COVID-19 Update: Automakers Are Dropping Models from their Lineups

By Desiree Homer

The Importance of Responding to Demand

Automakers are making substantial changes to their lineups this year. Some are moving forward with plans for EV and hybrid technology. Others have been announcing the retirement of once-popular models and shift away from a variety-plush portfolio. Dodge announced it would be abandoning its production of the Grand Caravan and Journey models. General Motors announced that Chevy would be dropping the budget-friendly Sonic. One sentiment is the same – it’s about adjusting to customer preferences. And dealers can be making similar customer-driven shifts at the local level, too.

Dodge Is Going All Muscle

Tim Kuniskis, the passenger car department head for FCA North America, said Dodge plans to keep its Charger, Challenger, and Durango models. The top-selling minivan, the Grand Caravan, along with the Journey, will be done after this year. Kuniskis said the automaker is “embracing our strengths,” as it plans to continue refreshing and improving its “Brotherhood of Muscle.” As part of the announcement, Kuniskis says the strategy is to meet the need of the performance-hungry enthusiasts. Dodge is going all-in with their enhancements and upgrades for the three remaining models, including Hellcat treatments for the Durango. Leading the interior design efforts for Dodge, Ryan Nagode, says it’s “about sharpening the needle.” He says they are determined to find what customers like the most and improve accordingly. The company is backing out of lackluster products, to focus exclusively on what they feel they deliver best. In their case, it’s muscle and performance.

Chevy Drops the Sonic

The Sonic performed well upon its debut in 2011, as a budget-friendly and fuel-efficient car. But sales have declined for the subcompact sedan, and GM announced it was time to pull the plug. Moving forward, Chevy will continue to produce the Malibu, Bolt EV, and the Spark, along with its performance favorites, the Corvette and Camaro. Scaling back on the passenger cars is primarily based on declining demand. So much like their Dodge counterparts, it’s about responding to customer needs. Some analysts are predicting the Malibu and Spark could be curbed too, although GM says neither vehicles will be retired.

Taking a Page from the Dodge & Chevy Playbook

Dealers can recognize the industry trend for what it is, as automakers shore up their vehicle offerings. In today’s economic environment, success doesn’t lie within selling to the fringe needs of a few. Instead, strength is built when a company can dominate a core product. At the dealership level, owners can take a page from this playbook. Lead with your best foot forward and grow what strengths you already have. The days of being all things to all consumers are over. Today’s customers have specific needs, preferences, and requirements. Dealers, much like their automaker partners, can lean into delivering what they do best.

Tracy Fred and Wayne Pastore of Cox Automotive, join the Dealer News Today podcast conversation and talk about the importance of leveraging consumer data and preferences right now. “You have to align strategy to experiences,” according to the Cox Executives. It’s a move the manufacturers are embracing right now, too.