QOTD: What's Your Favorite Automotive Flop?

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
qotd whats your favorite automotive flop

Last week, I asked about vehicles which managed to turn up the Suck Dial between generations. The overwhelming response to this question compared to the opposite question asked a week earlier (about generational improvements) showed me how you all love being negative and trashing cars.

Thus, about six weeks ago, the genesis for today’s question was put into print. At that time I asked about your favorite automotive success story. But today we’re going to be much, much more negative.

Tell me your favorite automotive flop.

By definition, a flop in the automotive world doesn’t live long enough to warrant a second generation. It’s a one-and-done, and the world is better for it. History is littered with automotive flops, and in the interest of summation I will credit those flops to three major and overarching reasons:

  1. Due to the development lag of a brand new model, a manufacturer releases a vehicle at an inopportune time. Having misjudged the strength and/or duration of whichever market/economic/international forces led them to develop said model, the realization of the error came too late — or never.
  2. A manufacturer gets so wrapped up in what they think they wish to accomplish, they focus group a model to death. The resulting product is niche, and not appealing or useful to enough people, for various reasons. The car answers a question nobody asked.
  3. A vanity project by someone in charge at the company pushes past rhyme, reason, and red tape on the way to the factory floor.

Even as I made that extensive three-point list above, I came up with more great historical examples in my head. But alas, it does not change my selected example of a flop, which I think is an excellent representation of item 2 above. And it’s not the Kizashi, sorry. It’s something much worse!

But it does come from the same manufacturer. It’s the kooky and relatively terrible Suzuki X-90 SUV. Succeeding at being the only entry ever into the “subcompact T-top 2-seat 4×4 SUV with trunk” market, surely some focus groups had a field day over in Japan.

Built on the Sidekick platform (which most North Americans know as the Geo Tracker), it could certainly not be considered a replacement of the recently departed and rock-crawling-mudder favorite, the Samurai. And yet it was not an early CUV, with real rear-wheel drive underpinnings and a real frame.

The T-tops added some fun convertible flair (and visibility of the Solo cup inspired interior), while the two passenger capacity and tiny trunk meant you couldn’t haul people or things with your utility vehicle.

Power came from a very small 1.6-liter engine, also borrowed from the Tracker/Sidekick — but only Canadian market ones.

The X-90 was a complete flop, and lingered on the market from 1995 through 1998. According to Wikipedia, just 7,205 X-90s were sold in the United States. Most of those eventually found new life as remodeled Red Bull cars, before being replaced by new Minis later in the decade. Shockingly, there was not a second generation.

Let’s hear your favorite flop of a vehicle.

[Images: eBay, via NY Daily News]

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3 of 284 comments
  • WildcatMatt WildcatMatt on Apr 25, 2017

    How about the 2004-2008 Chrysler Pacifica? A decent idea a little ahead of its time sunk by a combination of faulty engine cradles in the 04-06s, ill-advised engineering foisted upon it by Daimler, and an initial decision to push upmarket which was more than most were interested in paying for a pentastar badge.

  • Scott25 Scott25 on May 11, 2017

    Two that no one has mentioned: Chevrolet Orlando: typically tardy GM response to the Rondo and Mazda5, styled like a giant bland Kia Soul combined with a tortoise, with one of the worst names in recent memory. Only sold in Canada, naturally, to minimize any possible profit. It was one of the first manual vehicles I ever drove (so yeah, I guess the fact it was available with one is a positive to you guys). Hyundai Veracruz: Profoundly blobby and ahead of its time, since Hyundai replaced it with the 3-row Santa Fe to much greater success. The rear end is one of the worst SUV/CUV rear end designs of all time in my opinion.

    • JohnTaurus JohnTaurus on May 11, 2017

      Very nice. I know someone who has the Hyundai, he said he loves it, but his actions say otherwise. Though, he was trying to sell it for a while and was turned off by the low offers. He ended up keeping it, but someone else is driving it and presumably paying the payments. The Orlando sure was ugly, but it wasn't too bad of a vehicle. Just one in a virtually dead segment. Corey, if you're reading: Sterling for $500! https://montgomery.craigslist.org/cto/6127657442.html

  • ToolGuy 38:25 to 45:40 -- Let's all wait around for the stupid ugly helicopter. 😉The wheels and tires are cool, as in a) carbon fiber is a structural element not decoration and b) they have some sidewall.Also like the automatic fuel adjustment (gasoline vs. ethanol).(Anyone know why it's more powerful on E85? Huh? Huh?)
  • Ja-GTI So, seems like you have to own a house before you can own a BEV.
  • Kwik_Shift Good thing for fossil fuels to keep the EVs going.
  • Carlson Fan Meh, never cared for this car because I was never a big fan of the Gen 1 Camaro. The Gen 1 Firebird looked better inside and out and you could get it with the 400.The Gen 2 for my eyes was peak Camaro as far as styling w/those sexy split bumpers! They should have modeled the 6th Gen after that.
  • ToolGuy From the listing: "Oil changes every April & October (full-synth), during which I also swap out A/S (not the stock summer MPS3s) and Blizzak winter tires on steelies, rotating front/back."• While ToolGuy applauds the use of full synthetic motor oil,• ToolGuy absolutely abhors the waste inherent in changing out a perfectly good motor oil every 6 months.The Mobil 1 Extended Performance High Mileage I run in our family fleet has a change interval of 20,000 miles. (Do I go 20,000 miles before changing it? No.) But this 2014 Focus has presumably had something like 16 oil changes in 36K miles, which works out to a 2,250 mile average change interval. Complete waste of time, money and perfectly good natural gas which could have gone to a higher and better use.Mobil 1 also says their oil miraculously expires at 1 year, and ToolGuy has questions. Is that one year in the bottle? One year in the vehicle? (Have I gone longer than a year in some of our vehicles? Yes, I have. Did I also add Lucas Oil 10131 Pure Synthetic Oil Stabilizer during that time, in case you are concerned about the additive package losing efficacy? Yes, I might have -- as far as you know.)TL;DR: I aim for annual oil changes and sometimes miss that 'deadline' by a few months; 12,000 miles between oil changes bothers me not at all, if you are using a quality synthetic which you should be anyway.