Automobile enthusiasts around the world know brands like Studebaker, Plymouth and Packard, but you’d be hard-pressed to find any of these on the roads today. Former powerhouses in the American auto market – they have since become beloved by collectors, but lost to the general public.
Today’s infographic comes from TitleMax and it looks at 14 now-defunct car brands and the circumstances that took them from highways to bygones.
These are only a selection of a much longer list of car brands that have not survived to see the present day. What accounts for the churn rate of these brands?
Bold Experiments, Boondoggles, and Burnouts
Some car brands, like Tucker and Saturn, introduced new ideas that the market simply didn’t care for, didn’t perform as well as the competition, or were too ambitious for the industry climate.
Others, like Edsel and DeLorean, met swift ends as they hemorrhaged money far faster than their owners anticipated. Even more brands were simply folded into the ever-expanding portfolios of either Ford or General Motors, the two biggest auto conglomerates ever to rule the roads.
Bad Timing, or Worse Economy?
Car sales rise and fall with broader economic trends because they are tied into so many different variables: raw materials, production costs, labor costs, oil prices, and interest rates among others.
We can look at two time periods in which the combination of these conditions caused many of the brands on this list to fail.
Post-war Doldrums (1950-1958)
Based on the timeline above, we can see that 1950s were a terrible time for the smaller players in the auto industry. The explanation as to why so many brands declined over this decade has to do with the highly competitive, oligopolistic business practices of market leaders Ford and General Motors. Both of these market titans were locked in a battle to lower prices by taking advantage of economies of scale, while wooing customers who were feeling the economic pressures of a postwar recession.
Smaller volume manufacturers like Packard and Studebaker could not keep up, even when they attempted to merge. As a result, these and many other smaller brands were forced out, or absorbed into the portfolios of one of the “big two.”
Same Car, Different Name (1998-2008)
A similar stretch of declining sales plagued the late 1990s and early 2000s, as the trend of “badge engineering” caught up with manufacturers.
Rather than designing new models at high cost, conglomerates like GM simply engineered new brand “badges” and marketed the same basic models under a variety of names like Pontiac, Plymouth, Mercury, or Oldsmobile. The same tactic was later used to take mid-market designs, such as the Ford Fusion, and style them for a luxury audience as a new model – in this case, the Lincoln Mk. Z.
Badge engineering curbed the appeal of a number of American brands under the GM and Ford portfolios. The nail in many of their coffins was the major auto industry downturn in 2008. That year, GM restructured as it underwent Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
As a result, GM removed the majority of its badge engineered brands, including many of those listed above, from dealerships in the following years.
The Best-Selling Vehicles in the World By Country
From American trucks to European sedans, this map shows the best-selling vehicles in the world.
The Best-Selling Vehicles in the World By Country
Each country has different preferences for goods, and vehicles are no different.
Consumers in a dense country might prefer smaller cars, while countries with wide expanses (and parking spots) open the way for larger trucks. Likewise, rugged terrain might call for vehicles that can adapt and scale quickly.
And it’s also a question of which manufacturer invested in the country. As the world’s largest automakers have raced to attract consumers in every corner of the globe, they built factories, renamed models, and even built specific cars to fit the tastes of individual countries.
This infographic from Budget Direct Car Insurance highlights the best-selling vehicles in the world, using 2019 year-end sales data.
What is the Most Popular Vehicle in Each Country?
Though the map might vary across the board, one thing is certain: Toyota’s dominance.
The Japanese automaker—which was also the most valuable automaker in the world for many years before being overtaken by Tesla—had the best-selling vehicle in 41 countries of the 104 countries tallied.
It also had the world’s best-selling vehicle in 2019, the Toyota Corolla, though the sedan only took the top spot itself in five countries.
|American Samoa||Toyota Tacoma||Truck|
|Angola||Toyota Land Cruiser J70||SUV|
|Bahrain||Toyota Land Cruiser||SUV|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||Skoda Octavia||Sedan|
|Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)||Toyota Hilux||Truck|
|Czech Republic||Skoda Octavia||Sedan|
|France||Peugeot 208 I||Subcompact|
|Kuwait||Toyota Land Cruiser||SUV|
|Lebanon||Toyota Land Cruiser||SUV|
|Netherlands||Tesla Model 3||Sedan|
|New Zealand||Ford Ranger||Truck|
|Norway||Tesla Model 3||Sedan|
|Oman||Toyota Land Cruiser||SUV|
|Papua New Guinea||Toyota Land Cruiser J70||SUV|
|Qatar||Toyota Land Cruiser||SUV|
|Saudi Arabia||Hyundai Accent||Subcompact|
|Solomon Islands||Toyota Hilux||Truck|
|South Africa||Toyota Hilux||Truck|
|South Korea||Hyundai Grandeur||Sedan|
|Sri Lanka||Suzuki Alto||Hatchback|
|Swaziland (Eswatini)||Toyota Hilux||Truck|
|United Arab Emirates||Toyota Land Cruiser||SUV|
|United Kingdom||Ford Fiesta||Subcompact|
|United States||Ford F-150||Truck|
|Yemen||Toyota Land Cruiser||SUV|
As the best-seller in 16 countries, the Toyota Hilux truck (also known as the Toyota Pickup in North America) was the top vehicle in the most countries. It has a noticeably strong market share in the Southern Hemisphere, including in Argentina, South Africa, and Australia.
The other consistent factor was the strength of local manufacturers. Many countries with large automakers had local models as the best-selling vehicles, especially in Europe.
|Country with Local Best-Seller||Vehicle|
|Czech Republic||Škoda Octavia|
|France||Peugeot 208 I|
|South Korea||Hyundai Grandeur|
Cars are the Best-Selling Vehicles in the World
So what do car consumers currently prefer? Currently, cars have a slight edge over trucks as the best-selling vehicles in the world.
Of the 104 countries with sales tallied for the study, smaller cars often classified as “passenger vehicles” (including sedans, hatchbacks, and subcompacts) made up the majority of best-sellers, with 57 of the best-selling vehicles by country.
Meanwhile, “light trucks” or “light commercial vehicles,” which include trucks, SUVs, and vans, were best-sellers in 47 countries.
Best-Selling Vehicles by Type
- Hatchback: 12
- Sedan: 25
- Sedan/Wagon: 1
- Subcompact: 19
- SUV: 20
- Truck: 24
- Van: 3
But changing car consumption preferences are already making their mark. The electric vehicle (EV) Tesla Model 3 was already the best-selling vehicle in both the Netherlands and Norway, and other countries like China are increasing incentives for consumers to purchase EVs.
That’s not even factoring in the slowdown of travel during the COVID pandemic, more workers going remote, and the semiconductor strain on automakers. A truly post-COVID world will likely transform the map even further.
The Best-Selling Car in America, Every Year Since 1978
From the Cutlass to the Camry, this graphic shows 40+ years of the most-purchased cars in the U.S.
The Best-Selling Car in America, Every Year Since 1978
Cars have been a staple of the U.S. economy almost since their inception. But as vehicle designs have evolved over time, and consumer tastes alongside them, the best-selling car in America has changed as well.
Finding the right mix of affordability, style, and features has meant that different manufacturers have been in the market lead during different decades.
This infographic from Alan’s Factory Outlet shows the most-purchased cars in the U.S. since 1978, not including trucks and SUVs.
What Is The Best-Selling Car in America By Year?
From 1978 to 2020, over 348 million cars were sold in the U.S., or an average of 8.1 million cars per year. Car sales were especially strong during times of high oil prices, such as following the 1979 oil crisis, as consumers avoided less fuel-efficient trucks and SUVs.
And throughout most of the 20th century, car sales in the U.S. were led by American manufacturers.
From 1978 to 1988, two of the “Big Three” Detroit-based auto manufacturers had the best-selling cars in the country. GM had two models of the Oldsmobile Cutlass and two different Chevrolets in the top spot, while Ford was able to compete with the compact Ford Escort.
But since the late 1980s, Japanese manufacturers started to take over in affordability, reliability, and overall sales.
|Years||Car Model||Best-Selling Span (U.S.)|
|1978–1981||Oldsmobile Cutlass||4 years|
|1982||Ford Escort||1 year|
|1983||Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme||1 year|
|1984–1985||Chevrolet Cavalier||2 years|
|1986||Chevrolet Celebrity||1 year|
|1987–1988||Ford Escort||2 years|
|1989–1991||Honda Accord||3 years|
|1992–1996||Ford Taurus||5 years|
|1997–2000||Toyota Camry||4 years|
|2001||Honda Accord||1 year|
|2002–2020||Toyota Camry||19 years|
After Honda and Ford fought closely for the most popular cars with the Accord and the Taurus, Toyota grabbed the crown with the ultra-popular Toyota Camry.
Toyota, which was the world’s largest automaker by market cap for a majority of the last 30 years, also has the world’s best-selling car of all-time with another popular model, the Toyota Corolla.
The company’s cars have resonated with consumers due to reliability, safety, and efficiency in spite of being mass-produced and affordable. High ownership satisfaction and low incidence rates also led Camrys to have high resale value.
Runner Ups and Best-Selling Trucks and SUVs
Just behind Toyota for many years was another Japanese automaker, Honda. The company’s Accord and Civic models consistently ranked just behind the Toyota Camry in U.S. sales throughout most of the 2000s.
Despite most of the world preferring cars for vehicle purchases, the U.S. has become light truck and SUV dominant since the 2000s.
|Car Model||Units Sold (U.S. 2020)|
The proliferation of light trucks also meant that Toyota, one of the world’s leading hybrid sellers, saw the crossover/SUV Toyota RAV4 Hybrid beat the well-known Prius consistently in U.S. sales.
Meanwhile, electric car sales in the U.S. are still far behind, climbing up to 1.8% of sales in 2020 from 1.4% the year before. Compared to countries like Norway where electric cars make up the majority of vehicle sales, the U.S. will likely be dominated by light-trucks for years to come.
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