Learning from the flops

Chrysler TC by Maserati

A failure in any industry can be looked at as a positive in many ways.  Financially failures typically don’t offer a return on any investment that we want, but there are usually other factors at play to give us the education we need so we don’t repeat them.  In the automotive world you can find many examples of flops or failures that have occurred to teach the automaker what the market does not need at all.  Some of these flops may have been cars you loved at one time or another, but overall, for the automaker the turned out to be duds.

Vector Motors – Instead of just a car let’s look at a whole car company that was a huge flop just to get us started.  Vector Motors stated mission was to build an American made supercar that was affordable.  Using a twin turbocharged 650 horsepower Chevrolet V8 engine in their first offering called the W2 the car came in at a $125,000 price that was much more than the Corvette ever has been.  The company came out with the W8 several years later and only 22 were made; eventually this company fizzled out as it never seemed to learn.

Chrysler Crossfire – This car was made for four years and seemed to be a left over Mercedes-Benz more than an original Chrysler product.  As it was supposed to be a sports car, and it did have a sport luxury look that was attractive this car did nothing original to make it a car you wanted to drive.  The Crossfire would be ok if you didn’t want to pay the higher price of a luxury car, but if you wanted the real think you just needed to look to the Mercedes-Benz SLK of the time to have a car that would give you the driver you wanted.

Lincoln Blackwood-  Only offered for two years it was obvious Ford and Lincoln could see where they went wrong pretty quickly.  The Blackwood had an F-150 cab and a Navigator front end to give it an upscale appearance.  To add to the luxury appearance this truck was built with a power bed cover, but it only opened halfway up to give you limited access to the bed.  This truck was also only made in RWD and came in at a cost of $52,000 to be a truck that would eventually need to be cancelled altogether.

Dodge Durango/Chrysler Aspen Hybrid – This was a pair of SUVs that weren’t even viable in concept form.  The Aspen certainly wasn’t needed, the Durango already had a great following and was readily able to handle the challenges of being a great SUV, but when the hybrid models were introduced the popularity of the Durango took a hit and thankfully Chrysler made the smart decision to cancel the hybrid models and the Aspen after only one year.  With the recent collapse of the auto industry all hybrid SUVs were being built at a loss which certainly was not going to be allowed by the government bailout program.

Subaru SVX – At a price of nearly $25,000 (expensive for 1992) this SVX was to be a new model to carry the name of Subaru into the next generation of the name.  Designed by the same Italian that brought us the M1, MK1, Golf, Ghibli this car should have been a way for Subaru to put the horses to the ground and give us the power of a 230 horsepower 3.3-liter flat six-cylinder engine that used the electronically managed AWD system.  Although this car had a good look and a great power it was never a seller that made it successfully because of the stubbornness of Subaru.

Sterling – The Sterling model was a car that was built to fail right from the start.  This model was a Rover 800 that had actually been a reboied Acura Legend that carried new badging and was made to be sold in the US.  Let’s see, a British interior with Japanese reliability, it seems like it could actually be a great car to drive but the sterling was never a popular model.  The Sterling was never a car that offered any kind of reliability and because it was put together without care it turned out to be an awful car on the market.

 – During a time when Chrysler and Maserati were actually partners and Lee Iacocca was in charge this car came off the lot and was a car that should have never left the plant in Milan.  The TC showed up with a 2.2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that came with 200 horsepower which wasn’t bad but the style and build of this car was awful from the start and should have never been built and could be blamed for the wedge driven between Chrysler and Maserati.

Jaguar X-Type – This car looked good, many Jaguar shoppers bought it, but later regretted it.  This was a car that could fall apart more ways that it could be put together.  With the X-Types engines seized up, interiors collapsed, transmissions exploded and driveshafts broke especially at the U-joint.  The Jaguar name had finally gained some respect for being a brand of reliability and the X-Type set this back several years. Built on the Ford Mondeo/Countour platform the X-Type was built for those who needed to have their heads examined and find another car to drive.

GMC Envoy XUV – The Envoy XUV should have been a hit, this was a time tested and successful plan especially when you look at the Chevrolet Avalanche as the comparable model.  The Envoy XUV had a few things against the idea of a retractable roof and a partition in the back to create an open air cargo space.  The Envoy was a cut down of an extended wheelbase, the XUV was ugly and it couldn’t haul what was needed.  This vehicle came in with a cheap looking interior and the fuel mileage that felt like gallons to the mile instead of the other way around.

Chevrolet SSR – Why GM continued to try and make vehicles that were more things than they should have been is beyond me.  This was a car, a pickup and a convertible all in one.  It looked like a plastic covered hot rode that has a truck bed that could be opened.  Even if the vehicle was confusing at least the engine wasn’t as it carried in a 5.3-liter V8 that made 300 horsepower and was even upgraded to the 6.0-liter with 390 horsepower later in the model run that only lasted for four years and was over before the downfall of the automotive industry in 2008.

As you can plainly see automakers, at least most of them, have learned from these obvious mistakes to make models that are much better today than ever.  Even though there are still examples of flops that make it to the market, they are fewer than ever.  You would think the concept presentation at auto shows would allow us to keep this from happening but some of these slip through the cracks or look good in concept but extremely poor when it comes to the practical application on the road.

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