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The Last Chevy Impala Has Now Been Made In Detroit

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

A Cajun-red Chevy Impala rolled off the assembly line in Detroit yesterday. It was the last of its kind. The Impala was tremendously popular in the '60s and became a pop-culture icon.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I WISH")

SKEE-LO: (Rapping) I wish I was a little bit taller. I wish I was a baller. I wish I had a girl...

KELLY: And now it is no more. NPR's Camila Domonoske has this remembrance.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I WISH")

SKEE-LO: (Rapping) I wish I had a rabbit in a hat with a bat and a '64 Impala.

CAMILA DOMONOSKE, BYLINE: OK. I don't know about the rabbit in a hat with a bat, but rapper Skee-Lo was definitely not alone in wishing for a 1964 Impala. The car was a phenomenon. It wasn't the priciest or fanciest car. Karl Muth teaches at Northwestern University.

KARL MUTH: It was obtainable to an average person with an average job.

DOMONOSKE: But the big, bold Impala was eye-catching and a huge hit. GM sold more than a million of them in a single year, which was a record.

MUTH: It isn't like this is a rare car. It's just a special car in American culture.

DOMONOSKE: Vintage Impalas were all over West Coast hip-hop and classic car shows. The new, modern versions of the sedan didn't have icon status anymore, but that's not what killed the Impala. Stephanie Brinley is an auto analyst with IHS Markit.

STEPHANIE BRINLEY: The Impala is a great family car - problem is today consumers are tending to choose utility vehicles for family cars.

DOMONOSKE: Americans love SUVs, and carmakers make more money off those bigger vehicles. Those forces have killed lots of sedans. That, in turn, has killed some jobs. But it hasn't killed the Detroit-Hamtramck plant, where the Impala was assembled. GM and the autoworkers union agreed to save the plant. Kristin Dziczek is with the Center for Automotive Research.

KRISTIN DZICZEK: It's a lot of money that they're putting into Detroit-Hamtramck.

DOMONOSKE: The plant will be converted to make electric vehicles. And the Impala - well, the nameplate was discontinued and brought back twice before, so fans of the car might hold onto some hope.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I WISH")

SKEE-LO: (Rapping) I wish. I wish.

DOMONOSKE: Camila Domonoske, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I WISH")

SKEE-LO: (Rapping) I wish. I wish. I wish. I wish. I wish. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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