Ten Failed Cars That Should Have Been Successful

We like to think that if a carmaker builds a good car, people will buy it. Jalopnik readers know that’s not always the case.


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It’s an open question if American car buyers really know what’s good for them. We choose SUVs and crossovers over more-efficient station wagons.  We prefer sedans to more spacious hatchbacks. When GM brought over the high-quality Opel Astra as a Saturn, everyone bought the third-generation Ford Focus instead, a car that looked like it fell down a flight of stairs and was made out of melted Tupperware.

When Honda came out with the Civic in 2012, people bought the car up with glee, even though Honda had made the car demonstrably worse inside and out compared to the previous generation.

You could say that Americans just like cars that eat up highway miles, aren’t too fancy, and don’t make our neighbors think we’re weird. You could also say that we wouldn’t know a really fine car if it bit us in the ass.

Now, before we go on to the rest of our list, we will warn you and say that we stuck to the American market for this one, if only to emphasize the irrationality of our car buying public. We have dozens of honorable mentions from car markets across the globe, and please help us fill them out in Kinja below.

Photo Credit: RedTail_Panther

Ten Failed Cars That Should Have Been Successful

10.) Pontiac GTO/G8

GM did what we all want: they brought over a pair of the big, V8, rear wheel drive cars they make in Australia. Top Gear loved them. The car mags loved them. Nobody bought them. People couldn’t get past that the GTO looked just like a Cavalier and then the G8 came out in a recession.

Suggested By: waveridin1959 and Tumeke, Photo Credit: Jerry Vo

Ten Failed Cars That Should Have Been Successful

9.) First-Generation Infiniti Q45

While Lexus sold a gazillion of their facelifted-Camry ES and Mercedes-knockoff LS models in the late '80s/early ‘90s, Infiniti could hardly give away their frankly wonderful, very powerful Q45. Maybe it was their weird ads, maybe it was just that American carbuyers value chintzy flash over deep quality.

Suggested By: SennaMP4, Photo Credit: Infiniti 

Ten Failed Cars That Should Have Been Successful

8.) Subaru SVX

It was the most advanced car Subaru had ever made, filled with features, futuristic styling, and a flat six engine. Too bad it just missed the golden years of Japan’s bubble economy and came out in a recession.

Suggested By: Brian, The Life of, Photo Credit: Christopher Keach

Ten Failed Cars That Should Have Been Successful

7.) Suzuki Kizashi

Suzuki is dead in the US now, but we can’t blame their last family sedan, which was actually a very fine-driving car. We can only assume that the average American didn’t buy one because he or she forgot that Suzuki made cars.

Suggested By: SennaMP4, Photo Credit: Jalopnik 

Ten Failed Cars That Should Have Been Successful

6.) Merkur XR4Ti

We car enthusiasts always badger American carmakers to bring over their high quality European hatchbacks, particularly the rally-prepped performance variants. Ford bit the bullet a couple decades back and gave us the Sierra XR4Ti, rebadged as a Merkur. Nobody put their money where their mouth was and the car was a flop. 

Suggested By: Brian, The Life of, Photo Credit: Merkur

Ten Failed Cars That Should Have Been Successful

5.) Mazda6 Wagon/Mazdaspeed6

There was so much going for the first generation Mazda6. It had sharp styling, you could order it as one of the last good family wagons, and there was even an STI-for-grownups Mazdaspeed version. Instead, everyone bought a Camry.

Suggested By: I275westflorida and 6cyl, Photo Credit: Michael Banovsky 

Ten Failed Cars That Should Have Been Successful

4.) Second-Generation Corvair

When GM saw in the very early '60s that the cheapo Ford Falcon was selling better and cost less to make than the first-gen Corvair, GM pretty much dumped their avant-garde, rear-engine car for the conventional, front-engine Chevy II/Nova. When GM came out with the second-generation Corvair, which had Corvette rear suspension and gorgeous styling, management already planned on cancelling it.

Oh, and a few people got horribly killed in first-generation cars thanks to improperly inflated tires/GM’s penny-pinching on the suspension, so few people took a chance on the totally-improved second generation car.

Suggested By: 2 Wheels awesome!, Photo Credit: Chevrolet via OldCarBrochures 

Ten Failed Cars That Should Have Been Successful

3.) Civic Si Hatch

We moan that Honda doesn’t make great cars anymore. Well, one of the last great cars they sold over here, the European-style Civic Si, hardly made it out of the showrooms. See? American carbuyers don’t know what’s good for them.

Suggested By: Bonhomme7h, Photo Credit: mik salac

Ten Failed Cars That Should Have Been Successful

2.) VW Phaeton

The VW Phaeton was basically a Bentley Flying Spur without the ugly styling and the loud chrome. Brand-snobs that we Americans are, we just saw them as too-expensive Volkswagens and never bought any.

Suggested By: Jagvar, Photo Credit: Volkswagen

Ten Failed Cars That Should Have Been Successful

1.) Tucker Torpedo

Reader gt40mkii made a list of all of the groundbreaking features Preston Tucker’s Torpedo had back in 1948.

- A directional third headlight (which today’s manufacturers still advertise as innovative)
- Perimeter crash protection (like today’s door bars and integrated high strength steel safety cages)
- Ergonomic control layout
- Padded dash
- Shatter-proof front windshield
- Lockable parking brake for theft protection
- The doors extended into the floor for ease of entry/exit
- Collapsible Steering Column.
- First car to use the 'crash chamber" concept that all cars use now.
- First use of a subframe to make the engine/transmission easily removable as a unit (which all front-wheel-drive cars use now)

Naturally the car was a flop, because everyone was happier in a floppy, unsafe cars from Ford, GM, and Chrysler because nobody likes to step out of line and hey their cars have a lot of chrome.


Suggested By: gt40mkii, Photo Credit: Rex Gray