Lexus has experienced a pretty successful run in the U.S. for a brand that was only started 30 years ago. But the brand has had some failures from time to time. The Lexus CT was directed toward consumers who wanted a luxury car with crossover features. While the design of the Lexus CT was attractive at the time, it just didn’t resonate with the standard clientele who went to Lexus dealerships.
With a hybrid powertrain, the Lexus CT was extremely well-appointed from the gate. But maybe Toyota would have been better off by marketing this as a Toyota branded model instead. Traditional Lexus buyers just aren’t going for these gimmick-style vehicles and this model’s sad sales represented that.
Right on the heels of the minivan revolution, Toyota wanted to design a van that was “cool.” The Master Ace was created and sold in Japan and America. The van that we got over here was simply called the “van” and it had some unique features. There were pull-out tables inside of the van and an optional TV setup which was great for trips. The skylights over gave the van an open feeling with its high roofline.
Because of the design of the van, the placement of the engine is under the front seating. This means that doing maintenance was a nightmare. Toyota had a few blunders when it came to the minivan market – this was just the first.
Released in the mid-2000s, the Lexus HS was quite the odd duckling. With a pudgy design, this short compact car was marketed as a premium luxury hybrid. Sadly, Lexus buyers weren’t amused by the stubby car’s appearance or its high price tag. It was outsold by the IS, ES, and even the larger LS. Sales were so poor that Lexus was highly discounting these models by the end of the 2012 model year.
Likewise, there were a few other experiments that came out of Lexus around this time. But when it comes to failed car models, the HS was among the worst. The design was just not imaginative and the car lacked the usual Lexus quality that buyers have come to expect.
The next Toyota van failed to create the kind of buzz the company had hoped for. Although the design was redone and a lot more modern, the overall design was not what people were looking for. For some reason, Toyota was stuck in the design theme of cramming an engine underneath the driver. This was not a design type people were seeking on minivans any longer. Even Ford had moved on.
Nevertheless, the Previa trudged on for the early part of the 1990s. There were some interesting features such as a turbo package and an AWD package. Had the design been a little bit different the Previa would have been a better-selling model.
Toyota had a few coupe models on the market around the early part of the ’90s, so why they felt the need to chop the Tercel is beyond us. The Paseo didn’t bring any new performance to the table, and the car was extremely small. Performance was lethargic although the car did have better styling than the bland Tercel. Later on in life, the Paseo was given a refresh with a new fascia design but it was too late.
The car just didn’t connect with the buyers that Toyota had hoped for. There was stiff competition from the Honda Del-Sol and other fun-to-drive cheap cars on the market. In a world with tons of compact cars, the Paseo just didn’t present enough of a choice for consumers.
This truck was a project from the executives at Toyota to try and launch a full-sized truck in the states. The Hilux was immensely popular, but sadly, the T100 just didn’t catch on. When it came to design, the truck was just plain ugly. Lacking the full-size characteristics that you’d expect a truck to have. Instead, the T100 was sort of in the middle, which at the time wasn’t in style. The Dodge Dakota later did this but in a nicer package.
There is no denying that the Toyota T100 was a massive failure for the company. People just didn’t connect with the truck on any level. With an underpowered setup and a lack of options the T100 just didn’t stand out from the crowd. Toyota later innovated with the Tundra full-size pickup truck which incorporated a V8 engine.
Drivers were not quite sure what Toyota was thinking with the Scion iQ, other than the fact that it was a filler model. The Scion brand was in dire straights at this point and Toyota decided to rebrand the Smart ForTwo is a Scion model. Aimed at buyers who spend a lot of time in the city, this was an extremely tiny car. It was also a huge departure from the traditional format that Scion had been going with for years prior.
What was initially a brand that was aimed at young consumers who wanted individuality, now lacked an identity. Sales for the Scion iQ were about as poor as you could get. Few buyers were intrigued by the new model as most didn’t want to deal with such a small vehicle.
After the failure of the Paseo, you’d think that the company had learned a lesson. The Toyota Solara was released in 1999 to again try and appeal to people who wanted fun cars. However, the convertible version of the Solara was sold with a weakened frame that caused a rigid ride. Aside from that most of the car was cheaply put together and a departure from the traditional Toyota quality drivers were used to.
Few cars have sold as poorly for Toyota as the Solara has, nevertheless the car remained for sale until the 2008 model year. The second generation of the car was slightly better, but overall, the Solara was a failure for the company.
There were few cars Toyota released that were more universally hated than the Echo. This egg-shaped compact car was released during the start of the new millennium and Toyota was once again trying to appeal to younger buyers. The car was nothing more than an updated version of the Tercel. But quality was still very poor and the fit and finish were not what you’d expect from a Toyota model.
Sales were extremely poor and the Echo was sold for a few years until there was a refresh on it. Two models of the Echo were available, a two-door and a four-door model. Toyota managed to sell another version of the car that was called the Yaris later on.
The second generation of the Toyota Prius became one of the best-selling and most popular cars of all time. But a few years before that success was the short and stubby egg-shaped Prius that many have forgotten about. Do you remember this weird-looking little car? Probably not, as sales for it were almost abysmal. Toyota tried to market the Prius at a time when cars like this were still very new.
The only competition for the car was the newly released Honda Insight, which also lacked in features and capability. It’s amazing to see just how far hybrids have come from these early days of being vehicles that were fairly limited to drive and own.
Toyota earned some credit by pushing alternative energy vehicles long before it was fashionable. But the first-generation Toyota RAV4 EV was bulky, expensive, and had limited range. The vehicle was sold in very low numbers in California and a few other states. Toyota would show the vehicle off at different trade shows and you could lease one as well. With a limited driving range and expensive repairs, the first-generation RAV4 was just not practical.
Later on, Toyota added modern features and a redesign to the model, which just recently was discontinued after almost a decade in service. It’s interesting to look back and see just what Toyota went through with these first-time designs.
Japanese automakers have had a tough time selling full-size pickup trucks to consumers who were loyal to domestic brands. So how did Toyota consider improving the sales of the first generation Tundra? Slap a Terminator sticker on the front and paint it black, of course. The Toyota Tundra Terminator T3 Edition was released to coincide with the movie released in 2003. The brand figured that the product placement would give the truck some much-needed visibility and toughness.
Unfortunately, the finished package was nothing more than a paint scheme and a higher price tag. There were 850 of these models manufactured in the total run. Toyota hasn’t since done another type of product placement like this one, and that should be a sign it regrets ever building this model.