It’s been only two years since the Thunderbird made its much-publicised comeback, but Ford has decided to axe the retro car after 2005. Will other retro cars go the same route?

It’s been only two years since the Thunderbird made its much-publicised comeback, but Ford has decided to axe the retro car after 2005. Will other retro cars go the same route?

The Thunderbird, the star of the latest Bond film is perhaps the ultimate high-end example of a retro car in existence today. Ford also recently unveiled production versions of its GT sports car - a modern interpretation of the Le Mans-winning GT 40, but it won’t be mass produced like the T-Bird.

Ford Division president Steve Lyons said in an interview with the paper that the company plans to stop building the retro-styled Thunderbird convertible after a four-year run.

"We have always planned to build it for four model years, and that's what we are going to do," Lyons told the . "It would be wrong to keep building it and erode its value. It's a collectors' vehicle."

Demand for the Thunderbird was red hot when it was launched in 2001 but has declined significantly. In some cases, the cars are languishing on dealers' lots for months before they are bought.

The report that dealers could originally ask R75 000 over the list price when the Thunderbird arrived in 2001 but demand soon faded and Ford never reached the planned 25 000 sales a year. Last year, Ford sold 19 085 in the United States and, to the end of March, had sold 4 065, down 21 per cent from a year ago.

"The demand is non-existent right now," an American dealer principal was quoted as saying. "It's such a small niche that it seems like everyone who wanted one got one."

Is there any danger that other retro cars such as Chrysler’s PT Cruiser, BMW’s Mini and Volkswagen’s New Beetle could be discontinued if demand dropped sufficiently? Has the time for retro mania passed and are these cars quickly going out of fashion?

The said Ford tried to stimulate sales through special edition versions, including a coral-coloured James Bond edition like the one featured in .

According to the report, the decline in sales can be traced partly to a momentum-sapping production delay last year when Ford engineers were late in delivering an upgraded V8 engine for the 2003 model Thunderbird and Lincoln LS saloons. Because of the delay, Ford continued to build the 2002 model Thunderbird until the end of November of last year rather than starting to build 2003 versions in August or September as is usual.

The result was a glut of 2002 models on dealer lots, with many still unsold. According to JD Power and Associates, dealers take an average of five months to sell the 2002 Thunderbirds, even though the company is discounting them, the said.

"We made a mistake," Lyons told the newspaper. "If I could do it again, I would have just stopped building the Thunderbird for a month or two. We had people coming to dealerships saying why do I want a year-old Thunderbird."

Despite the sales drop, Ford still contends the Thunderbird has been a success, the noted.

Original article from Car