Question Of The Day: Will There Ever Be A Successful Two Seat Commuter Car?

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang

The first generation Insight was a commercial failure. Eight years yielded fewer than 20,000 unit sold and a lingering doubt about the genuine interest in two seat commuter cars.

Honda tried again with the CR-Z, and apparently George Orwell’s early Animal Farm analogy about ‘four being better than two’ may be all too true for the American automotive marketplace.

Nobody wants an uber-frugal commuter car with two seats. It’s either four or no sale.

A lot of other two-seat vehicles have been unqualified failures as well. Chevette Scooters. Metro Convertibles. The Suzuki X-90 and the Pontiac Fiero. I’m sure that nearly every mainstream automaker has tried to sell some type of two seat commuter car with nary an Escort of sorts to be had.

This isn’t the only market where the fewer than four seat idea is struggling. Pickups have gone from three across as a near universal standard to an increasing exception. The Mazda Miata, a car that fetched price premiums and dozens of awards over the years, has experienced an avalanche of declining sales since the glory days of the early 90’s and now only averages about 10,000 units a year. In fact, last month it was one of the ten worst selling models in the United States… with the CR-Z performing even worse.

Even sporty icons like the Corvette and Nissan Z have little more than the crumbs of consumers past. The exotic and high end sports car markets may always have enough of a market to sustain themselves. But how about everyone else?

Is the two seat commuter car destined to be a historical footnote of automotive history? Will the Miata and Corvette ever be successful again? What says you?

Steven Lang
Steven Lang

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  • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Sep 08, 2012

    The only reason I didn't buy an 02 Beetle instead of an 02 Passat at the time was that I have kids and/or friends. The Beetle was essentially a 2-seater due to the useless back seat. Today's Fiat 500 is even worse. So although I'm usually alone or with just one passenger, I'd never consider a tiny 4/5 seater or a 2-seater.

  • JLGOLDEN JLGOLDEN on Sep 08, 2012

    The old Honda CRX seems unique in its ability to draw smiles and fond remarks from anyone who ever owned one. Since then, our car choices have gotten more complex, and the bar has been raised by current performance and economy measures. I'm thinking the CRZ *might* have drawn more interest here if it had a normal, zippy hybrid complexity, cost. But when a new Kia Rio is a more compelling buy than a two-seat slow-mobile (CRZ)....well, you can improvise how this story goes.

  • Zombo Zombo on Sep 08, 2012

    I've seen a couple of pictures on craigslist of first generation Insights with their rear fender skirts removed and replaced with body shop made fender well extensions . Those cars actually were a huge improvement from the stock versions visually since the stock alloy wheels are quite nice . Would that harm the gas mileage drastically and have you ever thought of doing that Steven Lang ?

  • MRF 95 T-Bird MRF 95 T-Bird on Sep 08, 2012

    Don't forget the Pontiac Fiero was originally designed to be a commuter car. Space frame with plastic body panels. Around 30MPG. Either by design or accident they became a mid-engine 2 seater sports car. Actually the 1st year, 84 was the Indy pace car.

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    • MRF 95 T-Bird MRF 95 T-Bird on Sep 09, 2012

      @Marko Real bright of them :) Considering Toyota at the time offered the MR2 along with the Celica and "halo" sports car Supra as well as sporty GTS versions of the Corolla. I doubt they considered cannibalization of sales of the other models.