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Open Diff: Those we’ve left behind

Published in blog.hemmings.com

Ford’s 1990 Taurus SHO. Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company.

Recently, Ford announced it was turning its back on automobiles in North America to focus on trucks, crossovers, and SUVs. The Mustang soldiers on, accompanied by the new, built-in-China Focus Active, Ford’s answer to the wildly successful Subaru Crosstrek. Aside from that, it appears as if the Taurus is dead, the Fusion is dead, and the rest of the Focus line (including the enthusiast-oriented Focus RS and Focus ST) is – you guessed it – dead.

In exchange for its actions, Ford’s stock price has been rebounding from its recent low of $10.24 per share on February 6, to a recent high of $12.11, hit on June 10. Clearly investors think this is the right move, and now there’s talk of Chrysler following suit. Soon, the family sedan (or at least the domestic family sedan) may be an endangered species, sacrificed at the altar of changing consumer whims – and higher corporate profits.

Twenty five or so years ago, the list of affordable and sporty cars was a long one, filled with options like the Eagle Talon and Mitsubishi Eclipse; the Ford Probe GT; the Ford Mustang GT; the Chevy Camaro; the Shelby GLHS and CSX; the Mazda 323 GTX, RX-7, and Miata; the Isuzu Impulse; the Toyota Celica and MR2; and the Volkwagen Scirocco II and GTI. Even this isn’t a comprehensive list, but it’s at least representative of the period.

Today, there’s the Mazda Miata and its platform-sharing cousin, the Fiat 124 Spider; the Toyota 86 and its relative, the Subaru BRZ; the Volkswagen GTI and possibly – depending upon one’s budget – the Subaru WRX. There are four-cylinder turbocharged Mustangs and Camaros as well, but if you want a V-8 Mustang or Camaro, be prepared to spend $40k or more by the time options are factored in. That’s not even close to “affordable,” at least as defined by your humble author.

Domestic personal-luxury coupes had their moment in the sun, too, as did compact pickups and station wagons, which brings us back to the point at hand: What gone-the-way-of-the-dodo models would you like to see make a comeback? Do you miss the thrifty business coupe, or the elegant town car, or simply a compact pickup small enough to fit in the garage? Will sedans and sport coupes ever stage a comeback, or are we destined to a future of trucks, crossovers and self-driving (and based upon current technology limits, self-crashing) automopods, devoid of anything even resembling soul?