It's a commonly held belief in the auto industry that it takes a single model line roughly three years to pay back all of the money spent on its development, and that the actual profit comes from every year it remains in production after that. With this in mind, the following cars must have repaid their debts several times over... and some of them must surely be yearning for the sweet release of death.
Would you believe the ever-perky Fiat 500 has been around since 2007? A recent update freshens up the interior yet its packaging still leaves much to be desired for taller/larger occupants, but despite staying in production for more than twice as long as the average car, the 500 has hung onto its retro charm rather well. It's far from perfect but it's got heaps of personality, and we'll be a little bit sad when it finally shuffles off this mortal coil - though at this rate, who knows when that might be.
TOYOTA LANDCRUISER 70-SERIES
Toyota’s answer to the Defender is a hit in the Aussie bush – mainly because it’s unkillable. It's ancient though. While the 70-series Landcruiser on sale today, with its grunty single-turbo version of Toyota's 4.5-litre turbo-diesel V8, went on sale back in 2007, the model family it belongs to actually entered production way back in 1984. That explains the styling.
In production since 2010, the ASX is now a few tiers above being merely "venerable". Think of it this way: the average production run of a car these days is about six years. If the Mitsubishi ASX were a person it would have surely received a letter from the Queen by now, but while it's objectively now well behind the rest of its peers in terms of, well, everything, the car-buying public still can't get enough of the humble Mitsubishi ASX!
Mitsubishi isn't getting off lightly in this list, with the Pajero boasting even more years on the market than the ASX. Now in its 20th year (if you regard the current model as being an extensive facelift of the third-gen Pajero that launched at the turn of the century, rather than an all-new vehicle), the Mitsubishi Pajero has managed to stay relevant by offering heaps of off-road toughness for comparatively few dollars. Tremendously dated almost everywhere you look, the Pajero still soldiers on.
Nissan's twin-turbo supercar-slayer is still one of the fastest cars on the planet, yet it had yet to achieve its fullest potential when it first burst onto the scene at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show. Back then the Nissan GT-R wowed the world with a 7:38 Nurburgring Nordschliefe lap, but has since gone on to trim that time down by a full 30 seconds with more powerful iterations of its 3.8-litre engine, tweaks to its suspension, and of course the arrival of hardcore GT-R Nismo flagship variants.
The GT-R is a curious case of a car getting significantly better the longer it's been in production. That's extremely rare.
The current Lotus Elise is technically the third generation of its kind, however it's essentially a heavy update of the Series 2 model that arrived back in 2000 - which in turn was heavily based on the Series 1 Elise that entered production in 1996. That said, Lotus got the chassis dynamics right the first time, and its pint-sized sportscar remains one of the finest-handling vehicles on sale today.