Currently reading: The cars with the shortest production runs: cut down in their prime
Not all cars are destined for huge sales. We recall fantastic failures that should never have left the factory production line and trailblazers that were too far ahead of their time
Richard Bremner Autocar
News
7 mins read
30 July 2017

It's easy to recite the cars with extra-long production runs; the Land Rover Defender, first-generation Volvo XC90 and Rolls-Royce Phantom VI are three that spring to mind. 

But what about the cars that didn't last so long? Some were ahead of their time; too forward-thinking for their own good and axed before they could make a difference. Others were plain wrong and put out of the public's misery. Scroll through to see the best of both. 

ONE YEAR ON SALE: 

Chevrolet Epica - 2008-09

How many left? 414

Sorry, but only these words will do: epic fail. You’ve likely forgotten that it’s a very tedious family saloon. 

Chevrolet Trax2013-14

How many left? 1670

Crossover’s name and semi-digital dashboard were interesting, but it was killed by Chevy’s European withdrawal.

Honda Legend 2006-07

How many left? 1083

This car ought really to be a legend, because it offered optional kit such as automatic, self-steering lane-keeping (an industry first), forward collision mitigation and a pyrotechnic bonnet as long as a decade ago. Active front-lighting, Bluetooth and a rear-view camera also appeared on an amazing roster of kit. Less impressive, surprisingly, was the 3.5 V6 petrol (low-rev lethargy slowed it), but what really did for this technical marvel was the lack of a diesel engine in the range. 

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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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Honda Logo 2000-01 

How many left? 1444 

A dated, dull supermini memorable for absolutely nothing. Except, after a couple of years, for becoming the most reliable car in Britain, according to some independent research. That was partly because it had so little kit that there wasn’t much to go wrong, but also because it was Japanese. The Logo was introduced not long before the first Jazz (a vastly better car) to give Honda a toehold in this segment. Though only with bus-pass holders.

Nissan Cube2010

How many left? 1064

Looked great on Japan’s city streets, but somewhere between weird and foolish on Britain’s.

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Renault Fluence EV 2012-13

How many left? 75

Renault sold only 79 before pulling the plug (sorry) on this pricey, short-range electric saloon.

Renault Koleos 2008-09

How many left? 2615

It takes an effort to miss-hit the SUV boom, but Renault aced it with this Samsung makeover.

Saab 9-5 2010-11

How many left? 26,278

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Cut off in its prime, when Saab’s woefully underfinanced, over-ambitious new owners went bust.

Subaru B9 Tribeca 2006-07

How many left? Unknown

With a snout even odder than its name, this SUV disappeared as quickly as a rallying Impreza WRX.

Suzuki Kizashi 2012-13

How many left? 332

Four-wheel drive, a 2.4-litre petrol, automatic, 191g/km and no diesel mean low sales. 

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TWO YEARS ON SALE:

Aston Martin Cygnet 2011-13

How many left? 144

Allegedly dreamed up on the golf course. A weird way into Aston ownership.

Cadillac STS 2009-10

How many left? 25

GM tooled these for right-hand drive – and sold just 45. Ouch.

Chevrolet Volt 2013-15

How many left? 119

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Chevy’s withdrawal didn’t help, but it was selling slowly anyway despite its brilliance. Just too dear.

Chrysler Delta 2011-13

How many left? 872

A miserable, short-lived, badge-engineered travesty and another example of Fiat Chrysler’s periodic abuse of brands – the Delta being a Lancia. This quietly elegant hatch was true to the standard, pre-rallying Delta of 1978. Not that anyone cared. FCA rebranded the Delta over here because it figured that Chrysler badges would smother sales less completely than a Lancia shield. Either way, the Delta’s career was brief. 

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Chrysler Sebring saloon 2007-09

How many left? Unknown

A US budget rental fleet special that made you pleased to get back in your own car. Nasty.

Dodge Avenger 2007-09

How many left? 893

As per the Sebring, but this was meant to be a budget performance car.

Dodge Journey 2008-10

How many left? 1795

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Launched just as the people carrier segment’s implosion gathered force.

Dodge Nitro 2007-09

How many left? 2181

In a chunky kind of way it was quite good-looking, which matched its roughedged manners. Another failed Dodge.

Fiat Croma 2005-07

How many left? 878

Made the troubled 1980s original look good. Hard to believe Da Vinci flourished in the nation where this was born.

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MG SV 2003-05

How many left? Unknown

Handsome-as-a-hippo rework of a failed De Tomaso project, the SV allegedly sold zilch before MG XPower went bust.

Renault Vel Satis 2002-04

How many left? 354

A classic “What were they thinking of?” machine. It was outstanding at almost nothing.

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Renault Wind 2010-12

How many left? 2243

Curious niche roadster developed by Renault Sport. Euthanised during the Renault UK range cull of late 2011.

Rover CityRover 2003-05

How many left? 2166

Just over 2000 left and the numbers are falling fast. Excellent.

TVR Sagaris 2004-06

How many left? 115

There would be more (and 53 are on SORN) had TVR not gone bankrupt.

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Vauxhall Sintra 2007-09

How many left? 62

Even Vauxhall insiders thought this relabelled US import was rubbish.

THREE YEARS ON SALE:

Alfa Romeo Spider 2007-10

How many left? Unknown

More two-seat cabriolet than sportster. Overweight, over-quivery and all over pretty quickly.

Fiat Idea 2004-07

How many left? 2766

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Not bad looking for an people carrier, but a noisy, choppy, low-rent drive did little for its prospects.

Honda CR-Z 2010-13

How many left? 4072

It’s only just gone off-sale in the US, but Honda’s dinky little CR-Z hybrid disappeared from British showrooms four years ago. The idea was great – combine the cheeky verve of the 1980s CR-X coupé with the low-emissions, low-guilt ownership of a hybrid. But the CR-Z wasn’t quite quick enough to reignite the frenetic zest of its ancestor (although the volume of noise was there), while an ordinary diesel supermini easily matched its economy

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Mercedes Vaneo 2002-05

How many left? 1547

Developed by Daimler’s commercial vehicle arm, as suggested by a name designed to put buyers off. Which it did.

Seat Toledo 2005-08

How many left? 2685

The third-generation Toledo was essentially an Altea with a big fat boot, to which many buyers said a big fat no.

Toyota Urban Cruiser 2009-12

How many left? 4600

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Cool name, almost cool shape and a cool-to-cold reception from buyers.

Vauxhall Ampera 2012-15

How many left? 1278

Brilliant, brave and soon to bomb, this was skewered by a high price and buyers’ indifference to green machines.

FOUR YEARS ON SALE:

Cadillac BLS 2006-10

How many left? 421

Amazing that this one lasted as long as it did, but perhaps stocks took time to clear. A reskinned Saab 9-3, the BLS was unusual for being the only Cadillac not sold in the US, besides being built in Sweden and available with an Italian diesel engine. Nothing wrong with the international confection, but the BLS’s limited talents turned it into a cut-price Saab. Did the wagon version help? No.

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Chevrolet Aveo 2011-15

How many left? 15,642

Stalled by Chevy’s withdrawal, the Aveo briefly sold in decent numbers before fading as fast as a Snapchat message.

Chevrolet Orlando 2011-15

How many left? 5504

One of Chevy’s better efforts, snuffed out by the brand’s withdrawal from the European market.

Chrysler Ypsilon 2011-15

How many left? 5561

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Quirkily appealing little Lancia – for that is what it really was behind the Chrysler badge – but troubled. 

Jeep Patriot 2007-11

How many left? 4660

Uncertain off-road, miserable on it, what with its Poundland-standard cabin plastics and yelling VW diesel engine.

MG Magnette 2011-15

How many left? Unknown

Booted version of the MG6 hatch, badged with an ancient MG name in desperation. Handfuls sold.

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Peugeot 1007 2005-09

How many left? 6053

Peugeot’s answer to… who knows what? It looked truncated, like its career in the UK market.

Peugeot 407 Coupé 2006-10

How many left? Unknown

Well-made, but not made for long. Survival stats unidentifiable among those for other variants.

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Renault Laguna Coupé 2008-12

How many left? Unknown

The existence stats are buried among Laguna hatches and wagons. But believe us: it’s rare.

Smart Roadster 2003-07

How many left? 4043

Clever, roadgoing concept car whose frustrating transmission helped strangle sales.

Ssangyong Kyron 2006-10

How many left? 920

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Good off-road, but felt like it was still there when returned to Tarmac. Later offered with five year, 250,000-mile warranty, but even that wasn’t enough to bolster its fortunes. 

FIVE YEARS ON SALE

Alfa Romeo 159 2006-11

How many left? 8431

The preceding 156’s poor reliability and dire dealer support doomed the handsome 159 from the start.

Audi A2 2000-05

How many left? 14,763

A rare off-target car from Audi, though only relatively, as you’ll see from the numbers remaining. Functional low-drag styling produced a sophisticated but earnest look that put off some, while others loved its lightweight aluminium construction and high-rise seating. A firm ride and the need to pay extra for a fifth seat were minor annoyances in a car that was way ahead of its time. High production costs combined lethally with slowing sales to kill it prematurely.

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Peugeot RCZ 2010-15

How many left? 12,169

The pretty sports coupé was barely promoted by Peugeot post-launch, with obvious, sad consequences.

Vauxhall Signum 2003-08

How many left? 9959

With hindsight, it is amazing that this pointless, long-wheelbase oddball remained on sale for five years.

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Comments
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WallMeerkat 15 March 2018

It shows how detached from

It shows how detached from the new car market I am that I quite like a lot of these.

The Laguna coupe has mini Aston Martin looks (unlike the Gygnet which tried to look like an Aston Martin Mini), the 407 coupe has aged well, the Alfas were more solid (Saab platform that never ended up in a Saab) than were given credit for.

The Fluence EV was Renault's toe in water exercise that the likes of Tesla is doing successfully from (and to an extent Renault themselves with the smaller Zoe). The Volt/Ampera would be a good family car if they had any bootspace left from the battery packs.

Even some of the US brands - the Cadillacs would be rare enough to be interesting - anyone who can service a Saab can service the BLS, the the Chevy - yes it's a Daewoo - I always thought would be a great bangernomic buy. The Dodge Avenger was tempting, VW diesel engine back before VW diesels were evil, and looks like a mini Charger that they drive in US police dramas.

typos1 31 July 2017

The Delta was re-branded a

The Delta was re-branded a Chrysler over here cos after the financial crisis - Fiat didnt want to spend cash setting up a Lancia dealer network and a Chrysler one already existed, nothing to do with Lancia's image, it had already been decided to bring it back to the UK and ROI. This article really is full of rubbish.

ianp55 31 July 2017

Dodge Nitro & Nissan Cube

Well I'll hold my hands up on this,I've owned two cars on this list the Dodge Nitro & the Nissan Cube and I can honestly say I loved every miniute of owning them both cars stood out among the otherwise bland offerings that were on sale at the time,sure I could have bought something like a BMW X3 or a VW Golf but why would I want to follow the herd?  While I did rather take a bath when it came to trade in the Dodge, I was lucky enough to get a deal on the Nissan for £9495,when I traded it in two and a half years later I got £8995 for it so yes I was very pleased with that. There's no shame at all in buying a car that fails to sell after all you've always got something distinctive and you're unlikely to see another example on the road either!

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