The other day I was met with a sight that inspired me to revisit my ‘Random Car Of The Day’ topic from a couple of months ago. The car in question, a Chrysler Crossfire, is a car that despite it’s sound underpinnings never really managed to convince many buyers to choose it’s blend of American styling and German engineering, even on the other side of the Atlantic. It has taken me nearly a week to get around to writing about my encounter, but after reading a list of other unpopular cars it has inspired me to do my own.
Although some of the cars on this list also feature on the one I read, my observations are my own and I would probably have thought of them myself anyway 🙂
BMW 5 GT:
Maybe it’s a little premature to call BMW’s hatchback version of the 5 Series a failure but that does seem to sum up how it has fared in it’s 5 year life span. Actually 5 years is a lot longer than I’d imagined the car had been on sale, going by the number I see on the roads…and I live very close to a large BMW dealership! In theory the GT is a sound vehicle; enhance both the practicality and luxury of the 5 series saloon/estate in a more exclusive shape…think along the lines of the Audi A7 and you won’t be far off the concept behind BMW’s competitor. What they failed to grasp though was the importance that style has to buyers in this market…I mean yes the badge does sell cars to a large extent but when you’re in £45k territory there is a lot of talented, good looking opposition to choose from. BMW have tried to sell more 5 GT’s by offering smaller/more efficient engines and good finance rates, but I still don’t think this has improved sales very much. Interestingly though they have introduced a smaller 3 GT which is not as offensive on the eyes – so who knows they may try another 5 GT with sleeker styling in a few years.
Given that Chrysler are now in bed with Fiat it seems strange to think that less than a decade ago they were partnered with Mercedes-Benz and shunting out models like the Crossfire; a small coupe/roadster with retro hot-rod looks and SLK-underpinnings. On the face of it it wasn’t such an appalling idea for Chrysler to effectively repackage MB models and add their own styling flair and engines, but given the quality issues that Mercedes was suffering in this period maybe it isn’t a surprise to learn that Chrysler skimped on their own interior costs. In terms of the Crossfire this was accentuated by the fact that the SLK was not a particularly great car anyway – it’s styling looks and retractable metal roof were what sold it to customers, so taking those points away and grafting a new body on top of the wobbly 7 year old platform starts to appear less wise. For brand-obsessed UK buyers the Chrysler badge also didn’t hold much kudos in the company car park, and after a few years of disappointing sales the model was one of several dropped from Chrysler UK’s line up – shortly before it disappeared from production altogether!
Citroen C3 Pluriel:
The Pluriel is a reassuring example of French quirkiness, but unfortunately for Citroen was not one that captured the hearts and wallets of most buyers. Convertible superminis were, for a while, hot property on the car market; cars like the Peugeot 206 CC, Nissan Micra CC and MINI cabrio all showed that there was money to be made, and with one successful coupe-cabrio under their belt the Peugeot-Citroen duo decided they wanted to offer an alternative with a difference. The C3 Pluriel was the result and offered about 6 different configurations with it’s trick roof and side pillars; a full length canvas roof combined with removable pillars meant the car could be anything from a hatchback to a quasi-pickup truck. In theory a car as flexible and potentially practical as the Pluriel could have been a success story, but it wasn’t…interior quality wasn’t up to much and there have been murmurings of leaky roofs etc. Plus there was the fact that if the car was converted into full-on cabrio mode you had to have somewhere to store the pillars, and if it rained then you would get wet! After poor sales the Pluriel was discontinued in 2010, but you can still get the C3 with it’s full length canvas roof.
Mercedes R Class:
It pains me to say it but the R Class was definitely a ‘miss’ on the part of niche-king Mercedes Benz. Taking the underpinnings of the ML/GL SUV’s and grafting a more practical MPV-esque body on top was supposed to answer the prayers of well-heeled families across the world, but thanks primarily to questionable front end styling and unfocused market positioning it has become another ‘what if’ in the motoring record books. The problem with the R is that is stank of half completed market research – MPV’s offer the practicality needs of many wealthy families but prefer the butch styling and powerful engines of cars like the Land Rover Discovery and Volvo XC90. Mercedes spotted a gap in the market but fuzzed it up by offering an awkwardly styled vehicle with the body of an extra-large MPV with powerful but inefficient engines; effectively a crossover like the Chevrolet Traverse and it’s GMC/Buick siblings but which not quite butch enough. Maybe Mercedes was scared the car would steal sales from it’s more expensive (and profitable) GL sibling, but whatever the reason it left the R to fend for itself in a market where it was too expensive compared to cars like the Renault Espace and offered few advantages over traditional SUV rivals. A 2010 facelift improved things dramatically but in a post-recession world there were few buyers daring enough to take a chance on a big thirsty car with poor residuals.
Poor Vauxhall couldn’t put a foot right back in the middle of last decade; a line up of dull-but-worthy cars (including my own Astra) met little critical acclaim, and despite presenting a range of new, improved models the brand still sat behind Ford in the UK sales charts. However where Vauxhall still had the lead over it’s rival was in the large saloon market, with it’s popular Omega; the darling of police forces and caravaners it faced no serious rivals after Ford discontinued the Scorpio in 1998, but by 2003 it was seriously dated. It’s replacement was based on the Vectra and was essentially the same vehicle but with a proper hatchback rear and near-limousine levels of rear leg room…an odd mix maybe and as it turns out not one that was well received by the general public. Maybe if Vauxhall had pulled some strings and sold a version of the Holden Commodore (as it does now with it’s VXR8 performance model) then they’d have had more success, but the non-premium large saloon market has all but vanished anyway so I can’t blame them for not having bothered.
There are plenty of other motoring fails out there, if anyone cares to comment on one I’ve missed then feel free 🙂