QOTD: Which Model's Popularity Surprises You?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
qotd which model s popularity surprises you

Think of the automotive landscape as a high school yearbook. Within those pages, you’ll find more than a few charismatic, brainy jocks and vivacious prom queens eager to earn a science degree — you know, the characters destined for continued greatness. Then there’s the rest.

There’s the ones you forget about instantly, only to read about in the automotive obituaries years later. “Who knew that was still around?” you think to yourself. “No wonder it’s dead.”

Then there’s the more visible ones that, despite possessing many positive traits, never gain sales traction. Many other segment standouts go a little too wild, design-wise, fall victim to corporate dysfunction, or can’t trade on a household name.

But we’re not here today to discuss sales duds. No, today we’re looking at the wallflower who becomes “all that.” The unassuming pupil who makes it big. The stealthy sales stud, at least in your own estimation.

What model gets noticed by scores of buyers, just never yourself?

Obviously, the Toyota Camry or Honda Accord has no place in such a discussion. Sporting model names known even by members of uncontacted Amazonian tribes, good content-for-the-money, solid construction, and more-than-adequate performance, it’s no wonder the Camry and Accord are gobbling up ever greater market share in the shrinking midsize segment. You might not lust after neither sedan, but the continued popularity of Camry and Accord should come as no surprise to anyone.

For this writer, it’s not even a contest. The model with head-scratching sales performance is a vehicle that defies easy categorization. It is the Kia Soul.

Front-wheel-drive-only and relatively unchanged since its inception, this almost-crossover was the 30th best-selling U.S. vehicle in 2016. Some 145,768 buyers took one home last year, with only 2015 topping last year’s sales tally (and only by a small margin). None of this is to say the Soul doesn’t deserve its relative popularity, not at all. Recent steering concerns aside, it’s a reputable vehicle and a compelling buy.

The Soul’s styling is just funky enough to stand out, but not so polarizing that it turns off swaths of buyers. It’s right-sized for countless consumers. If concerns existed about power, Kia put them to rest with the addition of a turbocharged variant.

And yet it’s a model I never think of. I’ve never known a Soul owner, never been offered a ride in one, and never seem to park next to one. Kia offers enough vibrant colors to make spotting one easy, but they may as well be ghosts to me. Memories of the milk counter in middle school occupy more space in this brain than the Kia Soul, and nothing bad ever happened at that milk counter.

So, that’s my pick; you may have something else in mind. What model’s sales prowess makes you stop and think?

[Images: Honda, Kia Motors]

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2 of 174 comments
  • Art Vandelay I’d grab one of these if I’d spent my working life at GM for sure!
  • Analoggrotto The factory is delayed due to an investigation of a peter puffery ring lead by VoGhost, Tassos, EBFlex a Civic Type-R
  • FreedMike Looking forward to the protests at the factory accusing Toyota of excessive woke-ism. First, EVs...next, grooming.
  • MrIcky I remember when Gladiators came out and everyone was shocked at how expensive they were. Now all the off road specials have caught up or passed it financially. I like this truck a lot, but I'd still take my Rubicon over this. I'd take this over the Ranger Raptor or Tacoma TRD though. When I found out the increase in track for the new TRD was just wheel offset-I knew they were just phoning it in. Why spend so much R&D on those stupid seats when you could have r&d'd longer arms or a front locker.
  • Alan Hmm, I see a bit of politicking here. What qualifications do you need to run GM or Ford? I'd bet GM or Ford isn't run by experienced people. Anyone at that level in an organisation doesn't need to be a safety whip, you need to have the ability to organise those around you to deliver the required results.