THIS WAS PRETTY INTERESTING.
Broadly speaking, most buyers are a little nervous about leaving their comfort zone to try something new.
By that same token, those cars toward the bottom of the sales charts aren’t always deserving of their limited deliveries. With this truth in mind, the Leftlane staff put our heads together to come up with a list of ten overlooked cars that might just be a better match for you than what’s in your driveway.
Our criteria consists of some fuzzy math. Suzuki would be thrilled to sell 16,000 cars this year, let alone that many midsize crossovers. But if Ford had a midsize sedan that sold less than 1,000 units, it would be in serious trouble. So don’t look at these figures in absolute terms – compare them to the segment and to the automaker’s overall portfolio.
10 Great cars nobody is buying
Ford Flex (16,195 sold so far this year) This three-row crossover-wagon blurs the gap between car and SUV even further, but we like it for its polarizing style and flexible interior. Its lower center of gravity means that it rides and handles better than most crossovers and SUVs, while its higher-than-wagon seating position gives drivers a commanding view of the road. That it’s home to what might still be Ford’s best-ever interior means we’re willing to overlook some questionable exterior themes.
Why isn’t anyone buying it? Polarizing style doesn’t usually drive sales and, with the new Ford Explorer going gangbusters, it’s obvious where Ford will direct its future attention. That said, a Flex refresh is on the way for 2013.
Suzuki Kizashi (4,407 sold so far this year) Suzuki is a major international brand, but it has never latched onto the North American market since its best products are roughly the same size as our Big Macs. But the Kizashi is a remarkably balanced and entertaining sedan that straddles the compact and midsize segments. Plus, figure that it has what might be the nicest interior you’ll find for under $30,000 and this one should have been a home run.
Why isn’t anyone buying it? Brand awareness. Suzuki, with its weak and limited dealership network, just doesn’t have the pull more established rivals have. Add in a mediocre CVT and a surprisingly thirsty – but not powerful – four-cylinder engine and it’s a tough sell on paper.
BMW 335d (1,866 sold so far this year) Enthusiasts begged for BMW to drag a diesel-powered passenger car over to North America from Europe, but the 335d represents just a fraction of overall 3-Series sales here even though it’s essentially priced on par with the gas-powered 335i. Both provide exhilirating but vastly different thrills. We love the diesel’s 425 lb-ft. of torque, a figure so high that BMW didn’t have a manual transmission strong enough to do duty.
Why isn’t anyone buying it? BMW chose to recoup its high investment costs with a premium model. Perhaps early adopters might have been more inclined for a budget-minded fuel sipper, even if it was rated at a more “modest” 300 lb-ft. of torque or so. And then there’s that age-old mantra that suggests American buyers are afraid of diesel. We hope these modest sales figures haven’t discouraged BMW from trying again on the next-generation 3.
Chevrolet Volt (2,870 sold so far this year) General Motors’ technological tour-de-force does pretty much exactly what the Detroit automaker promised it would. Most drivers could go about their business with few only a few gas station trips a year as long as they remembered to plug in every night.
Why isn’t anyone buying it? GM isn’t building many and the automaker is still limiting the number of markets where it is offered, but sales have trickled over the last few months. Analysts, meanwhile, say that even early adopters – the kind who will buy just about anything – are seeing their interest wane. It’s not just the Volt, however; Nissan isn’t exactly going gangbusters with its Leaf.
Saab 9-5 (806 sold so far this year) Saab’s first ground-up new sedan in nearly a decade is a terrific four-door, even if its GM roots show through a wee bit too much. But it’s a budget priced alternative to rivals from Germany with a style all its own and its driving dynamics are top notch.
Why isn’t anyone buying it? Saab’s perilous financial situation isn’t exactly driving buyers into showrooms. Moreover, the brand hasn’t had the cash on hand to properly market its flagship, which means that consumer awareness is somewhere between Diet Mtn. Dew Code Red and the Apple Newton.
Toyota Land Cruiser (959 sold so far this year) Nobody goes off road like Toyota. With four truly trail-ready vehicles in its lineup (Tacoma, FJ Cruiser, 4Runner, Land Cruiser), Toyota puts Jeep and Land Rover to shame. The Land Cruiser is a legend in its own time, but it has grown bigger and way more expensive every year in an effort to court even more sheiks in oil country.
Why isn’t anyone buying it? Despite its buttery smooth performance, the Land Cruiser doesn’t look or feel like a $70,000-plus SUV in the way that premium brand rivals do. It’s the ultimate incognito luxo SUV, serving a market that barely exists.Lexus manages to do fairly well with its $80,000 LX 570, a Land Cruiser twin that oozes sophistication.
Mazda RX-8 (544 sold so far this year) Production just ceased for the RX-8, but the writing has been on the wall for years. Priced well under $30,000, the RX-8 was an undeniable performance bargain with a fascinatingly high-tech Wankel rotary motor and a quirky practical-ish style.
Why isn’t anyone buying it? With its thirsty, oil and fuel guzzling rotary engine, the RX-8 seems to have been relegated to the kind of nerds who populate engineering departments at places like MIT and Stanford. Unfortunately, Mazda learned the hard way that there aren’t as many nerdy enthusiasts out there as we all expected.
Chevrolet Corvette (8,187 sold so far this year) An American icon for nearly 60 years, Corvette underwent a massive makeover for its sixth generation. Finally a no-excuses sports car with a powertrain from the heavens (and a fuel thrifty one, to boot), the Corvette is as adept at going fast as it is turning into a corner.
Why isn’t anyone buying it? Corvette suffers from an aging buyer demographic that contributes to a weak image. Bowtie fans who just want speed and style are buying the cheaper Camaro in droves, even though that “car of the minute” isn’t nearly as fun to drive as its svelte big brother. Sales are simply floundering, although a new Corvette is just around the corner.
Jaguar (7,394 sold so far this year) We can’t narrow down a single Jaguar since nothing the brand has to offer is selling well. They’re undeniably all head-turners and there’s no need to make excuses for the way they drive or feel inside since all three models – XK, XF and XJ – are at the top of their game.
Why isn’t anyone buying them? Talented designer Ian Callum’s pen and an engineering team capable of producing a glorious range of V8s can’t seem to revive Jaguar’s sales slump. Smaller, less expensive models should help bring in younger buyers to the brand’s base.
Chevrolet Avalanche (10,339 sold so far this year) For every 30 Sierras and Silverados GM delivers, the automaker finds just one Avalanche buyer. The bowtie brand’s Suburban-based pickup is nonetheless a perfect hauler for many buyers since it offers a smooth ride and capable handling plus the allure of an innovative Midgate that expands its small cargo area into one longer than you’ll find in any traditional crew cab pickup.
Why isn’t anyone buying it? Avalanche was never designed to unseat Silverado, but it is floundering among buyers who should be just fine with its still impressive 7,000 lbs. towing capacity and 1,300 lbs. payload. After all, when did you last see a brand new pickup with a ton of mulch stinking up the bed?