Jaguar XJ220

13 Unusual Cars No One Wants To Buy

Not every car can be a best-seller, despite what the manufacturers want. While there have been great automotive successes, many haven’t captured the public’s imagination.

Whether it’s a family sedan that proved hopelessly unreliable or a supercar with sub-par performance, history is littered with poor-selling automobiles that we can all relate to in some way.

This list will discuss some of the worst offenders and the reasons that drove people away. Some of our selections make sense; however, others might surprise you.

Suzuki X-90

1996 Suzuki X-90
Image Credit: Rutger van der Maar/WikiCommons.

Suzuki had a stab at the compact SUV segment with their early Samuari, but they decided to have another go at the small SUV with the little X-90. It was an unusual-looking SUV with a basic 1.6-liter 16-valve engine under the hood that produced just 95 hp.

Unfortunately, that is about as good as it gets for the SUV. Much like the early Samurai, the X-90 suffered from sharp cornering situations, causing it to roll over, which is dangerous to occupants and pedestrians. Sales dropped dramatically as the issue became apparent, and dealers had to slash X-90 prices to sell them.

Ram 1500 Classic

Dodge RAM 1500 Classic
Image Credit: Tony Webster/WikiCommons.

Regarding modern vehicles, the Ram 1500 Classic is one of the worst offenders regarding slower sales. This was picked up in a recent iSeeCars study detailing slow-selling pickup trucks, particularly in Arkansas.

The problem with the 1500 Classic is that it is a glorified older Ram marketed as a new pickup. The truck first went on sale in 2009, but it has changed little since then, so if you want a proper Ram 1500, avoid the Classic. It costs $32,345, yet a brand new 2024 Ford F-150 retails at just $4,000 more than the Ram 1500 Classic. That alone makes it easy to see why the Ram sells so poorly.

Renault Avantine

Renault Avantine
Image Credit: Darren Gallop/Flickr.

The Renault Avantine is one of those rare occasions when a car that didn’t sell was very good. Renault only produced 8,447 units of the Avantine, and the design proved to be “outside the box” for consumers. The Avantine never made its way to the United States.

Yet this hides the fact that the Avantine was a remarkable vehicle. It had one of the best-lit cabins of any automobile, with large windows allowing plenty of light. The Avantine was a coupe with hinged doors, allowing for easier exit and entry, and its one-box design eliminated the B-pillars without compromising safety. Unfortunately, the Avantine wasn’t a hit when it launched, and if it came back in 2024, it would be a breath of fresh air.

Audi A2

Audi A2
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

The radical Audi A2 didn’t resonate with consumers when it launched, and the reasons remain unclear. Because this four-door was ahead of its time, Audi sought to create a lightweight, practical, spacious, and efficient car.

They certainly succeeded. The A2 weighed less than 2,000 lbs, and while its 1.4-liter engine produced just 74 hp, that was plenty for the lightweight family car. It had a drag coefficient as low as 0.25, and Audi used the same Space Frame technology from the D2-generation A8 for the A2’s construction. The A2’s efficiency could be better in 2024.

Lancia Thema 8.32

Lancia Thema 8.32 Estate
Image Credit: Lebubu93/WikiCommons.

Price played a significant role in Lancia’s struggle to sell more Thema 8.32s as the grand tourer retailed for $40,000. The sporty version of the Thema was Lancia’s answer to the BMW M5, and the Italian manufacturer selected a Ferrari V8 to go under the hood.

This modified 3.0-liter F105L V8 would typically be in the Ferrari 308. Lancia modified the engine to better suit its new grand tourer, with the biggest change being the addition of a cross-plane that changed the firing order of the smaller valves. This is better suited for long-distance driving, but because of its high price tag, few people have ever experienced how good the Thema 8.32 is.

Jaguar XJ220

Jaguar XJ220S TWR
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

There are several reasons why Jaguar struggled to sell more of its XJ220 supercars. The biggest was that Jaguar had initially developed the XJ220 to carry a 6.2-liter Jaguar V12 producing 500 hp. Yet when the production car launched, the XJ220 instead had a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged JRV-V6 under the hood.

This produced more power at 542 hp, but the backtracking on the promise of a V12 engine hurt supercar sales. Yet this was out of Jaguar’s control as engineering and emissions requirements forced them to change to the twin-turbo V6. The recession of the early 1990s also meant not many people could afford a supercar costing north of $500,000, and Jaguar produced just 282 XJ220s

Toyota Echo

Toyota Echo Coupe
Image credit: IFCAR/WikiCommons.

The Toyota Echo is a car with good intentions. The Japanese manufacturer introduced the sedan and coupe in 1999 to attract younger buyers. In other Markets, it was also known as the Yaris and Platz. 

The move to bring in younger buyers was part of Toyota Project Genesis, which failed to attract a younger demographic to Toyota in the USA. Sales hit 50,000 units in the Echo’s first year but dropped below half in 2003. Part of the reason for slow sales was that even the basic Echos were so devoid of equipment that it just drove buyers away. It forced you to select a load of options that drove the cost of the Echo up and up.

Ford Flex

2012 Ford Flex
Image Credit: Michael Gil/WikiCommons.

Ford produced the Flex SUV from 2009 to 2019, yet you may have never even heard of it due to its poor sales. The Flex spanned a single generation for its ten years in production, and initial reviews were positive thanks to its retro-styling and the extra practicality it offered over its predecessor, the Ford Taurus X.

However, having hoped to sell at least 100,000 yearly, Ford could only manage just under 39,000 in 12 months. Yet there was nothing inherently wrong with the Flex. It was an affordable mid-size SUV with good reliability and safety ratings. The Flex is one of those cars buyers never gravitated to for no apparent reason. In its final year of production in 2020, Ford sold just 4,848 Flexs.

Pontiac Aztek

Pontiac Aztek
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

Poor sales and the Pontiac Aztek go hand in hand. When Pontiac launched the Aztek, they wanted to shake up the SUV segment by creating something wild, outrageous, and very different from what had come before.

This led to the “Xtreme” futuristic styling of the Aztek, but sadly for Pontiac, the risk didn’t pay off. While the Aztek was a very competent SUV, its unusual design led to poor reviews and consumer criticism. The SUV regularly made “ugliest cars” lists, and it was something the Aztek could never shake off. Even its starring role in Breaking Bad couldn’t rescue the Aztek’s reputation.

Honda e

2020 Honda e
Image credit: Honda UK.

Honda’s first electric car, the e, should have been a massive hit. It was revealed as the Urban EV concept in 2017 before evolving into the production version in 2019, which clearly resembles the original 1976 Honda Civic.

Honda marketed the Honda E as a supermini, perfect for daily driving and city use. It was full of technology and gadgets and had a brilliant interior. However, what let the little Honda down wasn’t its styling or its tech. It was the fact that it was so expensive, costing well over $30,000 and with only enough battery capacity for around 130 miles of range. Thanks to its slow sales, Honda discontinued the E in 2023.

Aston Martin Cygnet

Aston Martin Cygnet
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

While it still has a Cygnet webpage, Aston Martin hopes people will forget the disaster that was its small city car. The Cygnet exists because the 2012 European Union-imposed fleet average emissions regulations meant it needed an efficient car in its lineup to comply with them.

So, instead of building its own small car, Aston Martin took the Toyota iQ and slapped the Aston Martin and Cygnet names onto it. This might have worked had the Cygnet not retailed for over $30,000, around three times as much as the iQ. The Cygnet offered no advantage over the Toyota, so it was simply a cheap way for Aston Martin to comply with the new emissions rules.

Chevrolet SSR

Chevrolet SSR
Image Credit: WikiCommons.

In 2003, Chevrolet decided that the world needed a convertible pickup truck with retro styling and a big V8 engine under the hood. Taking the 1954 Chevrolet Advance Design as inspiration, the Bow Tie developed the SSR, a retro pickup truck with two seats and a 5.3-liter Vortec V8 producing 300 hp.

Chevrolet upgraded the SSR to a 6.0-liter 390 hp LS2 in 2005, but the truck was already on the back foot. The V8s were underpowered as the SSR proved hefty thanks to its folding-roof mechanism. Plus, the roof folded into the pickup bed, removing much of its space. That, coupled with the lack of extra seats, defeated the whole point of the SSR being a pickup truck. Chevrolet decided to discontinue the SSR in 2006.

Pontiac G3

2009 Pontiac G3
Image Credit: Elise240SX/WikiCommons.

After the Aztek disaster, Pontiac knew it had to get itself on the right track again. So, it released the Pontiac G3 in 2007. However, it took only a short time for people to see right through Pontiac’s tricks. The G3 was, in reality, just a rebadged version of the Chevrolet Aveo, with minimal changes to differentiate the two cars.

This would have been fine had the Aveo itself been a good, reliable, and competent car. But by the time the G3 launched, the Aveo’s reputation as an underwhelming four-door was set in stone, and as a result of that legacy, Pontiac could sell just over 6,000 G3s. In the end, GM pulled the plug not only on the G3 but also on the entire Pontiac brand by the end of the 2000s.

Henry Kelsall

Author: Henry Kelsall

Title: Writer

Bio:

Henry has freelanced for over eight years now, mostly in automotive matters, but he has also dabbled in other forms of writing too. He has a lot of love for Japanese classics and American muscle cars, in particular the Honda NSX and first-generation Ford Mustang. When not writing, Henry is often found at classic car events or watching motorsports at home, but he also has a curious passion for steam trains.

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