You might not remember the Dodge Dart. The underpowered compact car failed to recapture the charm of the Dodge Neon, which we didn’t mean as an insult, but now that we read it, it kinda stings.
The last Dart rolled out the factory doors sometime in 2016. The last one rolled off a dealership lot recently.
Last year was a rough one for the automotive industry. We’re still compiling the numbers, but our analysts are pretty sure 2022 was the lowest sales year for America’s carmakers since 2011.
A global microchip shortage left automakers unable to build cars fast enough to meet demand. Prices soared – by the end of the year, the average new car sold for more than $49,500. Many car shoppers had a hard time finding a car they wanted in their price range.
Perhaps that explains why some of them settled for weird.
How zombie cars come back to life
Zombie cars are rare. But, once in a while, a dealership manages to sell a car the automaker stopped making long ago.
They don’t often have them sitting around.
Dealerships don’t often own the cars on their lots. They’re typically making payments on them through a complex loan arrangement, usually to a bank owned by the same company that builds the cars. The longer they hold onto them, the more payments they have to make. Selling a car quickly makes a dealership more money than holding onto it as it ages.
They also have to maintain the cars they hope to sell. “Holding costs,” as dealerships call them, add up by the time technicians are replacing fluids and belts in old, unsold cars.
But sometimes a dealer holds onto an older unsold car as a loaner vehicle – in which case it has dealer tags and can still be sold as “new.” Sometimes, if the car is unusually attractive, they might even keep it as a showpiece.
And, occasionally, they just have one sitting in the back corner of a lot as a model they never sold.
Automakers stop advertising cars when they discontinue them, and buyers tend to walk in wanting the latest technology and the cars they’ve seen in ads recently. So it was fairly hard to sell a 2019 Chevy Sonic in 2022. But at least one dealership managed the trick.
The data come from Kelley Blue Book parent company Cox Automotive, which gets sales reports from most U.S. dealerships.
Six zombie cars someone bought in 2022
Dodge Journey – 194 sales
Before we’re done, you’re going to be asking us to explain the prevalence of Dodge vehicles on this list. We’re sorry that we don’t know why Dodge dealers have so many undead cars awaiting sale.
The Journey was a very minivan-like crossover built from 2008 to 2020. No one would take one off-road, but they made practical family transportation for up to seven passengers. Somehow, dealers still seem to have a lot of them sitting around long after Dodge transitioned to become a performance-centered brand. It’s hard to imagine someone walking in to look at a Challenger and driving off in a 3-year-old Journey instead. But a fair number of shoppers appear to have done that in 2022.
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Dodge Dart – 4 Sales
Named for a 1960s classic, the return of the Dart lasted only from 2013 through 2016. Critics liked its chassis and handling characteristics but found it too heavy for its own engines. It never threatened the stalwarts of the compact car class, but at least four of them found their way to new owners six years after they were discontinued.
Dodge Viper – 1 sale
An automotive legend, the gloriously powerful, lust-worthy Viper inspired a million posters in its day. Dodge built the last of them in 2017. But this is one of the few zombie cars some dealerships hold onto just because it’s incredible. One sold in 2022, so someone probably managed to buy their dream car years after it ceased production. That person had a pretty good year.
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Chrysler 200 – 2 sales
The 200 was an affordable midsize sedan with a convertible option – something that doesn’t exist in the market in 2023. Chrysler built it from 2011 to 2017.
It was inoffensive and reasonably good at most things. But then-CEO Sergio Marchionne said in 2017, “the Chrysler 200 and the Dodge Dart, as great products as they were, were the least financially rewarding enterprises that we’ve carried out inside [then-parent-company Fiat Chrysler] in the last eight years.”
Volkswagen CC – 2 sales
is one of the world’s best-known brands. But, periodically, it struggles to find its identity in the U.S. market.
There’s no better example than the Volkswagen CC. A genuinely attractive, 4-door coupe-style car, it was more luxurious than its price would suggest. But VW marketed it as an alternative to luxury cars. And VW already had an alternative to luxury cars with its Audi brand. The CC flopped, canceled in 2017 after eight years of lackluster sales.
And still selling in 2022, somehow.
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Suzuki XL7 – 1 sale
This is the hardest one on this list to explain. Suzuki
didn’t just cancel the XL7 – a 3-row midsize SUV – in 2009. Suzuki left the U.S. car market a decade ago.
Still, one former Suzuki dealership now selling other brands managed to sell a 13-year-old SUV that, through a partnership with General Motors
used most of the same parts as the Pontiac Torrent and Saturn Vue – two other cars you forgot about.
This story originally ran on KBB.com.