After years of subpar cars, General Motors hit a home run with the 10th generation of its big, cushy Chevrolet Impala. Consumer Reports, notorious in Detroit for its favoritism toward imports, called the Impala the best sedan it had ever tested, and the car became an icon of the automaker's post-bankruptcy product renaissance.
"It's very luxurious," said Jake Fisher, Consumer Reports' director of auto testing. "In terms of ride comfort and quietness, it was really a standout. That's something that has really trickled down through the rest of General Motors' lineup."
Just four years later, the Impala's chances of reaching an 11th generation look grim. Sales are tanking. Production has slowed to a crawl. An average Chevy dealership now sees about one Impala customer every two months.
It's not a case of GM doing anything wrong, besides designing crossovers that today's consumers like better. The shift from cars has spelled trouble for many venerable nameplates, but it's been especially devastating for the Impala and other full-size sedans that once ruled American roads.
Hyundai this month said it was discontinuing the Azera after selling just 1,792 of them in the U.S. in the first half of the year. Chevy already has confirmed the demise of two other full-size cars, the high-performance SS and fleet-only Caprice. Ford is widely expected to cut the Taurus from its North American lineup, having limited the car's newest generation to China.
With no signs that the falloff for big sedans could ease, the Impala -- one of GM's longest-running and most-recognized names, a car that logged more than 1 million U.S. sales in 1965 -- appears unlikely to survive much longer. Its plunge into irrelevancy comes as GM is launching four redesigned crossovers this year and developing three new crossovers for Cadillac in the next few years.