Hammer Time: The Unsellable Car

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang

I once had a vehicle that sat on my lot for over 9 months. It wasn’t anything too bad. A 1998 Plymouth Grand Voyager in the tannest shade of brown. But no one wanted the thing.

I couldn’t figure it out. Did it have too many miles on it? Did brown all of a sudden become the new purple, orange or lime green? It did have four doors instead of the three door minivan albatrosses that were common during the pre-Y2k era. But I couldn’t get so much as a nibble on it for months on end.

Denial can be a hard pill to cough up. Lo and behold, this is what I figured out.

Dead Brands Don’t Go Walking: Pontiacs, Saturns and Saabs may have a little issue with public recognition. But a Plymouth? Most folks simply didn’t know what one was by the time Obama got in office. Over the last few years I have also seen Oldsmobiles and Eagles slowly go the way of Daihatsus and Peugeots. Fewer folks remember them, and fewer folks want them.

No One Loves A Large Marge Barge: Minivans have become the automotive version of disco. Not a lot of people admit to liking them, and it’s fashionable to bash a vehicle made for a brood in a Western world where large families are becoming ever less common. Who among you thought Ford and GM would ever throw the proverbial towel in a market that once spanned the seven figures every year? OK, besides you Bertel!

Brown Isn’t Sexy On A Car: With apologies to Sajeev and the rest of the brown gawkers, brown has indeed become the new purple, pink, lime and orange. The only way you can sell a brown car these days is if it’s rare or cheap. Otherwise this color palette has joined the nostalgia circuit along with forest green and beige.

No One Wants Sticks, Unless It’s Sporty: “Yeah! Yeah! That’s what I really want! A base car with no options on it so that I can get a true feel for the road. You know… today’s base car. With power windows, door locks, mirrors, cruise, ABS, traction control, comfortable seating for five, USB port, Bluetooth, Six Speakers, Eight Airbags, and… an Automatic!”

When it comes to commuting in most major metropolitan areas, only hypermilers and tightwads still appreciate the benefits of a stickshift. Everyone else wants to give their left foot a rest.

Base Cars Always Get Stuck In The Back Of The Lot: A leather seat with minor tears on it will almost always sell faster than a cloth vehicle with minimal wear. Even in hot climates like Atlanta and Phoenix, there are countless consumers who still believe that cloth interiors are neither luxurious nor comfortable.

And The Rest: There are countless examples of cars that don’t sell. Too many miles. Too much body damage. The distinct smell of the prior owner (and their pets). So along those lines, let me ask the B&B a question.

What car was the hardest vehicle for you to sell… and why?

If all your cars have sprinted out of your driveway like O.J. trying to catch a flight to Barbados, then feel free to mention a friend. Or a family neighbor. Or even someone who is more distant from you than a father’s cousin’s former roommate. The day is long. So feel free to share a story.

Steven Lang
Steven Lang

More by Steven Lang

Join the conversation
2 of 140 comments
  • Higheriq Higheriq on Jul 06, 2012

    I would certainly not classify brown with purple, orange, lime green, and pink. Brown, while not being nearly as dull as black, white, silver, gold, or metallic gray, is in a different category altogether. I have owned an orange car, and would like to have something in lime green. Purple and pink? My daughter would like either, but right now her car (and mine too) is yellow. As for the particular Voyager in the picture, the unpainted bumpers don't help - although it came from the factory that way, it cheapens the look. It's a Plymouth, it's a minivan, and it's a terrible color. Enough said.

  • Cardealerjim Cardealerjim on Apr 09, 2014

    I have a 1995 Lincoln Town Car that I purchased for $1675 including buy fee on 3/26/13. In the past 379 days we have sold right at 300 cars at my two lots, and that Lincoln was not one of them. One owner, 122k miles. Nice original paint. Spotless red leather interior. Runs & drives perfect. I thought for sure it would find a new home during "tax time" this year, but sadly I was mistaken. Now priced at $2250. It's so nice I might just have to keep it around till next year.

  • Juan Let's do an 1000 mile drive and see who gets there first.
  • Eliyahu CVT needed for MPG. Outback is indeed the legacy of, err, the Legacy.
  • Gayneu I can comment on these. My wife always thought the Minis were "cute" so I bought her a used 2005 (non-S, 5 speed) for one of her "special" birthdays. She loved it and I kinda did too. Somehow a hole developed in the transmission case and the fluid drained out, ruining the car (too expensive to fix). A local mechanic bought it for $800.We then bought a used 2015 S (6 speed) which we still have today (80k miles). Her sister just bought a used S as well (also manual). It has been a dependable car but BMW-priced maintenance and premium gas hurts for sure. I think the earlier generation (like in the article) were better looking with cleaner lines. The 2015 S rides too stiff for me (Chicago roads) but is a hoot on smooth ones. It does seem to shift weird - its hard to describe but it shifts differently from every other manual I have driven. No matter how hard I try, so won't let go of her Mini.
  • Crown Seems like they cut some cylinders too.A three cylinder...where are they planning on selling that??
  • Slavuta "There’s also the problem of climate change, and the more intense weather that comes along with it"How could one even write something like this? We don't have more intense weather. We have better weather. When Earth started, it was a fiery ball. We don't know what weather was in 1700. And even if we know some of it in Europe, we don't know what was happening in Africa, South America, Oceania, etc. We have people living in places where they did not live before. We have news that report weather related events minutes later or during. This did not happen before. There is no evidence that we have an increase in intensity. I looked into historical records in the area where I live - there is not much movement at all between 1970 and now. And remember - none of the previous weather predictions have materialized.