Infographic: 14 Defunct Car Brands, and How They Failed
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Automotive

14 Defunct Car Brands, and How They Failed

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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.

14 Defunct Car Brands, and How They Failed

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.

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Automotive

The Most Fuel Efficient Cars From 1975 to Today

This infographic lists the most fuel efficient cars over the past 46 years, including the current leader for 2023.

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The Most Fuel Efficient Cars From 1975 to Today

When shopping for a new car, what is the most important factor you look for? According to Statista, it’s not design, quality, or even safety—it’s fuel efficiency.

Because of this, automakers are always looking for clever ways to improve gas mileage in their cars. Beating the competition by even the slimmest of margins can give valuable bragging rights within a segment.

In this infographic, we’ve used data from the EPA’s 2022 Automotive Trends Report to list off the most fuel efficient cars from 1975 to today.

Editor’s note: This is from a U.S. government agency, so the data shown skews towards cars sold in North America.

Data Overview

All of the information in the above infographic is listed in the table below. Data was only available in 5-year increments up until 2005, after which it switches to annual.

Model YearMakeModelReal World Fuel Economy (mpg)Engine Type
1975HondaCivic28.3Gas
1980VWRabbit40.3Diesel
1985ChevroletSprint49.6Gas
1990GeoMetro53.4Gas
1995HondaCivic47.3Gas
2000HondaInsight57.4Hybrid
2005HondaInsight53.3Hybrid
2006HondaInsight53Hybrid
2007ToyotaPrius46.2Hybrid
2008ToyotaPrius46.2Hybrid
2009ToyotaPrius46.2Hybrid
2010HondaFCX60.2FCEV
2011BMWActive E100.6EV
2012Mitsubishii-MiEV109EV
2013ToyotaiQ EV117EV
2014BMWi3121.3EV
2015BMWi3121.3EV
2016BMWi3121.3EV
2017HyundaiIoniq Electric132.6EV
2018HyundaiIoniq Electric132.6EV
2019HyundaiIoniq Electric132.6EV
2020Tesla3138.6EV
2021Tesla3139.1EV

From this dataset, we can identify three distinct approaches to maximizing fuel efficiency.

Downsizing

Prior to 2000, the best way for automakers to achieve good fuel efficiency was by downsizing. Making cars smaller (lighter) meant they could also be fitted with very small engines.

For example, the 1985 Chevrolet Sprint was rated at 49.6 MPG, but had a sluggish 0-60 time of 15 seconds.

Hybrids

The 2000s saw the introduction of mass-market hybrid vehicles like the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius. By including a small battery to support the combustion engine, automakers could achieve good MPGs without sacrificing so heavily on size.

While the Insight achieved better fuel economy than the Prius, it was the latter that became synonymous with the term “hybrid”. This was largely due to the Prius’ more practical 4-door design.

The following table compares annual U.S. sales figures for both models. Insight sales have fluctuated drastically because Honda has produced the model in several short spans (1999-2006, 2009-2014, 2018-2022).

YearInsight SalesPrius Sales
2005666107,155
2006722106,971
20073181,221
2008-158,884
200920,572150,831
201020,962140,928
201115,549136,464
20126,619236,655
20134,802234,228
20143,965207,372
20151,458184,794
201667136,629
20173108,661
201812,51387,590
201923,68669,718
202015,93243,525
202118,68559,010
20227,62833,352

Source: goodcarbadcar.net

The Prius may have dominated the hybrid market for a long time, but it too has run into troubles. Sales have been declining since 2014, even setting historic lows in recent years.

There are several reasons behind this trend, with one being a wider availability of hybrid models from other brands. We also can’t ignore the release of the Tesla Model 3, which began shipping to customers in 2017.

Electric Vehicles

We’re currently in the middle of a historic transition to electric vehicles. However, because EVs do not use fuel, the EPA had to develop a new system called MPGe (miles per gallon of gasoline-equivalent).

This new metric gives us the ability to compare the efficiency of EVs with traditional gas-powered cars. An underlying assumption of MPGe is that 33.7 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity is comparable to the energy content of a gallon of fuel.

The most fuel efficient car you can buy today is the 2023 Lucid Air, which achieves 140 MPGe. Close behind it is the 2023 Tesla Model 3 RWD, which is rated at 132 MPGe.

Check out this page to see the EPA’s top 10 most efficient vehicles for 2023.

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