Are Big American Sedans Finally Making Their Swan Song?

By Paul Riegler on 26 July 2017
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A 1960 Buick LeSabre in Havana

It’s happened before. Venerable nameplates such as Sedan de Ville, Buick LeSabre, Chevrolet Impala, Chrysler Imperial, and Lincoln Continental once ruled American roads. They were repeatedly downsized starting in the 1970s and most eventually became extinct. Now, amidst tanking sales, it appears the current crop of large American sedans might face such an ignoble end as well.

More than ever before, Americans are buying “trucks,” a category that includes crossovers, SUVs, vans, and pickup trucks. General Motors saw its car sales plunge 19% for the first half of 2016 and 38% just for the month of June.

As a result, six passenger cars may not make it past the 2020 model year, according to a recent report by Reuters. The list includes the hybrid Chevrolet Volt (not to be confused with almost homophonic Chevrolet Bolt, an electric vehicle); the Chevrolet Sonic and Impala; the Buick LaCrosse, and the Cadillac XTS and CT6. The General already discontinued Cadillac’s version of the Volt, the ELR, but hardly anyone noticed it because hardly anyone had bought one.

The 2017 Buick LaCrosse

The 2017 Buick LaCrosse

If you’re not exactly sure which vehicles these are, you’re not alone. Aside from the Impala, you’d need a family tree to figure out what the others were. The LaCrosse replaced the venerable Century nameplate as well as the Regal when it was introduced. The XTS? It’s the X-Series Touring Sedan, a replacement for the DTS, which was an acronym for Deville Touring Sedan, however oxymoronic that may have sounded. Finally, there’s the Cadillac CT6, the first car to adopt Cadillac’s new product naming conventions. If you’re trying to place it on the map, as the first rear-wheel drive full-size Cadillac sedan since the Fleetwood was consigned to the trash heap of history in 1996, it is the Fleetwood’s indirect spiritual successor.

Meanwhile, the Chevrolet Impala, one of the most popular sedans to come out of Detroit in over half a century, is also one of the few nameplates that has survived, with few interruptions, for six decades. Sales have tanked and its Chevy brethren, the SS, a rebadged VF Commodore, and the Caprice, also a rebadged Holden, and only sold as a police patrol car in the United States, won’t be returning for an encore performance.

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