may sound good, but when you consider that’s the entire lineup (four trim levels), it’s a waste of money keeping the brand on an IV drip. Just do the humane thing and put DNR on the chart. Leave with dignity before we find you in your house, three years later, with nothing left but a pile of bones where there once was life.