The Pontiac Aztek was widely regarded upon its 2000 debut as one of the ugliest new vehicles to ever set wheel on pavement. Between 2000 and the last sales trickle in 2007, General Motors sold just under 120,000 Azteks in the United States.
Americans were admittedly gung-ho for SUVs in the early part of this century, but not to the extent they are now. In 2002, for instance, when Aztek sales peaked, passenger cars still accounted for nearly half of all new vehicle sales. They account for just 37 percent now.
2017, not 2002, is the time for SUVs and crossovers. And while we’re not advocating for the return of the Pontiac Aztek, we wonder whether the Aztek would be far more successful now than it was then, and not just because everybody and their dog is now choosing an SUV/crossover instead of a car.
No, we wonder whether the Aztek would succeed in 2017 because, to be frank, there are already a wide variety of decidedly unattractive SUVs selling rather well today.
The Lexus NX is no conventional beauty, but Lexus sold twice as many NXs in 2016 as Pontiac sold Azteks at the Aztek’s peak: 27,793 units in 2002.
In fact, last year, 59 different SUV/crossover nameplates produced more U.S. sales than the Aztek did when it was at its most successful point. And in that mix of 59, there are surely some others that aren’t among the planet’s most attractive vehicles, subjectively speaking.
Forget style, there are many SUVs/crossovers selling more often now than the Aztek did then that are old (Ford Expedition, Dodge Journey), or expensive (Cadillac Escalade, Mercedes-Benz GLS), or discontinued (Jeep Patriot), or about to be replaced (Volkswagen Tiguan), or undersized (Buick Encore).
Perhaps the Pontiac Aztek was simply ahead of its time. American consumers are now willing to fork over significant sums of money for a BMW X4, Honda HR-V, Nissan Juke, Mini Countryman, Lexus LX570, and Maserati Levante.
Could the Pontiac Aztek, immensely practical and entirely avantgarde, be just what GM’s doctor ordered in 2017?