You’d think that with more than a century’s worth of experience, ultra-sophisticated market research and multi-storey car parks’ worth of failures to look back on, the motor industry would be good at building cars that the public actually wants. But no.
Over the past decade thousands of misguided buyers and disappointed car firm shareholders have been left to survey the wreckage of broken dreams. The first 10 years of this century have turned out an impressive array of machines that have missed all kinds of targets.
Here, we list the worst of them:
Renault Vel Satis
On sale: 2002-2005Price: £21,195-£31,325 Sales target: 3500 annuallySales achieved: 595 peak in 2002, 1404 totalTaking on BMW, Mercedes and Audi is ambitious, taking them on in their heartland is bolder still and doing it with your weaponry compromised is downright reckless. But compromised (to say the least) was the Vel Satis, most obviously by over-sized headlamps and angled, egg-crate grilles that made it look narked, as well it might with its fat rump and back-flipping C-pillars. And this in an era when Renault’s styling was on good form.Verdict: Lumpy looks and a lumpy ride, for both the occupants and its maker.
On sale: 2005-2008Price: £15,745-£19,345Sales target: 5000-6000 annuallySales achieved: 827 peak in 2006, 1386 totalThe best crossovers combine a canny blend of features from various breeds and gift wrap them with a flourish; think Nissan Qashqai or Skoda Yeti. But for an example of how not to do it, remember the 2005 Fiat Croma, a tall estate whose arrival stood out like a raindrop in a thunderstorm. Verdict: Roomy enough to ring with the echo of wailing Fiat execs, but…
On sale: 2005-2008Price: £10,850-£12,600Sales target: 17,000 annuallySales achieved: 3493 peak in 2006, 8036 totalLazy electric rear sliding doors, excess heft, weak engines, cramped rear quarters and a tiny boot punched holes in Peugeot’s hopes for this novel city car, which departed British showrooms after only three years.Verdict: Novel, but tripped up by sensible-shoes styling and a troubled door policy.
On sale: 2003-presentPrice: £263,137-£345,687Sales target: Not revealedSales achieved: 23 peak in 2004, 89 to dateUber-saloon looks like a cross between an S-class and a stretched Rover 75, but without the elegance.Verdict: What happens when beating your rival gets out of hand.
Alfa Romeo Spider
On sale: 2003-presentPrice: £26,895-£32,395Sales target: Not revealed Sales achieved: 746 peak in 2007, 1616 to dateOverweight and underpowered, with a somewhat flexible chassis.Verdict: Sold moderately for two seasons before fading like a firework.
On sale: 2005-2009Price: £13,350-£18,100Sales target: At least 2500 annuallySales achieved: 1853 peak in 2005, 3264 totalThe bustle-booted Toledo was essentially the same car as the Seat Altea, but with a distended rear end whose presence was easy to spot but hard to fathom.Verdict: Painful proof that bigger really isn’t better.