Currently reading: Endangered species: the UK's motoring misfits
Car makers expect each model to fill a hole in a market, but they don’t always get it right. We sift through the glowing embers of recent low-sellers
Richard Bremner Autocar
News
7 mins read
3 March 2019

We’re not even two decades in and already there are some 21st-century cars that are heading towards extinction. Some have sold so slowly that they’re even now in danger of disappearing. Others sold better, but are forgettable enough that they’re on the way towards the crusher’s oblivion. 

When did you last see a Renault Vel Satis, a Suzuki Kizashi or an MG Rover CityRover? Although in this last case, perhaps you averted your gaze. Some, like this trio, are already dead; some we feature because although they’re still on sale, they sell at a rate to ensure they will always be rare. The Peugeot iOn, for instance: sales of this rebadged Mitsubishi i-MiEV have crawled to 431 over almost nine years. 

Others are the product of repeatedly failing ambitions. Cadillac must have attempted a good three relaunches of its range in Europe, even troubling to develop righthand-drive versions of some models. But they made as much impact as a snowflake in a snowstorm. You almost have to feel sorry for Infiniti: its dogged determination to produce a hit has seen a whole series of SUVs and saloons launched here, to the enjoyment of almost nobody. 

So here, then, are the desperate last rolls of the dice, half-baked segment-busters hoping to snare indulgent middle-class whims, tentative ventures into alternative propulsion systems, bastard children of alliances and plain old turkeys – all populate our gallery of 21st-century misfits.

Aston Martin Cygnet

Launched: 2011 Total sales: 154 Numbers left: Taxed 143/SORN 13

This oddball, a super-luxury city car reputedly sired from a conversation between Dr Ulrich Bez and Akio Toyoda, is one of the rarer Aston Martins, though not of the familiar sort. Amazingly, Cygnets are now worth more than the earliest examples of the V8 Vantage

Cadillac BLS

Launched: 2006 Total sales: 597 Numbers left: 360/59

One of Cadillac’s bolder attempts to crack Europe, the BLS was a freshly iced slice of Saab 9-3 cake. There was even an estate. Nerdy factoid – this was the only Cadillac not sold in the US, the only one made in Europe and the only one with an Italian diesel engine. 

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The Aston Martin Cygnet is perfect for inner-city fans of the brand. For the rest, it's an expensive and quirky distraction

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Cadillac CTS

Launched: 2005 Total sales: 299 Numbers left: 161/43

A small saloon by American standards, of very small sales.

Cadillac SRX

Launched: 2006 Total sales: 55 Numbers left: 40/5 

A large luxury American SUV, of even smaller sales.

Cadillac STS

Launched: 2008 Total sales: 31 Numbers left: 24/2 

A slightly larger American saloon than the CTS, but of even smaller sales.

Cadillac XLR

Launched: 2007 Total sales: 3 Numbers left:

An American convertible with sales that can only be described as tiny

Chevrolet Volt

Launched: 2012 Total sales: 130 Numbers left: 118 

This car was meant to trigger a low-emission revolution. A revolution following the well-worn wheel-tracks of the Toyota Prius, it’s true, but the plug-in Volt brought more. But not to Britain. And its Vauxhall Ampera brother scored only 1288 sales, both models strangled by prices considered too high.

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Chrysler Delta

Launched: 2011 Total sales: 892 Numbers left: 846/11 

A crass, UK-market rebadging of yet another off-target Lancia.

Citroën C6

Launched: 2005 Total sales: 781 Numbers left: 566/110 

A more impressive car than its XM predecessor, the C6 sold even more slowly, the market for big saloons from mass-makers almost dead. The C6 attrition rate is much lower than for the XM – it’s vastly more reliable, and already almost collectable.

Citroen C-Zero

Launched: 2011 Total sales: 237 Numbers left: 229/5 

Brand’s brief flicker of EV life. Has two dim Peugeot and Mitsubishi cousins.

Dodge Avenger

Launched: 2009 Total sales: 1085 Numbers left: 739/11 

This miserable US rent-a-car device came with a raucous Volkswagen diesel to take your mind off Detroit’s ‘finest’ plastics. An arrival triggered by DaimlerChrysler’s madcap scheme to relaunch Dodge in the UK, a surprising number of Avengers survive.

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Fiat Croma

Launched: 2005 Total sales: 1020 (est) Numbers left: 609/167* 

*Contains a handful of first-generation Cromas: dull, even less successful.

Hyundai Grandeur

Launched: 2005 Total sales: 39 Numbers left: 31/1 

Grandeur is usually a rare commodity, and so it proves here…

Hyundai XG

Launched: 2000 Total sales: 698 Numbers left: 80/52 

A mid-size Korean businessman’s saloon – best deployed in Seoul.

Infiniti EX30/37

Launched: 2009 Total sales: 174 Numbers left: 164/3

It’s hard to know which Infiniti is which, so bland is its naming system. This one is a not unattractive SUV, and it was even available with a diesel. But that wasn’t enough, its risible sales an unfortunate portent for the brand.

Infiniti FX

Launched: 2010 Total sales: 797 Numbers left: 713/23 

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Bigger than EX30/37 and still more striking SUV, but clearly not striking enough.

Infiniti G37

Launched: 2009 Total sales: 207 Numbers left: 195 

A 3 Series-scale coupé and cabriolet, more interesting used than new.

Infiniti M30D/35H

Launched: 2010; 2011 Total sales: 74; 240 Numbers left: 70/1; 225/6 

Infiniti’s slow-selling diesel and hybrid M cars

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Infiniti M37

Launched: 2010 Total sales: 13 Numbers left: 12/1 

Petrol-powered M37 represents Infiniti’s lowest seller of the lot.

Infinti Q60

Launched: 2014 Total sales: 170 Numbers left: 158/12 

Another attempt at the 3 Series, this time even rarer. And dead already.

Infiniti Q70

Launched: 2013 Total sales: 382 Numbers left: 378/4 

A large and shapely model carrying much kit. To limited avail.

Lexus IS-F

Launched: 2008 Total sales: 232 Numbers left: 206/10 

An exciting Japanese take on the BMW M3, but only for 232 individuals.

Lotus Evora

Launched: 2009 Total sales: 792 Numbers left: 708/84 

It’s taken 10 years to make almost 800 sales, despite its many merits. Its big problem is Porsche, and a price that has risen, in real terms, over the years.

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Maybach 57/62

Launched: 2003 Total sales: 81 Numbers left: 64/22 

Daimler’s ill-judged attempt to counter BMW’s audacious acquisition of Rolls-Royce. Maybach was an almost unknown brand, but the main problem was this limo’s forgettable styling – it looked like a stretched Rover 75, but without the elegance. A few stretched egos bought them, though.

MG 6

Launched: 2012 Total sales: 1254 Numbers left: 1213/14 

The first all-new product of the now Chinese-owned MG, the modestly stylish 6 was undermined by creaky cabin construction, a weird ignition key and sub-standard engines. Plus the fact that few realised MG was still alive, or could find a dealer.

MG Power SV8

Launched: 2004 Total sales: 36 Numbers left: 23/18 

MG Rover’s most ill-advised adventure (and there were many), the De Tomaso-based SV8 was ugly, unfinished and virtually unsaleable. It was quick, though, and its carbonfibre panels were of exceptional quality, unlike the interior.

Mia Electric

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Launched: 2013 Total sales: 18 Numbers left: 13/2 

This weird French cross between baby car, bus and van had a central driving position, sliding doors, electric drive and a range that more or less coincided with the moment when you’d had enough. It handled, though.

Mitsubishi i-MiEV

Launched: 2009 Total sales: 277 Numbers left: 244/9 

From this imaginative machine were spawned two French-flavoured variations in the Citroën C-Zero (a name to tempt fate) and the Peugeot iOn. None of the trio has sold well, although the EV market was tiny 10 years ago.

Mini Minivan

Launched: 2012 Total sales: 1020 Numbers left: 957/28 

A cute throwback to the Minivans of the 1960s, and equally useless as a meaningful load carrier. A fine example of a vehicle that sits in a niche within a niche, this is the BMW Group’s one and only car-derived van. And it’s rare.

Peugeot iON

Launched: 2011 Total sales: 431 Numbers left: 428/3 

The least unsuccessful of the Mitsubishi-based EV trio, and it’s still on sale.

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Proton Impian

Launched: 2001 Total sales: 2324 Numbers left: 508/148 

Impian: it means ‘dreams come true’ in Malaysian, but not in this case. But it was Proton’s first in-house car with Mitsubishi engines, and Lotus sprinkled some chassis stardust to sweeten the deal.

Renault Avantime

Launched: 2002 Total sales: 393 Numbers left: 196/122 

A luxury MPV coupé is about as useful as a garden shed with a bidet. But the Avantime has fans, who have a club. Partly conceived to occupy the Matra factory previously building the Espace, it achieved neither that nor the establishment of a new segment.

Renault Fluence

Launched: 2012 Total sales: 79 Numbers left: 57/6 

An electric Mégane saloon, the Zoe’s bigger brother had memorably ferocious low-speed acceleration, and an equally ferocious appetite for amps. A high price and the desirability of an extension lead soon killed it. The recent EV boom has lifted prices, though.

Renault Vel Satis

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Launched: 2001 Total sales: 1284 Numbers left: 237/197 

Renault’s last ambitious, expensive and spectacularly ineffectual attempt to beat the premium players. The Vel Satis was undeniably different and unexpectedly well-made, but instantly joined the sizeable car park of French automobiles that are too strange to sell.

Rover CityRover

Launched: 2003 Total sales: 8666 Numbers left: 943/586 

An increasingly desperate MG Rover struck a keen deal to buy the Tata Indica, a rudimentary but serviceable hatchback, which it then (lightly) tarted up and attempted to sell for too much money. More interesting as a paragraph of history than a historical artefact.

Smart Crossblade

Launched: 2003 Total sales: 27 Numbers left: 19/16 

Silly roofless, windscreen-free city car for sun-seeking, draught-loving, parking-constrained urbanites of unlimited cash resources. Of whom there are surprisingly few, these numbers suggest. Further deterrents to a sale included left-hand drive only, a high price and the need to house it undercover.

Ssangyong Kyron

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Launched: 2006 Total sales: 1102 Numbers left: 672/171 

A largish SUV of curiously interesting style.

Subaru B9 Tribeca

Launched: 2006 Total sales: 685 Numbers left: 445/53 

Tribeca is an exclusive suburb of New York. The B9 Tribeca is more exclusive than Subaru planned

Suzuki Kiashi

Launched: 2013 Total sales: 340 Numbers left: 325/5 

A compact, sporty saloon for the US, the big-engined, sharp-of-chassis Kizashi momentarily seemed a good idea for the UK. But only momentarily.

Vauxhall VX220

Launched: 2002 Total sales: 1892 Numbers left: 958/527 

Also available from other brands, the aluminium-chassis, composite body, mid-mounted engine and terrific styling made a modest hit of the VX220. The opportunity to buy the real thing from Lotus inevitably limited its impact, despite it looking better than the Elise.

Vauxhall VXR8 

Launched: 2007 Total sales: 561 Numbers left: 517/53 

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The intention was never to sell many of these muscular rebadged Holdens, and so it transpired. Instantly collectable, as the survival figures indicate.

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WallMeerkat 4 March 2019

An interesting article,

An interesting article, though some of the paragraphs seem a little too mocking and scoffing, like a buzzfeed top 10 article. Every car has a story, a history, a reason for existing. A perfect article should detail this.

Not sure why Suzuki brought the Kisashi, but I'd imagine they saw a niche for a Japanese performance saloon with the axing of the 4 door Impreza.

russ13b 4 March 2019

lotus

surprised by the evora, i knew it started slowly but thought it'd picked up a bit! really think they need to make a "S1" spec elise with a honda s660 engine, tweaked to 100bhp... and a 20grand price tag

Boris9119 3 March 2019

Where's the Alpine?

Okay, I'm baiting a little there, but wait a few years and lets see. 

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