If you don’t know what the Sterling 825 is, nobody can blame you. They once marketed it as the next big thing in the luxury segment on the American market. But sadly, the Sterling is now a forgotten brand that didn’t make its mark. Soon, it moved to the margins of automotive history. The Sterling had an interesting story. It was basically a British company they established in the late ’80s with Honda’s capital and Rover’s design.
But after the introduction of the 825 in 1987 and promising sales numbers in the first few months, problems showed up. The Sterling was poorly put together. Also, 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. So, by the early ’90s, the Sterling was gone yet nobody was sad about it including Honda.
When they presented it in 2010, the CRZ was an innovative compact hybrid-powered coupe. It looked like a spiritual successor to the legendary CRX. Unfortunately, it wasn’t even close, with the 1.5-liter engine producing barely 130 HP. Along with the heavy hybrid add-ons, the CRZ was slow and didn’t handle as it should.
So, needless to say, the Honda guys were disappointed. They marketed the CRZ as the successor to the light, nimble and lively CRX of the ’80s. However, it wasn’t even close. Above all else, it had a high price for its class, which left many buyers angry.
Lexus insists it is a brand that can beat German cars in the luxury game. And sure enough, it tries hard to do so. However, sometimes the failure is obvious, like in the case of the CT 200 H. Marketed as a premium compact hatch with a performance edge, the CT 200 H is nothing more than a Prius in fancy clothes.
This means it is painfully slow and dull to drive, making it embarrassing at a stoplight. This is not something people want to buy. In fact, every magazine that tested the 200 CT H was disappointed with its slow performance and poor driving dynamics.
In 1970, the hottest Corvette delivered 435 HP. But in 1980, the hottest Corvette produced a disappointing 180 HP. And in California, it was even 10 HP less due to stricter emission standards. So, what happened in just 10 years and where did all those horses go?
When the recession, emission standards, and safety regulations appeared, they killed almost all the performance of the legendary Corvette. Unfortunately, the 1980 Corvette a dinosaur with old technology under its plastic skin. Also, it had a lazy engine and an outdated interior. Unfortunately, it still looked like business, but the years caught up with it and the disco era was over.
The SV-1 was the brainchild of automotive entrepreneur Malcolm Bricklin. The Bricklin company produced it from 1974 to 1975 with less than 3,000 cars. For a short while, they marketed the SV-1 as the most advanced American sports car. However, as soon as the first cars started rolling down the assembly line, it was clear the SV-1 was not what people expected it to be.
Their idea was to produce a safe-yet-fast sports car with the name SV-1 for Safety Vehicle One. Bricklin designed the car with big bumpers and numerous additional features like warring sensors. It also came with power Gullwing doors and an integrated roll cage, making it heavy and not agile. It also came without any cigarette lighters. Power came from the 360 AMC V8 engine, which wasn’t powerful. Later the company turned to the 351 Ford V8, but it still couldn’t deliver any real performance. The public praised the SV-1 for its dedication to safety but criticized it for its lack of performance. Its heavyweight, high price tag, and poor build quality killed this car, ranking it among our list of flops.
After the debacle of the Chevrolet Corvair in the ’60s, the company was reluctant to enter the compact market again. But since the segment grew, Chevrolet didn’t have a choice. They presented the new Chevrolet Vega as a 1971 model. The Vega was a compact modernly-styled model with three basic body styles, a two-door coupe, two-door sedan, and a practical three-door wagon.
The front end closely resembled the design of the 1971 Camaro with a similar grille, headlights, and bumper. In 1975, Chevrolet even introduced an interesting although not-so-successful Vega Cosworth model. It featured a high revving 2.0-liter four-cylinder twin-cam motor that delivered 110 HP. Although it wasn’t particularly fast or strong, the Vega Cosworth was attractive with an interesting black and gold paint job and unique wheels. Still, it rated as one of many sales flops of its time.
In the 1980s, everybody expected another GTO from Pontiac. However, they got a small sports car that was similar to something Italians would build. It was a bold move for Pontiac to introduce a compact rear-wheel-drive car with the engine positioned in the center and pair it up with a five-speed manual transaxle gearbox.
For the standards of the day, this was the most advanced American production model. Car customers were hyped by the appearance of the Fiero for its cool, modern design and advanced technology. The initial response was more than they expected. In 1983, sales figures were over 130,000 cars. Pontiac didn’t develop the Fiero, and early models were badly put together. The engine power wasn’t good great and the interior was cramped. GM responded by upgrading the car, and by the end of the ’80s, the Fiero was a sports car with 150 HP from a 2.8-liter V6 engine. Unfortunately, safety hazards made it one of the worst American sports car flops.
During the ’80s, Ford attempted several approaches in order to revive its performance image. One of them was the introduction of the Merkur XR4Ti model. This was basically a British Ford Sierra packed with a special aero package, a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and other improvements.
Ford envisioned it as a hot hatch with rear-wheel drive, racing credentials, and better driving dynamics than its front-wheel-drive competitors. Unfortunately, the Merkur XR4Ti proved to be unsuccessful since it was expensive, ranking among sales flops as the American market did not understand Ford’s vision.
The hot rod culture is one of the key pieces of overall American automotive culture. However, no company ever dared to present a factory-built hot rod until 1997 when Plymouth presented the Prowler. It was a retro-futuristic roadster with a V6 engine and a unique look.
They imagined the Prowler as a follow-up to the Viper. Fortunately, the Prowler was a hit on the show circuit, and Chrysler understandably wanted to capitalize on that. Despite having some initial success, the car proved to be a failure and now ranks as one of the biggest sales flops. Customers expected V8 power instead of V6 power.
Pontiac got the message with the success of the GTO Concept in 1999. But the biggest problem was that they planned to discontinue the Firebird/Trans Am so there was no appropriate platform or design to base the GTO on. Pontiac and General Motors didn’t have the time or money to invest in a new platform, so GM looked to its subsidiaries, finding the perfect car in Australia. Holden, GM’s Australian branch, produced a rear-wheel-drive muscle car called the Monaro. It sat on a modern chassis with a sleek two-door body just like the original GTO. It also had an independent rear suspension and disc brakes. GM’s plan was to import the Monaro to the USA and rebadge it as a GTO.
But things didn’t work out as they planned. The first year for the modern GTO was 2004 and the car received universal praise from the buyers and the car press. Under the hood was the LS1 5.7-liter V8 with 350 HP, delivering enough performance to be one of the hottest American cars for 2004. The target sales figure was 18,000 and Pontiac sold almost 14,000, which was considered a success. Pontiac presented the 400 HP 6.2-liter engine, delivering better performance in 2005. Although it had a 0 to 60 mph time of just 4.6 seconds, sales started to decline to 11,000 and threatening to rank it among flops in 2006. The car didn’t excite customers like the original GTO. The design was restrained and not aggressive. Although it was fast, as an overall package, the new GTO didn’t appeal to drivers, which was the main reason for its early demise.
The Samurai sold well in the states from 1985 to 1989. But then a harsh Consumer Reports article brutally interrupted its career. It stated that the Samurai was a small death trap on wheels. The article explained that this little SUV was prone to roll-overs that had been the cause of many accidents, including some with fatal outcomes.
Suzuki sued Consumer Reports claiming that this wasn’t true, and the case dragged on for 10 years. Eventually, they settled out of court. Although some independent reporters proved the little Samurai was a bit unstable, it was not as catastrophically lethal as Consumer Reports claimed. Unfortunately, the damage was done and they withdrew the Samurai from the U.S. market, even though they continued to sell it to the rest of the world. Today, you can find the Samurai here and there, and the controversy about its stability could add value at some point.
If you think the industry has invented all the car classes it possibly could, you’re wrong. There’s always room for more concepts. One of those was Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet. If you’re not familiar with this car, that’s because Nissan only offered it for sale from 2011 to 2014. Also, they limited production to small numbers.
Nissan realized SUVs were getting more luxurious and people were seeking a more personalized product. The company decided to go a step further and present a convertible SUV. It would have the advantages of an SUV in terms of ride height, comfort, and usability with the luxury and open-air feel of a convertible. Despite the almost bespoke nature of this car and dependable Nissan technology, the CrossCabriolet flopped.
Honda’s luxury division, Acura, is famous for its elegant cars, powerful engines, and quality. But did you know the company is also famous for the strange and ugly model called the ZDX? Acura offered it for just three years as its attempt to present the combinations of a sedan, a crossover, and an SUV. It ended up being none of the three.
Despite the smart technical layout, decent power, and interior features, car buyers simply didn’t like the ZDX. By the time they discontinued it, Acura managed to sell just 7,200 of them.
The Fiat 500 is a cute little car, especially if you have the Abarth version. The 500L is bigger and a bit more practical, but it’s not particularly nice or dynamic to drive. Sadly, the 500X is even worse. It looks like a compact SUV, but it doesn’t have anything going on. Although it is a two-wheel-drive vehicle, it’s sluggish and odd-looking.
For those reasons, it isn’t a surprise that the 500X is a flop. It’s a terrible value for the money and doesn’t offer any real advantages over other cars. Also, it’s no surprise that Fiat has withdrawn the 500X from the U.S. market, as well. These are the top 40 cars everyone should avoid by any means. Have you ever owned or driven one of them? If so, you understand the disappointment and frustration they brought to their owners.