American, European, and Asian car makers have produced hundreds of car models since car manufacturing became a big business at the turn of the 19th century. Only 27 models, however, have been in continuous production for more than 40 years.
These long-lasting car models have endured wars, energy crises, tightened emission controls, and the fickleness of the car-buying public, embedding themselves in modern culture in the United States and other countries. They’ve achieved longevity thanks to their reputation for reliability, value, fuel economy, and the ability to adjust to shifting tastes. They managed to avoid the fate of Ford’s Edsel, one of the greatest product flops of all time, and because of that failure, one of the most iconic cars in history.
Timing is an important contributing factor to the long-term success of certain models. Fuel-efficient vehicles such as the Honda Civic arrived on U.S. shores in the 1970s, about the same time as the oil crisis increased the demand for fuel-economy cars. Ford executive Lee Iacocca anticipated the cultural appeal of the sporty Mustang in 1964, as the youth culture became ascendent and the consumer economy shifted into higher gear.
Many of these enduring car models, such as the Volkswagen Beetle in “The Love Bug,” also became one of the most iconic cars in films.
24/7 Wall St. has compiled a list of the longest-running car models by reviewing stories and data from a variety of sources, including roadandtrack and motortrend.com to create our list.
Nearly all of these models are owned by automobile manufacturers that themselves have stood the test of time — Ford, General Motors, Volkswagen, Toyota, Honda, and BMW. The models and car brands have been lucky to have survived, unlike former Jeep owner AMC, one of the many famous car brands that no longer exists.
For some cars, success can be a double-edged sword. Honda’s best selling models, the Accord and the Civic, are also popular among car thieves in states like California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Maryland.