Plymouth runs out of gas |

Plymouth runs out of gas

Guest author

Plymouth cars and minivans are running out of gas.

DaimlerChrysler AG is eliminating the Plymouth and plans to phase out the Breeze mid-size sedan, Neon small car, Voyager minivan and Prowler roadster starting in the second half of next year, according to a company executive who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Long gone are the days when Richard Petty won stock car races in a light blue Plymouth Road Runner. These days, the Plymouth brand is more associated with the economy cars often found in suburban driveways and on rental parking lots.

In 1973, when Petty was behind the wheel of his Road Runner, sales of Plymouth cars reached 750,000. Last year, sales were 307,000.

”Everything points to the death of the Plymouth,” said Derek Humphrey, a forecaster for J.D. Power & Associates.

DaimlerChrysler has combined many of its dealerships to sell Chrysler and Dodge cars and trucks.

The Plymouth brand was stopped last year in Canada. And recently, the company stopped putting the Plymouth emblem on the Voyager minivan.

”The company said it was to save money, but that’s a lot of trouble to go through to save a few pennies,” Humphrey said.

The company tried to turn around sales three years ago with the introduction of the Breeze sedan and the Prowler roadster. DaimlerChrysler revved up spending on advertising (”One Clever Idea After Another”), and tried using sales kiosks in shopping malls to attract the 20- to 40-year-old crowd.

Sales of the Breeze this year are down 10 percent, an embarrassing slide in a market that is up 10 percent. Sales of the Neon small car and Voyager minivan are also off more than 8 percent.

Dodge sells its own versions of almost all of the Plymouth vehicles.

It has its own Neon, the Stratus (sister to the Breeze) and the Caravan (the Dodge version of Voyager). Outside the United States, the Neon is sold under the Chrysler brand.