It’s official: Honda’s quirky Element will be no more after 2011. The automaker announced the boxy SUV’s demise last week, undoubtedly saddening dog lovers, small business owners, and just about anyone who’s ever needed to hose down their interior.
Chalking up the Element’s cancellation to a change in consumer taste towards more mainstream SUVs – such as Honda’s own CR-V – the automaker says the Element has recorded more than 325,000 sales in the United States since its 2003 debut. However, following a peak of around 80,000 sales in its first year, the Element’s popularity has steadily declined, reaching just 15,000 sales last year. Nonetheless, the innovative Element helped jump-start the popularity of the boxy wagon, which continues today.
“The Element proved that ultimate functionality can often come from thinking inside the box,” said John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda. “It made boxy vehicle designs cool, and Element owners continue to enjoy its unique styling and unmatched versatility.”
Versatility was the key word for the Element, whose urethane interior made for easy cleaning, earning the SUV fans among outdoor enthusiasts, cyclists, and pet owners – a group Honda cornered by offering a “Dog Friendly package” in 2009. And the Element’s quirky rear-hinged suicide doors and low ground clearance aided with entry and exit, giving it an advantage with small businesses looking to haul goods.
Still, the Element’s appeal was generally limited, with the small SUV never achieving high-volume sales like other more traditional vehicles in its segment. But despite the small scope, Honda did its best to keep the cheeky SUV current, with updates including new trim packages, a slight power bump in 2007, and a facelift for 2009.
The Element is the third of Honda’s niche models to be cancelled in recent years. The original Insight, a small, three-cylinder hybrid coupe aimed mainly at hypermilers and city-dwellers, was dropped after 2006, and the high-performance S2000 was axed after the 2009 model year. With sales dipping more than 30 percent in November, some speculate that the four-door Ridgeline pickup may be next on the automaker’s chopping block.