Three things have happened recently to reshape the car industry in America. The first is the wild success of Tesla. This has triggered a mad rush by the world’s largest manufacturers to electrify their fleets. The investments among them are well into the tens of billions of dollars. The next thing is that Americans have kept their cars longer. The average age of vehicles on the road is 12.1 years, according to IHS Markit. The number has been rising for a decade and a half. Finally, Americans cannot get new cars. A semiconductor shortage for the electronics in cars has led to shutdowns of plants and eroded car company earnings. The shortage is forecast to extend well into next year.
Cars have been sold as “models” for a century. The most famous is the Ford Model T. It first came off one of the earliest assembly lines in 1908 and was produced for another two decades. Total sales of the Model T hit 15 million, which is about the aggregate new cars sold in America each year.
Very few models (which are also known as nameplates) have lasted more than two decades. Among the best known of these is the F-series pickup, the best-selling vehicle in America. It was first sold in 1948. Another is the Ford Mustang, which first went on the market in 1964.
Motor Trend reviewed the nameplates that have survived the longest. The authors made this observation:
The automotive landscape is constantly changing, with makes and models coming and going at all times. But there are a few nameplates that continue to be renewed generation after generation.
A number of foreign cars made the list. These include Japanese cars that were part of the early wave of imports from that country. Honda, Toyota and Nissan have cars that have been for sale for decades. German cars are represented as well. These include models from Mercedes, BMW and Porsche.
The oldest nameplate still made is the Chevy Suburban, a hulking SUV that can fit nine people and has a gross vehicle weight rating of 7,700 pounds. It was not always this big. Motor Trend describes the earliest versions as “essentially station wagons built on truck frames.”