Some cars are doomed from the start. As soon as automakers pull off the wraps, you hear groans from the audience. Those who witnessed the debut of the Pontiac Aztek, Ford’s Edsel, and other lemons of the past knew they were looking at a surefire loser. Before long, those cars stopped rolling off assembly lines and became cautionary tales for future generations.
Then there are the vehicles that never go away. It takes a true crowd-pleaser to last decades — sometimes, over 50 years — in a fickle and ever-changing auto market. However, when an automaker commits its best resources to a first-rate design and it strikes a chord with consumers, you might have an all-time classic on your hands.
Given their success and continued relevance, there are some cars that might live forever — or as long as people buy cars. Here are 10 car models that will likely never die.
1. BMW 3-Series
It’s fun to drive, easy on the eyes, and grants owners instant status. Considering you get all of the above starting at $33,500, it’s no wonder the BMW 3 Series has been popular for 40 years and counting. The entry-level Bimmer came close to its U.S. sales peak in 2014, so there is no sign of this nameplate crashing anytime soon. Large BMW sedans and SUVs may pack more technology and utility, but none will be as accessible as the brand’s entry-level model.
2. Ford Mustang
Since its launch in 1964, Ford Mustang has survived wars, oil embargoes, and a second-generation model based on the flammable Pinto. None of it could kill America’s most iconic postwar car. Considering Ford still hits home runs with models like the Shelby GT350 and has a hybrid Mustang planned for 2020, we don’t see this car fading into obscurity for at least a few decades. When a guy wants a badass muscle coupe in 2040, he’ll probably still want a Mustang.
3. Chevrolet Corvette
By most standards, the Chevrolet Corvette has already lasted forever. America’s sports car entered the scene in 1953 and has been in continuous production ever since. For the seventh generation, designers introduced an all-new Stingray ‘Vette with aluminum frame, carbon fiber hood, big V8, and advanced tech that brought it well into the 21st century. After all these years and the success of the C7 platform, Corvette still goes for a base price of $55,450. That value is as timeless as the nameplate.
4. Toyota Camry
We’re not sure how long the concept of a midsize family sedan will last, but as long as it does, Toyota Camry will be America’s favorite car. Since 1982, Camry has done the functional thing most cars don’t even want to do: It starts every morning and is pleasant enough for the majority of people. If all car production stopped in 2017, the millions of Camrys on the road could probably provide transportation for decades to come.
5. Mazda Miata
As Mustang is to muscle cars and Corvette is to sports cars, so Mazda MX-5 Miata is to roadsters. You cannot find this combination of topless, rear-wheel drive, high performance, manual transmission, classic style, and reliability anywhere close to Miata’s price ($24,915). For 2017, Mazda flashed another trick up its sleeve with the retractable fastback (RF) model. After nearly 30 years of Miata, we expect at least another 30.
6. Ford F-150
When it emerged as the bridge between the F-100 and heavy-duty models in 1975, Ford F-150 began a four-decade run of sales dominance that continued in 2017. Actually, F-Series trucks date back to 1948, when Ford began supplying the work vehicles to power America’s postwar boom. Since F-150’s aluminum makeover in 2014, sales only improved, and 2016 figures were the best since 2005. By 2020, a hybrid version will supply more instant torque and improved fuel economy, and the next great F-150 will be born.
7. Jeep Wrangler
The word jeep has become interchangeable with the brand and the image of its most famous model: Jeep Wrangler. Introduced in 1941 as an Army vehicle for World War II, the Willys Jeep was the 4×4 model that became a timeless classic and Wrangler’s predecessor. Three quarters of a century later, it is still the vehicle of choice for charging off-road without worrying about interior refinement. This market seems cornered for the rest of the 21st century.
8. Porsche 911
We’re sure there will be a Ferrari and Lamborghini decades down the road. However, we cannot be sure which model will represent the brand in the future. In the case of Porsche, you can be certain the 911 will be thrilling upcoming generations the same it has since 1964. The design and performance have not broken, and we see no situation in which Porsche would fix it, other than to make it better. Besides, there will thankfully never be an autonomous Porsche 911.
9. Toyota Prius
With Toyota Prius sales now topping 6 million units since its 1997 debut, the original hybrid has reached a level of success seen by few vehicles. The concept is brilliantly simple: Combine unparalleled fuel economy with first-rate reliability. When Consumer Reports and other testing agencies run the numbers on Prius, it always rates at the top of these nuts-and-bolts categories. We expect the Prime plug-in model and eventually an all-electric Prius to continue this run for at least another 30 years.
10. Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Technically, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class luxury sedan launched in 1972, but the model’s origins clearly date to the early 1950s. Over the following six decades, it was usually the premier automobile on the market, often introducing safety features (e.g., airbags, ABS) and tech (e.g., voice-activated commands) to the rest of the industry. There is a certain type of person who will only be driven in a Mercedes S-Class sedan, and that is unlikely to change in the future.
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