Commentary: Good-Bye or Good Riddance?
These model cuts were not just targeted towards car models. Some SUVs were also dropped from their respective lineups.
The COVID-19 Pandemic caused a lot of havoc with our economy. This goes beyond supply chain challenges resulting in lower-than-usual inventory levels at dealerships. It is also created changes in consumer tastes and overall demand.
Case in point, the elimination of models across almost every brand sold in this country. Consumer demand for sedans, hatchbacks, coupes, and wagons sent many of these brands to drop them altogether.
These model cuts were not just targeted towards car models. Some SUVs were also dropped from their respective lineups. Specifically, small SUVs that were once thought as solutions for those seeking something efficient within the genre. These new models were seen as perfect for urban dwellers living in densely populated communities. These customers found themselves disappointed by what they purchased and wanted more from these vehicles.
In some cases, these vehicles found a completely different demographic. For example, one such model attracted an older clientele that wanted to stay within that certain brand, but they could not afford anything else the brand was offering.
To that end, I’m not sure whether I should shed a tear for the loss of the Buick Encore, Chevrolet Trax, and Ford EcoSport.
To be honest, I think “good riddance” is more appropriate for these three subcompact SUVs.
Yeah, you’re probably thinking: “Randy, why do you have to be so mean?”
Well…think about the American consumer’s tolerance towards perceived quality. These three subcompact SUVs may appear to follow their respective brand’s idea of quality. However, there seems to be a lack of execution in their delivery of these vehicles.
You cannot produce a vehicle for thew sake of selling them. There has to be some sort of consideration for the vehicle you are offering. Sure, fuel prices were up when these vehicles were considered for this market. Then, they went down. Customers that thought they needed a small SUV at a time when fuel prices were at its highest simply were just not there to support the sales of the Encore, Trax, and EcoSport.
Of course, the demographics were missed. Ford and General Motors thought that they had the younger urban dweller set. The one who needed a small SUV to not only fit their lifestyle, but to fit tight parking spot on and off the street. Those buyers showed up in smaller number than expected.
Instead, Buick attracted their traditional (read: older) customer base who balked at the prices of the Regal TourX wagon and other models that no longer existed for them. The Encore was bought on price, combined with the badge.
Chevrolet and Ford customers were less savvy when it came to taking home the Trax and EcoSport respectively. They could care less about performance, space, quality, and anything else other than price. Their approach was more “oh, it’s an SUV. It looks practical. And, I could get that a good price – despite my credit score.”
The truth is neither of these vehicles had the practicality of, say, a Mitsubishi Outlander Sport or a Kia Soul. Even less expensive offerings – such as the Nissan Kicks and Hyundai Venue – offered a vehicle with better practicality and fuel economy. Some may argue that the lack of an all-wheel drive option would have prevented Nissan and Hyundai from demonstrating they can meet the urban dweller set with a better, more efficient, and less expensive product.
There were also questions regarding their safety. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, neither of these vehicles were awarded their top crash testing awards. Both General Motors vehicles received Acceptable and Marginal ratings in various tests and the lowest ratings on the performance of its crash prevention systems. In comparison, the Venue and Soul won Top Safety Pick awards from the IIHS.
Having driven all three, I must add to the chorus of those who will not miss the Encore, Trax, and EcoSport from out marketplace. These three models work better in markets where smaller SUV actually do sell. Yet, they also get the same rap as we do here in the States for the most part.
Our market is now being served by better offerings in the small SUV segment. Outside of the Hyundai, Kia, and Nissan, there is the Jeep Renegade. It is exactly what younger urban dwellers want – a Jeep that is easier to park and, if they get the Trailhawk model, quite capable for more weekend fun.
To call the Encore, Trax, or EcoSport fun is to really see a smile turn to a frown in as much time as a Tesla Model S Plaid edition goes from 0-60 MPH.
I know I was being mean at that point, but you understand why these vehicles did not do as well as they were intended in our marketplace.
For those who own an Encore, Trax, or EcoSport, I’m sure you have your reasons in doing so. I’m sure you’re satisfied with your vehicle. However, a post-pandemic, post-Russia-Ukraine war, post-gas price spike world would be better off when GM and Ford remove these offerings from their catalogs for all time this year.
You know, the Chevrolet TrailBlazer, Buick Encore GX, and Ford Bronco Sport will do better sales-wise and in terms of owner satisfaction than their smaller siblings.
Better still, just get a Jeep Renegade. Or, a Hyundai Venue, Kia Soul, Nissan Kicks…
All photos by Randy Stern