What to know about owning or buying a discontinued car

With all the news about American automakers discontinuing car models, it’s fair to wonder how that affects the value of those cars going out of production.

Is the car worth less? How will it get repaired? Are there good deals to be had on the used car market? Will my discontinued car break down as soon as the automaker stops production of it? Why do American automakers keep ceding the sedan market to foreign makes?

The answers to all but that last question is to remain calm.

“There’s no reason to be concerned if you buy [a discontinued car],” said Ronald Montoya, consumer advice editor at Edmunds.com. “And if you own one, don’t feel you need to get out of it as soon as possible.”

Automakers cancel low-selling and unpopular car models all the time. In addition to General Motors announcing the end of production in 2019 of the Chevy Volt, Chevy Impala, Chevy Cruze and Cruze hatchback, Buick LaCrosse, Cadillac XTS and Cadillac CT6, the General had already ended production of the Buick Cascada convertible and Cadillac ATS sedan for 2018.

They’re not alone; Ford canceled production of its entire car lineup except for the Mustang. The Fiesta, Focus, C-Max, Fusion and Taurus will fade from production sometime by 2020. Nissan ended the Juke, Alfa stopped the 4C, Volkswagen killed the Beetle. Again. It happens. And that’s just the models discontinued this year.

SEE WHICH CARS WERE DISCONTINUED FOR 2019 »

SEE WHICH GM CARS ARE BEING DISCONTINUED »

SEE CARS KILLED OFF IN 2018 »

Warranties will be honored, repair parts will be available for the foreseeable future and the discontinued vehicles are still part of a brand with an image to uphold.

“Consumers will see that the motor company is still around and should feel some confidence in that,” said Richard Arca, who is in charge of pricing on Edmunds.com.

In the global automotive market place with shared platforms, the same parts can be used for many different vehicles.

“Individual models are going away, not automakers themselves,” Montoya added. “You can still take a Pontiac into a Chevy or GM service center and get it repaired.”

Analysts aren’t the only ones telling worried customers to remain calm. Aftermarket suppliers and automakers themselves have a deep well of repair and replacement parts. Component sets such as chassis parts and electronics are shared with other vehicles in the family, said James Cain, spokesperson for Chevrolet.

“Turns out we still stock many parts for Hummers, Pontiacs, Saabs, even Oldsmobile,” Cain said. “History has shown that as long as there is demand, the OEMs and aftermarket will meet it.”

Furthermore, models discontinued in North America may still be manufactured and sold elsewhere, so those parts could still be manufactured. The 2019 Ford Focus is made in China and will be sold in Europe and China. Ford has replacement parts for vehicles discontinued over 20 years ago.

“Our customers will still be able to easily service and obtain replacement parts for their vehicles for years to come, as customers are able to with other older Ford vehicles,” said Jiyan Cadiz, spokesperson for Ford, who gave the following example. “Our FordParts.com has replacement brakes for a 1997 Aerostar minivan, which you can buy online as genuine Ford Motorcraft replacement parts.”

The older the car, the harder it will be to track down replacement parts in most cases. So it goes predicting the future. In some odd cases, a discontinued car can be a prize on the used car market.

The Honda Element has a cult-like following strong enough to be considered a future classic by some, and orphaned cars such as the Pontiac Aztek got popular for the first time after its death due to the hit show Breaking Bad. Popular Mechanics predicts the Aztek to be a future classic.

What about the classic potential of a Cruze? Yeah, not so much.

“I don’t think these current ones are going to be classics down the line,” Montoya said of GM’s sedan cuts. “There are cult followings and brand loyalty, but I wouldn’t buy one of these cars thinking it’s going to be a classic down the line.”

This brings up another opportunity for the discontinued car: steep discounts on new models sitting in purgatory on dealer lots

“These cars will probably go on sale — not at half-off clearance prices — but you can negotiate a little more aggressively and get a far better deal,” Montoya said.

But they’re also not very popular, which is why they’re being discontinued in the first place, so if you buy with the intention of selling it in a few years, it might be a tough sale.

“I always recommend staying in cars as long as possible because that’s the financially sound thing to do,” Montoya said. “If you own (a discontinued car), don’t feel that you need to get out of it as soon as possible.”

If you want to stay in the car for awhile but don’t want to take the depreciation hit of a new car, the discontinued car could be appealing as a used car.

“Keep in mind what helps the depreciations is the fact that these cars will be discounted as they try and sell the remaining inventory,” Arca said, referring to the estimated difference of about 2 percent in resale value between a discontinued model and a current model. A whole host of variables affect resale value of any vehicle, so it’s difficult to make science out of it.

When it comes to whether a discontinued car is right for you, it comes down to the same thing as other cars: feel.

“If you like one of these cars and it speaks to you, don’t worry about what’s in the headlines, just buy it and enjoy it,” Montoya said.

rduffer@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @DufferRobert

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