Great cars that arrived just a little too late

Finally, a great modern-era Saab. But 9-5 came just as the brand was drawing its final breath.
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Finally, a great modern-era Saab. But 9-5 came just as the brand was drawing its final breath.

 

Whether or not you are a fan of a particular brand, most car manufacturers are capable of building good cars. Although not always on purpose. And not always at the right time either. Sometimes it can be a great car that is out of step with current trends or style, or sometimes it's just too late.

Just as the Porsche Cayenne can be said to be the perfect vehicle at the perfect time (an expensive SUV right as the boom in SUV sales started, just when Porsche needed a massive cash injection to survive)... there are also a number of good cars that simply came too late to help their respective makers.

Saab 9-5

The second-generation 9-5 is a car that possibly could have been great, if it had been given a chance.

READ MORE:
* Next Holden Commodore will be French
* Some obscure Commodore facts
* Five cars with strange and silly design flaws

Very cool 9-5 wagon was launched just as Saab collapsed. Only 27 made.
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Very cool 9-5 wagon was launched just as Saab collapsed. Only 27 made.

Coming at the end of a decade that General Motors spent slowly beating Saab to death with a range of derivative designs, old, floppy platforms and a staggering amount of indifference, the 9-5 was widely praised upon its release under new owner, Dutch supercar manufacturer Spyker.

It looked sensational, packed an impressive amount of standard equipment for the money and even picked up a couple of Car of the Year awards in locations where it actually went on sale.

There was some mild criticism of cheap interior materials and not so sharp dynamics, but these were things that could easily be fixed in an update. That was never to be, as the 9-5 only lasted two years in production before Saab's slow, painful and messy death took it down. A grand total of 11,280 made.

Even worse, there was a super-sexy wagon version released literally at the last minute. The company only managed to make 27 of those before the bullet was finally put in Saab's squirming carcass.

Mitsubishi 380

Series III - in less than three years? Still, Mitsubishi 380 did all the right things. Except sell.
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Series III - in less than three years? Still, Mitsubishi 380 did all the right things. Except sell.

Back in 2005 there were still four car manufacturers in Australia - Holden, Ford, Toyota and Mitsubishi. Although that last one was looking very wobbly indeed.

The 380 was always seen as a "last chance" car for Mitsubishi Australia, as sales of the elderly Magna/Verada (known as the Diamante here) had been in freefall since 2000 and a staggering 84 percent of Australians expected Mitsubishi to stop manufacturing in Australia.

So, not the best environment to launch an all-new car into then.

As it turned out, however, the 380 was a rather good car that was vastly more stylish than the alarming-looking Magna. It was impressively equipped, packed a lot of new technology and was good to drive.

But people just weren't interested and the 380 stayed in production for just three years, with a revision each year that added more equipment and dropped the price further as Mitsubishi grew increasingly desperate to attract buyers.

It also collected numerous awards and much praise, but it simply wasn't enough and Mitsubishi stopped Australian production in March 2008.

Holden Commodore VF

Holden Commodore VF is a beaut car. But it'll cease to be as a new vehicle in October.
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Holden Commodore VF is a beaut car. But it'll cease to be as a new vehicle in October.

The VE Commodore of 2006 was the first entirely Australian-designed Commodore and was a very good car. The refreshed VF that came along in 2013 was even better. But it didn't matter.

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The decline in interest in large cars in this part of the world had seen the Commodore's sales sliding steadily since 2003 and even quite possibly the best Commodore ever made could do nothing to stop that.

From a high of just under 95,000 units in 1998, the Commodore's sales figures hung around the mid-to-high 80s for the next five years until the decline started in 2003. After that it was a plummet down to an all-time low of 27,266 units in 2013. Right when the VF was launched.

And six months later Holden announced it would cease manufacturing in Australia in 2017.

Sales jumped up to just over 30,000 the next year, but the decline resumed in 2015, despite the VF being almost universally acclaimed.

Pontiac G8

Aussie manufacturing couldn't save Pontiac any more than it could save itself.
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Aussie manufacturing couldn't save Pontiac any more than it could save itself.

Ah, the poor old VE Commodore - it has spawned two cars that were too little too late, despite being highly regarded.

The second is the G8 that was essentially a left-hand-drive VE with a new nose, sold under the Pontiac brand in the USA in 2008.

Unfortunately for the G8, Pontiac was yet another victim of General Motors' apparent drive to rid the world of as many car nameplates as possible and was in pretty dire shape by then.

Not helping was the fact that the global financial crisis had the US car makers almost on their knees and, in a bid to get its hand of some of that sweet, sweet bail-out money the US government was waving around, GM announced it was eliminating Saturn and selling Saab and Hummer.

As it turned out Saab was the only one that got sold off and Pontiac was thrown under the bus alongside Saturn and Hummer.

The G8 was highly regarded by American motoring journos and the buying public, but that really didn't matter in the face of looming bankruptcy.

 - Stuff

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