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37 Failed Cars From World-Renowned Brands

Vukasin Herbez December 18, 2018

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15. Buick Reatta

It seems like everybody forgot about the sleek Buick Reatta. Introduced in the late ’80s, the Reatta was Buick’s halo car, and it was a cool-looking two-seater coupe or convertible built on shortened GM’s E platform.

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Under the hood was a 3.8-liter V6 with independent suspension and disc brakes all around. All Reattas were highly-optioned cars, and despite dating from the late ’80s, they featured board computers and lots of pretty modern electronic systems. The production lasted four years, and over 21,000 were made. Even though the Reatta was a composed and well-executed car, it was considered a flop.

Photo Credit: Fiat Wa

14. Fiat 500X

The Fiat 500 is a cute little car, especially if you have an Abarth version. The 500 L is bigger, a bit more practical, but not particularly nice or dynamic to drive. The 500X is even worse. It looks like a compact SUV but doesn’t have anything going on. The Fiat 500x is two-wheel drive, slow, and odd-looking.

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It isn’t really a surprise that 500X is a flop; it is terrible value for the money, and it doesn’t offer any real advantages over other cars. Also, it is no surprise that Fiat has withdrawn from the US market as well.

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13. Pontiac GTO (2004 to 2006)

The last generation of the beloved Pontiac GTO was one of the best examples of both missed opportunities and car flops. The Holden-built and LS-powered GTO was a proper muscle car with a powerful engine, sleek design, modern suspension, and brutal performance. And all of that in an affordable package with a long list of desirable options. So why was it on the market for just a couple of years, and why did Pontiac sell just around 40,000 of them?

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Well, the reason was simple and similar to the previously listed Pontiac G8. The GTO appeared in the time when Pontiac was mostly known for failures like the Aztek. Regular customers just didn’t connect the Pontiac brand with performance in the same way as buyers did in the ’60s or ’70s. For modern buyers, Pontiac was just another tired old nameplate from GM’s roster. Also, the fact that the GTO was, in fact, an Australian product didn’t help since traditional muscle car customers like their cars to be American.

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12. Chrysler Aspen

The Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango were practically identical models with only exterior differences. However, while Durango was very popular, Aspen was discontinued after just three years on the market. The problem was the fact that Aspen was pushed towards higher segments of the market and competitors from Cadillac and Lincoln.

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Unfortunately, Chrysler didn’t have what it takes to take away those customers, and it sold poorly. Today, those big SUVs with eight seats are perfect secondhand luxury models.

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11. Honda Insight

The Honda Insight is a hybrid vehicle introduced back in 1999 and featured a strange design with a lightweight body structure that helped achieve a great fuel economy and reduce emissions. However, the first generation, which was discontinued in 2006, was almost an experimental model and sold in limited quantities. The second generation, introduced in 2009, was a much more mature and conventional car, with enough room for five passengers. It also has decent handling and driving characteristics, and a very efficient hybrid drivetrain. Back in 2009, the world went crazy for hybrids, and Toyota Prius and Honda Insight were introduced just in time.

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It even features better performance, a more upscale interior, and several more advanced systems than in the Prius. But, the sales figures were pretty low, and Insight was lagging behind the Prius. The Insight was more expensive, and in an economic recession, like in 2009, the price was very important to the average buyer. Second, it looked like a copy of the Prius. Not only technologically but aesthetically as well. Honda said that it chose a five-door hatchback style because of its aerodynamic qualities, but the finished product looked like the Prius, and people didn’t want to pay more for a copy.

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10. Cadillac ELR

The ELR should have been a success but turned to be a failure and a forgotten model even though it’s just two years old. GM’s premium plug-in hybrid was eagerly expected, but the market seemed to ignore it as soon as it was introduced.

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Despite its cool looks and premium appointments, the ELR had an underachieving drivetrain, which consisted of a 1.4-liter engine, electric motor, and a pack of lithium-ion batteries. The power output was somewhat satisfying at 217 HP, but the electric-only range was disappointing at just 37 miles. In the end, the base price of $76,000 seemed too much for what the car offered. All of that resulted in less than 3000 units sold, which was embarrassingly low. Cadillac discontinued the model after just two years on the market.

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9. Renault Le Car

Back in the early ’70s, economy models were very popular, and foreign companies started importing cars on the American market in significant numbers. French company Renault was present in the US and thought that it would be a great idea to send its new supermini called Renault 5 to America. Called Le Car, the new car was meant to be a competitor to the newly introduced Volkswagen Golf/Rabbit and various Japanese imports. But there was a problem.

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The US safety standards imposed the use of different bumpers and grille, and the 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine only developed 51 hp in the US-spec model. Painfully slow, strangely designed, small, and badly put together, Le Car soon became a subject of jokes, and it was considered the worst choice in the compact car class. Renault struggled to sell them and eventually pulled out of the market. Despite the success of Renault 5 in Europe, Le Car is considered a terrible failure in the eyes of the American car public.

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8. Merkur XR4 Ti

During the ’80s, Ford attempted several approaches in order to revive its performance image, and one of them is the introduction of the Merkur XR4Ti model. This was basically British Ford Sierra but packed with the special aero package, 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, and various other improvements.

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Ford envisioned it as a hot hatch with rear-wheel drive, racing credentials, and better driving dynamics than front-wheel-drive competitors. Unfortunately, Merkur XR4Ti proved to be unsuccessful since it was expensive, and the American market just didn’t understand Ford’s attempt.

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7. Pontiac Aztec

Introduced in 2000, Pontiac Aztek was a good idea, at least on paper The mid-size crossover model with sharp new styling, a decent engine lineup, and plenty of interior space was a pretty modern concept at the time. Pontiac was eager to present it to the public since overall sales were not so good, and they thought the new model would boost the popularity of the brand and bring new customers to the dealerships. The plan was sound, except for one thing – the design. Somehow, Pontiac designers managed to draw and push to production one of the ugliest cars ever made. Even from this distance 17 years after the first Aztek saw the light of day, it is still a car with a design that makes no sense whatsoever.

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The Aztek designer later designed a great-looking Corvette C7, and it is very strange how he managed to do such a bad job at Pontiac. The ugliness of the car and not great fit and finish quality sealed the Aztek faith despite some good aspects of this model. The Aztek had plenty of space inside, decent performance, higher than average equipment, and a big trunk. In fact, it would be a good family crossover if it wasn’t for the hideous design. In recent years, over a decade after they stopped producing them, Azteks are popular, mostly due to their appearance in the cult TV show “Breaking Bad” and first places in many “ugliest car” lists. Unfortunately, the Aztek failure affected Pontiac as a brand, and a couple of years later, Pontiac closed its doors for good.

Photo Credit: Motor 1

6. Honda CR-Z

When it was introduced in 2010, the CRZ was an innovative compact hybrid-powered coupe which looked like the spiritual successor of the legendary CRX. Unfortunately, it wasn’t even close, with the 1.5-liter engine and barely 130 HP along with heavy hybrid add-ons, CRZ was slow and not handled as it should. Needless to say, Honda drivers were pretty disappointed.

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Honda just didn’t have any luck with electric or hybrid cars, and CRZ didn’t help. After all the money invested in engineering and marketing, we are sure Honda wishes that the CRZ never happened.

Photo Credit: Auto Week

5. Sterling 825

If you don’t know what the Sterling 825 is, nobody can blame you. Once marketed as the next big thing in the luxury segment on the American market, Sterling is now a forgotten brand that didn’t leave a mark and moved to automotive history’s margins. Sterling had an interesting story; it was basically a British company, established in the late ’80s with Honda’s capital and Rover’s design. Back then, Honda owned Rover and wanted to enter the American market with a luxury model. So they conceived the Sterling, a luxurious car based on the Acura Legend.

Photo Credit: Auto Week

It was quite a strange combination, but the finished product looked nice and had a well-designed interior and decent power from a V6 engine. After the introduction in 1987 and promising sales numbers in the first few months, the first problems showed up. The Sterlings were pretty poorly put together, the electronics were troublesome, and some cars even developed rust issues. Honda tried to improve the production process, but there wasn’t much they could do, and by the early ’90s, Sterling was gone, and nobody was sad about it. Not even Honda.

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4. Audi 5000

Today, Audi is one of the leading luxury brands in the American market. Still, in the late ’80s, the company was almost gone from US shores due to the news of unintended acceleration and numerous crashes as a reason for that. In 1986, a popular CBS TV show “60 Minutes” ran a feature about Audi’s unintended acceleration on the popular 5000 model. The viewers didn’t see that the car was rigged and that the acceleration featured in the show wasn’t genuine. After the show was aired, the car community was buzzing, and Audi’s reputation was badly damaged.

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Audi responded by publishing numerous tests and videos showing that the only possible way of something like this happening is if the driver’s foot slips from brake to accelerator pedal. Still, it didn’t help, and sales hit rock bottom. Despite the fact that “60 Minutes” published a false story and it was proven that Audi didn’t have acceleration problems, the damage was done and it took the company two decades to recover. It’s still unclear why CBS did this feature. Was another rival car company behind it?

Photo Credit: Consumer Guide

3. Saab 9-4 X

The Saab 9-4X was a compact luxury crossover SUV that was built on the Cadillac SRX basis and intended as a competitor in the premium field. It was introduced in 2011 just before the company was closed by the GM. At the moment, Saab was desperate and needed anything to catch the attention of the car-buying public. The company turned to GM looking for an SUV platform, which can be turned into Saab’s own model.

Photo Credit: Car And Driver

Its very short production run means that only around 800 9-4X were made, which makes this Saab one of the rarest models ever made by this company and an extremely rare sight on the roads. Most people don’t know the car existed.

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2. GMC Envoy XUV

The GMC Envoy is a fairly popular model, and all through the years, it sold well even on some export markets. However, the XUV version, introduced in 2004, was a different case. At GM, somebody thought it would be a great idea to combine the SUV with the pickup truck and presented the XUV with its removable roof panel and opening tailgate.

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The XUV was more practical, obviously, but it was more expensive, heavier, and buyers simply didn’t get the idea. It was discontinued just after a year in production.

Photo Credit: Motor 1

1. Range Rover Evoque Convertible

The Evoque Convertible is a pretty unique car in today’s market because it is the only convertible SUV currently on sale. It is the answer to the question nobody asked, but it looks like fun, and if you want an SUV but you crave an open-top car, then this is the one. For a $42,000 base price, you will get a 240 hp turbocharged engine, luxury features, and a special vehicle.

Photo Credit: Auto Blog

But the real question is should you do buy this since Evoque Convertible is nothing more than a full-size Barbie car which is no good as an SUV and no good as a roadster. Entirely pointless, and it’s no wonder it is sales flop.

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