Hammer Time: The Unsellable Car

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang
hammer time the unsellable car

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.

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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.

  • Jeanbaptiste Any variant of “pizza” flavored combos. I only eat these on car trips and they are just my special gut wrenching treat.
  • Nrd515 Usually for me it's been Arby's for pretty much forever, except when the one near my house dosed me with food poisoning twice in about a year. Both times were horrible, but the second time was just so terrible it's up near the top of my medical horror stories, and I have a few of those. Obviously, I never went to that one again. I'm still pissed at Arby's for dropping Potato Cakes, and Culver's is truly better anyway. It will be Arby's fish for my "cheat day", when I eat what I want. No tartar sauce and no lettuce on mine, please. And if I get a fish and a French Dip & Swiss? Keep the Swiss, and the dip, too salty. Just the meat and the bread for me, thanks. The odds are about 25% that they will screw one or both of them up and I will have to drive through again to get replacement sandwiches. Culver's seems to get my order right many times in a row, but if I hurry and don't check my order, that's when it's screwed up and garbage to me. My best friend lives on Starbucks coffee. I don't understand coffee's appeal at all. Both my sister and I hate anything it's in. It's like green peppers, they ruin everything they touch. About the only things I hate more than coffee are most condiments, ranked from most hated to..who cares..[list=1][*]Tartar sauce. Just thinking about it makes me smell it in my head. A nod to Ranch here too. Disgusting. [/*][*]Mayo. JEEEEZUS! WTF?[/*][*]Ketchup. Sweet puke tasting sludge. On my fries? Salt. [/*][*]Mustard. Yikes. Brown, yellow, whatever, it's just awful.[/*][*]Pickles. Just ruin it from the pickle juice. No. [/*][*]Horsey, Secret, whatever sauce. Gross. [/*][*]American Cheese. American Sleeze. Any cheese, I don't want it.[/*][*]Shredded lettuce. I don't hate it, but it's warm and what's the point?[/*][*]Raw onion. Totally OK, but not something I really want. Grilled onions is a whole nother thing, I WANT those on a burger.[/*][*]Any of that "juice" that Subway and other sandwich places want to put on. NO, HELL NO! Actually, move this up to #5. [/*][/list=1]
  • SPPPP It seems like a really nice car that's just still trying to find its customer.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird I owned an 87 Thunderbird aka the second generation aero bird. It was a fine driving comfortable and very reliable car. Quite underrated compared to the GM G-body mid sized coupes since unlike them they had rack and pinion steering and struts on all four wheels plus fuel injection which GM was a bit late to the game on their mid and full sized cars. When I sold it I considered a Mark VII LSC which like many had its trouble prone air suspension deleted and replaced with coils and struts. Instead I went for a MN-12 Thunderbird.
  • SCE to AUX Somebody got the bill of material mixed up and never caught it.Maybe the stud was for a different version (like the 4xe) which might use a different fuel tank.