Cars that should have succeeded... but didn't

The GTO nameplate worked is the US on models like this 1970 Pontiac but not when GM tried to rebadge Australian-built ...
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The GTO nameplate worked is the US on models like this 1970 Pontiac but not when GM tried to rebadge Australian-built Monaros as GTOs.

 

Cars sometimes sell well even though they don't really deserve to. That is a lucky break for manufacturers, so they take those wins when they can.

On the other hand, sometimes a really good car fails. It can happen for any number of reasons and does on a surprisingly regular basis. Here we look at five cars that should have been a success, but weren't.

Volkswagen Phaeton

Phaeton offered VW Group customers an alternative to Bentley and Audi. No thanks, said almost everybody.
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Phaeton offered VW Group customers an alternative to Bentley and Audi. No thanks, said almost everybody.

Introduced at the 2002 Geneva Motor Show, the Phaeton was the brainchild of then-VW boss Ferdinand Piech as an uber-luxury saloon that would surpass Mercedes-Benz and BMW in terms of comfort and quality. Possibly forgetting he had Audi in the VW Group already, Piech forged ahead with his grand plan and produced a huge luxury VW that shared its platform with the Bentley Continental (oh yeah, that's right, VW had Bentley too) that was superbly luxurious and utterly overlooked by luxury limo buyers.

Why did it fail? No one was ever going to drop megabucks on a luxury limo with a VW badge. It's such a shame that VW didn't have a luxury brand like Audi or Bentley. Oh, hang on...

Tucker 48

Tucker 48 was truly innovative for 1948 - a real challenge to the establishment. Insert conspiracy theory here.
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Tucker 48 was truly innovative for 1948 - a real challenge to the establishment. Insert conspiracy theory here.

Widely known as the "Torpedo", the one and only Tucker sedan was a remarkably advanced car for its time (1948). Featuring futuristic styling, the rear-engined, RWD car also boasted advanced safety features such as an integrated roll bar and a padded dash (yeah, that was advanced), as well as that revolutionary centre headlight that would turn with the car's steering.

Why did it fail? Well, that's a contentious issue. Only 51 cars were made before the company folded amongst allegations of stock fraud (which Preston Tucker was later cleared of) and there is no doubt that financial management wasn't Tucker's strongpoint. However, the prevailing theory is that Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, along with a friendly senator, all had a hand in engineering Tucker's downfall.

Suzuki Kizashi

Suzuki did almost everything right with the mid-sized Kizashi. But it was the wrong size for a Suzuki.
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Suzuki did almost everything right with the mid-sized Kizashi. But it was the wrong size for a Suzuki.

Riding high on the global success of the Swift, Suzuki decided it was a grown-up car maker now and should have a crack at the larger mid-size market, so in 2009 it launched the Kizashi. Three years later it was dead. The Kizashi was a good-looking, nicely built, well-equipped medium sized car that drove well, but buyers ignored it in quite a spectacular fashion.

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Why did it fail? People simply didn't think of Suzuki as a manufacturer of larger cars. It wasn't helped by the fact that, for everything Suzuki did so right with the Kizashi, they did something very wrong by putting a CVT in it.

Subaru SVX

Subaru SVX was a bubble car: a bubble-economy that is. Then it went pop.
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Subaru SVX was a bubble car: a bubble-economy that is. Then it went pop.

A big, futuristic, handsome wedge, the SVX was a technological tour-de-force that was the most advanced car Subaru had ever built when it first appeared in 1991. With a 3.3-litre boxer six engine, four-wheel drive (in some markets it was sold as a 2WD) and four-wheel steering the SVX was packed with technology and was to be Subaru's advance into the burgeoning luxury sports coupe segment that was taking hold in Japan during "bubble economy" of 1986 to 1991.

Why did it fail? That bubble burst. Legend goes that Subaru ended up losing US$75 million on the SVX project, or around US$3000 on every SVX it sold…

Pontiac GTO/G8

Holden Monaro-based GTO not American enough for US. Or too American for an Australian-built car. Or something.
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Holden Monaro-based GTO not American enough for US. Or too American for an Australian-built car. Or something.

Okay, so we all know the Holden Commodore is an undoubted sales success, based on a simple and very American formula - big, RWD and available with a V8. So it made perfect sense that exporting that formula back to the US should work well, right? Well, no it didn't. Despite the GTO ticking all the right boxes (big, RWD, V8) the Pontiac version of the revitalised Monaro didn't inspire buyers. Neither did the next attempt to sell the sedan as the Pontiac G8 or a Chevrolet.

Why did it fail? Some customers complained that a rebadged Australian car didn't deserve to wear the GTO badge. There was pushback from the US unions over GM importing an Australian-built car. It was too small to appeal to Americans. All of this and more.

 - Stuff

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