Jerry Flint from the Car Connection takes on retro in his most recent column and why it has failed for most automakers… with a few notable exceptions of course. Here’s an excerpt:

Retro as a design theme has failed. There are two success stories, but four failures. Take a look:

Ford’s Thunderbird, clearly a failure.

Volkswagen’s New Beetle, sinking every year.

Chevrolet’s SSR, never reached sales targets.

Chrysler’s PT Cruiser, not really a failure but far from the success it should be.

On the success side, we have the MINI. Of course, that Mustang is running strong, although it is new so we don’t know how long she will prance. And there’s a new one, the Chevy HHR, which looks like it might have arrived late to the party.

…Let’s consider the MINI, a success with volume still growing – but it is small volume, at 18,000 in five months, probably 40,000 for the year.

What makes it a success? First, the numbers. They may be small in the U.S. but it’s 150,000-plus worldwide, so the plant in Britain runs full time. They expanded the line with the S version and then the convertible and we know a wagon is in the works. Sales goals are modest and the dealer group is good.

You can read more below:

[ Detroit, Retro has Failed You ] The Car Connection

MF Analysis: Let me say that I firmly believe that the current MINI is not retro in the late 90’s sense of the word. To me it’s a design that is totally relevant today as an interpretation of the original, much like the current Porsche 911. In fact this is what BMW, Frank Stephenson and Chris Bangle had hoped to achieve with the current car. Something that would look like it’s evolved over the course of 40 years rather than a retro-mobile that is created for nostalgia and instant sales. But more importantly (and this is where the MINI is really set apart from the new Beetle) it was engineered with few dynamic compromises for a $17,000 car. It handled better than all but a few cars on the road and was available with options normally associated with cars costing at least twice as much.