On the plus side, any of these cellar dwellers should be offered with deep discounts as dealers attempt to clear their excess inventories in year-end sales promotions, with the sweetest new-car deals usually forthcoming on December 31. Happy New Year, everybody.
With the all-electric Tesla Model S luxury sedan being the undisputed darling of the automotive industry the last two years, Cadillac hoped this sleeker and more opulent two-door modification of the Chevrolet Volt “extended range EV” would turn heads and bring buyers into dealers’ showrooms. Analysts never predicted the ELR to be a high-volume model, but at a seemingly achievable 2,500-3,000 annual units would be a high-tech halo car for the division. Critics and consumers alike remain nonplussed, however, particularly at its hefty $75,000 starting price. And that’s Model S money for what is arguably more of a plug-in hybrid – and one with only two doors at that – than a full electric car.
This is another case of high hopes fallen far short. The full-size flagship RLX luxury sedan debuted for the 2014 model year to replace the underperforming RL. Unfortunately, while a nice enough ride in its own right and loaded with technology, the RLX still lags the competition in terms of its conservative styling and lack of a V8 engine. Acura recently added a Sport Hybrid version to the line that leverages the car’s 3.5-liter V6 engine with dual electric motor/generators to produce V8-like power, but sales continue their downward spiral. At just 3,180 units delivered through November, deliveries are down by 28.4 percent on the year.
Enthusiasts had long clamored for Chevy to bring back a large rear-drive sedan as its corporate flagship, and it answered for the 2014 model year in a big way with the aggressively styled and sporty SS. Built by General Motors’ Holden subsidiary in Australia (it’s also sold in a lesser version as a police vehicle), the $46,000 SS packs a punch with the prior-generation Corvette’s 6.2-liter V8 engine. Unfortunately, it’s found just 2,386 buyers thus far in 2014, and is Chevy’s worst selling model.
The good news is that a whopping $12,500 price reduction helped jump-start sales of the ferocious 640-horsepower Dodge SRT Viper sports car with a 25 percent increase over the first 11 months in 2014. The bad news is that even with that big a boost, sales totaled just 671 units. Expect this number to remain anorexic, particularly as Dodge dealers begin to take delivery of the far less costly SRT Hellcat versions of the Challenger coupe and Charger sedan with a raging 707 horsepower under their long hoods. If FCA decided to ditch the Viper in a money-saving measure, aside from a few thousand hard-core enthusiasts, whiny automotive journalists and perhaps some acne-speckled teenage boys, few others would likely lament its demise.
It’s tough to make an ongoing case for this peculiarly boxy seven-passenger crossover SUV with 2014 sales through November falling by 6.5 percent over their already lackluster 2013 numbers at 22,036 units. Lingering far too long without a major redesign, buyers are instead choosing the newer and more efficiently packaged Ford Explorer, which sold 172,707 units for a 6.2 increase on the year. Even worse, Lincoln dealers could find just 4,444 takers (17.9 percent fewer than during the same period in 2013) for the Flex’s upscale equivalent and Ford Motor Company’s lowest-volume mainstream model, the MKT.
Even with the economy roaring back to health and new-car sales soaring, the market for so-called “reward cars” like the small and racy BMW Z4 roadster is contracting. At 1,983 units delivered to buyers over the first 11 months of the year, Z4 sales are down by 13.4 percent, and pale in comparison to the costlier two-seat Porsche Boxster/Cayman convertible/coupe duo with combined sales of 6,950 units.
The Mini line, which in recent years has been sliced and diced into more segments than a Veg-O-Matic could muster, seems to be wearing thin, especially in the face of competition from Fiat and other recently introduced upscale small cars and crossovers. The brand’s sales are down by 17.4 percent through the first 11 months of 2014, with only the SUV-like Countryman showing an increase. The real dogs in the pound are the oddball Coupe (shown here), Roadster and Paceman, with 2014 sales at just 905, 1,342 and 1,953, respectively. MINI has already announced it would soon be culling the dead weight from its model line and we’d start here.
Sales of Volvo’s top sedan dropped by 4.3 percent over the first 11 months of 2014, and account for just 1,674 units. Though its been updated over the years with assorted styling and engineering tweaks, the stodgy yet safety minded – S80 has long been in need of a full reinvention. Offering a choice of turbo-four and six-cylinder engines, it’s long been eclipsed by any number of sleeker and more powerful large luxury cars. At this point the S80’s primary competition is likely to be late-model used versions of…the S80.