Automakers have posted their January 2009 sales numbers, and it isn't pretty. According to the Washington Post, Detroit's Big Three "saw sales drop by an average of nearly 50 percent compared to January 2008." So it's no surprise that General Motors, Ford and Chrysler are looking at cutting models from their lineups. While some of these potential cuts may be justified, there are a few well-loved automobiles that we just don't want to see go.
Take a look at these death-row cars that are worth saving:
Chrysler PT Cruiser
Chrysler sales are down 55 percent compared to January 2008. The automaker has already announced the discontinuation of several models, including the PT Cruiser, which won't make it past 2009. Unique looks and great utility couldn't save this 1940s-style retro wagon - but maybe Chrysler should reconsider.
Until the similar Chevrolet HRR came on the scene, the PT Cruiser was unlike anything else on the road. Since its introduction in 2000, Chrysler has sold more than 1 million of these iconic wagons - and the car has developed a cult following of enthusiasts. Sure, the PT Cruiser's sales numbers may be suffering due to its crossover competition, but it may just be unique enough to withstand the sales slump. Plus, once gas prices begin rising again, crossover drivers may be drawn back to the PT Cruiser and its good fuel economy.
Saturn Aura/Aura Hybrid
Saturn is in trouble. GM sales in January were down 51 percent compared to the same time last year, and GM had plans to eliminate its Saturn brand completely as of December. But recent news offers some hope. GM recently announced that instead of eliminating or even selling the brand, it's working to save Saturn by finding a way to bring back its profitability.
If Saturn itself is worth saving, the Aura sedan may be GM's best bet. Saturn's best-selling vehicle though the second half of 2008, it stacks up well against foreign competition from Honda and Toyota and was named North American Car of the Year upon its 2007 introduction. It offers crisp handing, excellent fuel economy and a competent engine -- all at a very affordable price. Plus, the Aura Hybrid model costs slightly less than other hybrids -- although many reviewers find it isn't competitive in fuel economy or acceleration.
Lincoln Town Car
Lincoln parent company, Ford, reported a 39 percent total decline in January U.S. sales as compared to last January. Much of the decline is due to a 65 percent drop in fleet sales. The automaker's pillow-soft Town Car is a major fleet vehicle -- it's also rumored to be discontinued after 2009. But maybe Ford should reconsider.
The Town Car is best known for its exceptionally stable feel and smooth yet controlled ride, traits that have made it the car of choice for the limousine and airport shuttle industries. For these reasons, the Town Car has developed a very unique customer base. It may not appeal to younger buyers, but older buyers, taxi and limousine companies focused primarily on comfort would surely miss this large, traditional sedan if it exited the market.
Honda isn't faring as badly as the Big Three automakers. Its January sales are down only 30 percent from January 2008, as opposed to more than 50 percent for the Big Three. Consequently, it's surprising that sources inside the company say 2009 will be the Honda S2000's last year. That would be a shame, as this affordable roadster is a consumer favorite. It ranks near the top of its class for its track-oriented handling.
The S2000 is a longtime competitor to the Mazda MX-5 Miata, which is a better daily driver but doesn't offer the same thrills on the track. If Honda holds on to the S2000 long enough to give it a much-needed redesign, (its current design is 10 years old) it might just win over some of those MX-5 Miata devotees. It's a two-seat track machine with the soul of a cheetah -- and it's affordable. Its discontinuation would leave a hole in the automotive market and put the final nail in Honda's reputation as a boring car company that puts practicality before fun.
To learn about more cars in danger of elimination, see our slideshow.