By on January 30, 2019

On Monday, Matthew Guy asked all of you to nominate vehicles that were ahead of their time. Those rare occasions where vehicles anticipated the desires of consumers, even before said desires were fully formed. Today, we flip it around and talk about Hall and Oates lyrics vehicles which were out of touch or behind the times, even when new.

Maybe the manufacturer decided to play in a segment too late in the game, after everyone else moved on to newer, better things. Or, perhaps engine offerings were all wrong — an unfortunately timed product introduction that coincided with a sharp change in fuel prices. Or a recession.

Taking a manufacturing angle, maybe build quality wasn’t up to par with competitors, or tech was lacking in some important way. Was there a lack of effort on the part of the manufacturer? Something else to consider: Products intended for another market that a manufacturer decided to shift to North America. I’m building to something here.

Ah yes, the EcoSport. On sale since 2013 in other markets and designed largely to suit India (it’s built there), Ford decided to send it to North America in 2018. You’ve undoubtedly seen one of these ovals out on the roads. It’s mostly a cash grab; a compliance exercise designed to give Ford an offering in the hot new subcompact CUV market. It’s not particularly good in any metric, and it’s dated, too (it’s from 2013; the platform underneath is from 2008). Prices escalate to over $27,000 for premium EcoSports. No bueno.

Let’s hear your selections for cars which were out of touch or dated when they were new. Don’t limit it to just 2019 — historical choices are just as valid. I’m sure some AMC product were dated right from the showroom floor (ahem, Concord).

They’re out of touch, I’m out of time.

[Images: GM, Ford]

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126 Comments on “QOTD: Out of Touch, or Out of Time?...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    The first picture of the Cadillac Cimarron wasn’t out of touch or behind the times it was a scam and an insult to the public’s intelligence

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      I dunno.

      If a Civic can wear an Acura badge and a Lexus can be heavily based on a Camry, then logically the Cimarron was ahead of its time. We just have to suppress our gag reflex, and put it in the context of early-1980s quality standards.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Maybe we are more accepting of badge engineering now then when the Cimarron first appeared, but there was just something in the sleazy way Cadillac handled the Cimarron barely making any attempt to disguise it’s Chevy roots, at least the original Seville didn’t look like a tarted-up Nova

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        The difference is that the Civic and Camry are infinitely superior cars to the Cavalier. Cadillac got into this spot because people lined up for their version of the Nova. Surely they expected the same reaction to their Cavalier, but the difference was they did almost nothing to upgrade it and they didn’t have an engine available for it that was even remotely premium. Had the first Cimarron been as powerful and quiet as the last Cimarron, we might not even be making jokes about it today. But it wasn’t, because GM.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          Exactly,ToddAtlasF1, this would also be the beginning of GM “phoning it in” and hoping people wouldn’t notice. We did

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            In my old neighborhood there was a last model year Cimarron owned by an elderly couple. Chocolate brown, tan leather interior, 2.8 V6. Suddenly one day it was gone. I kicked myself for not slipping a business card under the wiper. (Although it was during my divorce…)

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            The interesting thing about the Cimarron is that it actually improved pretty dramatically over the years. The last models had a nice V-6, a sport suspension, and far better styling. If the last model had been the one that came out first, this story might be slightly less sad.

            Same story with the Fiero – introduce one that’s lame, improve it, and then s**tcan the line.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Same old GM story, only give the people what they want when publicly shamed into it. They do it ever time, GM knows how to build a decent car, but will only do so when they absolutely have to and by then it’s usually too late

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      One of my buddies bought a used Cimarron in the 90s (at Cavalier money, of course)from somebody’s Grandma. He then drove it for another decade as the lower 20% of the sheet metal dissolved into iron oxide, which contrasted nicely with the original pearl white paint. It was the saddest thing on the road in my neighborhood

      • 0 avatar
        cimarron typeR

        I feel I have to comment on my Cimarron experience. I remember visiting some family friends in rural MO.The dad was a doctor. Even at the age of 10 I remember thinking this isn’t as nice as a Cadillac should be.
        However , there weren’t any foreign car dealerships remotely near where they lived.Theyd had an Audi Quattro but it got to be a hastle for them to drive to service, so by default the Cimarron was the nicest small car they could realistically own.
        I think it pretty much embodies the Malaise era.Some rich Gen X er gonna pay 20k at a Mecum in 10 years for a 5000 mile barn find I’s sure.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          This is why the Cimarron story is so tragic, Cadillac at this point still had a good reputation, but tried to pull a fast one with the Cimarron. Even as a 10 year old boy you knew it wasn’t right, well there were a lot of adults who felt insulted by Cadillac and even those who didn’t buy a Cimarron lost faith in Cadillac and never came back

          • 0 avatar

            Cimarron needs to be memorialized soon in a Rare Rides.

          • 0 avatar
            conundrum

            We were really lucky that Cadillac chose the Cavalier as the base for the Cimarron. What if they’d decided to put leather seats in the Chevette? And what name would they have picked?

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            “What if they’d decided to put leather seats in the Chevette? And what name would they have picked?”

            BWAHAHAHAHA!!

            I always figured the Cimarron was named after the town in Colorado (or one of the other Cimarron places).

            Therefore, I would suggest that a Cadillac-badged Chevette would have been named after Intercourse, Pennsylvania. Instead of being marketed as “Cimarron by Cadillac” it would have been, uhhhhhhhh I think I should stop typing here.

          • 0 avatar
            WildcatMatt

            The thing that elevates the Cimarron fiasco above so many others is the situation. The car was rushed to market in something like 12 months instead of a more typical 36-48 month development period. Given the lead time for tooling and supply chain setup, Cadillac had how long to actually tweak the car, two months?

            It was absolutely a cash grab and today we look at it as being an exercise in hubris. But in the wake of the second oil crisis and 20% interest rates, it appears Cadillac was so worried about its survival it was willing to try anything. So was the rush release cynical, or desperate?

            Also, I’ve seen conflicting reports: Was the timeline imposed on Cadillac by GM brass, or did Cadillac do that to themselves?

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            I don’t think Cadillac worrying about survival passes any level of examination. They were moving plenty of big cars right up until they stopped offering them throughout their line. If anyone could afford expensive gas, it would have been Cadillac customers. Oldsmobile diesel powered DeVilles made more sense than Cimarrons. They were worried about CAFE, but why not let Chevrolet, Pontiac and Oldsmobile carry most of the burden? They really failed to understand what was desirable about expensive imports other than their small engines, which was sad considering an Opel Ascona 1.6S was a more serious BMW 3-series rival than the Cimarron.

          • 0 avatar
            Featherston

            @ WildcatMatt – The (admittedly few) sources I’ve seen blame Cadillac’s Ed Kennard. GM’s Pete Estes warned him, “Ed, you don’t have time to turn the J-car into a Cadillac.” The stylists and engineers weren’t given enough time for the Seville, but through great efforts created something that was a qualified success. With the Cimarron, the division gave itself no time.

        • 0 avatar
          MRF 95 T-Bird

          In the late 80’s the company I worked for had one as a company car. An 87,which was the year before the final models demise and in typical GM fashion, improved before discontinued.
          It was loaded with all of the options 2.8 MPI and the F-41 suspension package.
          I found it to be a nice drive, much like a loaded Cavalier Z-24 or Sunbird GT. But worthy of the Cadillac “Standard of the world”, nope.
          They should have just given us a rebadged Opel Omega like they eventually did.
          Fun fact: The front buckets in these made their way into the Eldorado Touring Coupe.

          • 0 avatar
            Featherston

            @ MRF 95 T-Bird – Totally agree. An aunt had an ’87 or ’88 Cimarron, and I got to drive it over the course of one afternoon in 1988 while running errands for her. With the V6 and sport suspension, it was indeed like a nicer Cavalier Z-24. I say “nicer” because I don’t think you could get leather seats in a Cavalier, so “loaded Cavalier” probably undersells the Cimarron a teeny bid. (And I’d opine that ’88 Cimarron leather actually was better than typical 2019 leather.)

            Setting aside the huge issues of MSRP and considerations about the brand’s history, the final Cimarrons were decent cars for their era. But you can’t set aside those issues.

  • avatar
    jeoff

    (Mazda) Millenia was a nice car that built for a make that had awful timing—-so bad that it never was.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    Gotta go with the brand-new for ’74 full-sized Chryslers. Not only were they way bigger and heavier than the outgoing models, they had slab-sided styling that made them look even more massive. The timing was awful; the Arab Oil Embargo came along when the car was almost ready for production, far too late for Chrysler to make a course change. Sales were abysmal, and the company couldn’t amortize the cost of development. That loan Ioccoca got from the government was to pay off those costs.
    GM and Ford had introduced their new full-sizers a couple of years before the oil embargo, and sold enough of them to pay off before the bottom fell out. This allowed GM and Ford to develop all-new, downsized full-sizers in the latter half of the 70’s. Chrysler had to platform-shift in order to downsize because they couldn’t afford an all-new design, resulting in the infamous R-body.
    All of Chrysler’s woes since 1974 are a direct result of this car- the ’79 bailout, the Daimler acquisition, the Cerberus fiasco, and the current Fiat silliness. Chrysler has become all Jeep now, with Plymouth gone, Dodge an anachronism, and the Chrysler brand a shadow it’s former self. All beacuse the ’74 Newports, Furies, and Monacos were so totally the wrong car at the wrong time.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      So, their boom in the 1990s just before the Diamler “merger of equals” gets erased from history? They had a string of hits that would make any pop singer jealous, including the minivans (especially the 1996 redesign), 1994 Ram, 1997 Wrangler, etc.

      • 0 avatar
        Mike Beranek

        I don’t discount that, I owned an LH that was one of those hits. But none of that was enough to right the ship, otherwise Cerberus would’ve never happened. Those hits- the K, the minivans, the LH’s, and the Ram- kept the company going but never closed the gap to GM and Ford.
        I do agree that now, 2019, the Jeep money-printing machine and the decline of GM and Ford has narrowed that gap. But consider this; if Jeep had been acquired by someone else in 1987, would there be a Chrysler Corporation today? I don’t think so.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          I would argue that their current woes trace back to the Diamler clusterfvck. For what they gained (Grand Cherokee and LX cars), they lost a hell of a lot more. That led to Cebrus and then to Fiat.

          Say what you will about Fiat, but here’s another hypothetical question: without them, would they be here today? Would Ram and Jeep have had the resources to be as successful as they are? I doubt it. Someone may have picked up Jeep after the recession, but the rest would be in the same place Pontiac, Mercury and Saturn are.

          • 0 avatar
            cognoscenti

            Having worked at FCA in the past and owned multiple Dodge/Mopar, Chrysler & DCX products during the years, I’d just like to express my thanks to both Mike Beranek and JohnTaurus, for providing the kind of commentary that keeps me sifting through the detrius of TTAC’s former glory. Interesting discussion and valid points on both sides.

          • 0 avatar
            deanst

            The rest – outside of Ram – effectively are in the same place as Pontiac, Mercury, and Saturn.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            Diamler’s money kept the operation going. They were on the brink of bankruptcy. Eaton was able to cover up the companies shortcomings. The way the plants operated at the time was crazy. There was so much unnecessary workforce because of union protection. Why do you think the Germans bailed? There was no righting that ship without bankruptcy.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            Right, and even the current Grand Cherokee (which I own) and Durango aren’t on a Daimler platform. The platform’s development was led by Jeep, and it’s actually Daimler that borrows it.

        • 0 avatar
          cdotson

          I think you’re off-base in your connecting the dots between 1970s Chrysler failures->Daimler->Cerberus.

          The late-80s/early-90s Chrysler hits DID right the ship. Chrysler was cash-flush and profitable. Lido had turned the company over to the wrong Bob; Eaton, when it should have gone to Lutz. Eaton was duped by Daimler on the merger of equals when it was patently obvious it was anything but. Daimler raped Chrysler’s cash, threw it a few bones and hung it out to dry while they revamped Mercedes-Benz on the profits. THAT is what led to Cerberus etc.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            You’re the one confused. Eaton was the one doing the duping. Diamler’s paid $36 billion for Chrysler. Chrysler had a bit over a billion in cash from the K cars and some 90s successes. They were sinking fast. At the end, Diamler’s sold it to Cerberus for $7.4 Billion. If that sounds like a raping to you, I would like to manage your finances.

        • 0 avatar
          Maymar

          I think considering late-90’s Chrysler was cash-rich (something that was one of the selling points to Daimler, as it was my understanding they raided those coffers as part of the merger), that ship was plenty righted – Chrysler’s just always been a bit player to GM/Ford. I wonder if it’s more just an ethos that’s built into Chrysler’s corporate culture, alternating periods of aggressive investment and innovation with periods of coasting on mediocre, dated products, that they’re not capable of slow, progressive growth and improvement.

      • 0 avatar
        syncro87

        I was working for a major car rental company in their used sales department in the mid 90’s. Chrysler had some major hits at that time, and in fact was kind of the hip option in many segments. The Stratus sold really well for us, and got a lot of attention from shoppers. As did the Intrepid. The Grand Caravan sold like hotcakes. Compared to some of the competition, buying a Dodge or Chrysler signified that you still had a pulse.

        The reliability of some of those cars might have been a bit sketch, but from a design perspective, Chrysler was pretty strong there for about 5 years or so. Neon, for instance, was seen as a pretty cool little car at first.

        Too bad Cerberus came along and then the stuff like the Caliber happened. I can’t think of the last time I sat in a new car and it felt so chintzy.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        The Autonews 20th anniversary recap of that merger is a masterpiece:

        https://www.autonews.com/article/20180507/FEATURE/180509923/the-culture-clash-heard-round-the-world

    • 0 avatar
      Funky D

      2 words of rebuttal:
      – Aspen
      – Volaré

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        Heh… yep.

        Sad thing about those is they would have been good bread-and-butter cars *if* Chrysler hadn’t run out of money right before they were launched. Chrysler had to choose between laying off a bunch of people and launching the line with a lot of problems that needed to be ironed out. So instead those cars turned out to be nails in the coffin. Talk about hindsight, think what how things might have turned out if they had secured bridge loans in 1975.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        ^^^ Staying on topic for the QOTD, I’d call the Aspen-Volaré in touch with the times. They were conceived as incremental improvements on the Dart-Valiant, not revolutionary in the least, and they meant to be affordable to buy and economical to own.

        Well, oops.

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      Agree about the 74 Chryslers, but Iacocca pulled the rabbit out of the hat in 84 with the minivans along with the endless K cars that allowed them to more than make up for the losses in the 70s.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      @MikeBeranek, I tend to agree. However how dare you denigrate the BluesMobile?
      The public may not have been enamoured of those full size barges but police departments all over North America swore by them.

    • 0 avatar
      gottacook

      The oil embargo didn’t begin until October 1973, by which time the 1974 Chryslers were already in showrooms.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    Kia Borrego. As much as I like the model, and wish it would have continued and had been kept fresh, and would have spawned a BOF truck, it was the right SUV at the wrong time.

    By contrast, the Kia Soul entered the niche dominated by PT Cruiser and Scion xB, and now single handedly represents the entire segment. It was late, but it is the only one that has survived and continues to thrive. Why FCA doesnt build a PT replacement out of the homely 500L is beyond me.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Yup Borrego was a Korean interpretation of a Chevy Tahoe.

      Few were sold but the survival rate seems high. (I swear I see more of them NOW than when they were in production and the nearest KIA dealer is at least 2 hours away.)

      • 0 avatar
        formula m

        I felt like the Borrego seemed like a Korean knock-off copy of the 4th Gen Ford Explorer 2006-2010

        Jeep Commander was a huge fail around that time as well

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          The Borrego had a lot in common with both the Explorer and R51 Pathfinder: all three were BOF but with independent rear suspension, honorable mention to the fullsize Montero which was reinforced unibody but functionally and size-wise right there as well and pre-dated them all.

          “Knock off copy” has a bad ring to it, I’d much rather have a Borrego than an Explorer of that generation, which seem to have issues with every major mechanical component imaginable.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Borrego marketing plan:
      1) Wait until the worst recession in modern history hits.
      2) Wait until gas prices hit $4.00 a gallon
      3) Introduce an Exxon Valdez-class SUV

      Profit!

  • avatar
    Funky D

    Hummer, the whole brand, out of touch AND out of time. Not only was it a useless exercise in style over function, coming after 9/11, was poorly timed too.

    Aztec, one of everyone’s favorite whipping boys, was simply out of time. Compared to the looks-pre-wrecked designs of the Toyota C-HR or Honda Civic, it’s looks right at home, or even a little tame.

    Cadillac Seville, either out of touch (catered to existing clientele instead of the intended target market) or out of time (about 5-7 years too late).

    VW Phaeton, definitely out of touch (even if it was a sweet, if high-maintenance ride).

    Genesis, unless they get a crossover in the mix, the are going to run out of time quickly.

    Buick over the last 15 years has been way out of touch. GM should have kept Pontiac and killed Buick if this is what was going to happen.

    And lastly, Audi’s stubborn refusal to bring more R-models here is definitely out of touch.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I bet GM wishes it still had Hummer today.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      @ Funky D – Obligatory link whenever the Seville and Cimarron get discussed: ateupwithmotor.com/model-histories/cadillac-seville/

      In and of itself, the 1st-gen Seville was a decent effort. However . . . ,
      – it would’ve been better, as you point out, 5-7 years earlier.
      – even then, it probably only would have done limited good in the context of Cadillac’s and GM’s decision (over the course of the ’60s and ’70s) to cash in on a half-century-plus of brand equity and prestige and churn out as much volume as they could. That lowered quality, prestige, and resale; which drove the taste-makers to Mercedes.
      – Cadillac learned the wrong lesson from it. The Seville skewed “legitimate platform sharing” (with some genuine upgrades for the K-body vs its X-body half-siblings); the Cimarron skewed “terrible badge engineering” except, arguably, in ’87 and ’88.

      – – –

      Future project: Build time machine. Go to 1964. Cross-shop the C-body Cadillacs vs the Continental; the Crown and LeBaron; the Mark 2, S-Type, and Mark X; and the W111 and W112. I’m not sure you could go wrong in that year. I’d probably go Jag or Mercedes if I lived somewhere with a temperate climate and a lot of twisties; I’d probably go Detroit if HVAC mattered or if I did a lot of straight-line highway cruising. The worst choice of the bunch, whichever it was, probably would still make me really happy.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    The 2009 Kia Borrego, roughly the same size as an Explorer. It was introduced just as gas prices hit $5 around the country and in V8 trim turned in a solid 15 mpg. These things were sale proof.

  • avatar
    jeoff

    Last batch—
    Staying with the M’s, the Mercury Capri convertible was a late answer to the Miata that was was worse than the Miata in every way.

    The 4-door Honda Insight was an inferior and late answer to the Prius.

    The retro-Thunderbird was expensive, heavy, slow, and impractical. The last time that there may have been demand for that car would have been 40 years earlier.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      They did get the styling right on that final Thunderbird, though. There was a strong contingent, of primarily retirees, who were willing to—and did—pay big bucks for something with that level of nostalgia. However, the DEW98 platform was costly. Neither it, nor its Jaguar S-Type and Lincoln LS platform mates justified the expense. It was almost the overpriced MN12 platform all over again. I’m not sure what Ford’s arrangement was in letting Jaguar continue to use the DEW98 platform on the XF through 2015.

      In my mind, Ford could have used the SN-95 Mustang’s platform and swapped the live axle for IRS. Then they could have used the 4.6-liter Mod engine, instead of the costly Jaguar 3.9.

      As to the Mercury Capri…I imagine Ford saw the popularity of the MX-5 and thought “We need something yesterday. Oh, lets just import this roadster from Australia.” In my mind, the Capri was more an underpriced competitor to the (equally pointless) Buick Reatta, at least it was during 1991, when both models existed.

  • avatar
    brettucks

    1980 Pinto – it looks out of place compared to all of Fords lineup.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      It was also in its last year of production. A leftover from the 1970s, of course it was out of place as Ford moved on to more modern cars in the 1980s (even the late ’70s introduction of the Fox and Panther platforms would be included)

  • avatar
    VanillaMan

    The Edsel
    So many ways, a total miss.
    Wrong time, since it was launched during a 40% drop in the auto market.
    Wrong market, since the market for mid-premium cars was oversaturated and all makes suffered, except for Oldsmobile.
    Wrong design, it was based upon mid-1950 trends which changed dramatically the very year the Edsel was launched.
    Untried technologies such as in-steering-wheel automatic pushbutton transmission, air suspension, and quality control problems during launch.
    The wrong car, with the wrong look, with the wrong options, during the worse post-WWII auto market – ever.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    How about the 1930 Cadillac V16 launched in the teeth of the Great Depression? It’s interesting to wonder if we might have seen postwar Cadillacs with more than 8 cylinders if the 16 had been more successful.

  • avatar
    VanillaMan

    1965 Rambler Marlin
    Shown as an attractive compact show car , named the Tarpon, the Marlin was launched by AMC to catch the wave of full-size coupes and compete against the new Dodge Charger, Chevrolet SS, and the Ford Galaxie 500 XL coupe. Based upon the Rebel, the Marlin was a stodgy family car with a massive fast-back rear. It was too large, too expensive, too slow and the wrong car for AMC dealers at that time. The expected market for full-size sport coupes never happened.

    • 0 avatar
      brettucks

      You could say the 1967 AMC marlin was worse – a one year car that barely sold. I thought the 65 and 66 looked nice but the 1967 is not an attractive car in addition to the mentioned problems.

      • 0 avatar
        RedRocket

        Not only was the original Marlin supposed to be based on the compact Tarpon concept, but when it was moved to the Classic/Rebel chassis, AMC brass ordered the swoopy roofline to be raised to provide headroom to rear-seat passengers, which made it look very awkward.

        I think the style actually looks better on the Ambassador chassis in ’67.

  • avatar
    redgolf

    GM’s diesel engines of the late 70’s to mid 80’s got the big F word – FAILER,I wonder how much this engine cost in warranty repair and buy backs!

  • avatar
    VanillaMan

    The AMC Pacer
    Designed to meet US Federal regulations, the Pacer was a car that looked right on paper, but an utter failure in the real world.

    Designed for a Wankel engine, the front end of the car was too short for any other engine large enough to power it. When GM pulled its Wankel program, AMC wedged an old 6 cylinder into the Pacer, forcing the last two cylinders under the cowl and leaving them unserviceable without dropping the engine after separating it from the transmission.

    Although it was a short compact car, the Pacer weighed as much as a full size. With the old 6 cylinder, the Pacer was an economy car that had no fuel economy. The massive windows surrounding the passengers added more weight to the Pacer, as well as required air conditioning, impacting fuel economy further, due to solar heating.

    The market was there, but the Pacer failed to meet the demands for the market. A Pacer wagon was launched after the coupe, and unlike the coupe, the wagon design was actually useful. AMC had to put a V8 engine in the Pacer by this time, negating any economy benefits of driving such a small car.

  • avatar
    VanillaMan

    2002 Saturn Relay van
    Originally designed to update the Oldsmobile Silhouette, GM shifted the van to its Saturn division when GM euthanized its 100+ year old mid-luxury division.
    Still based upon the old “dust-buster” GM minivan design that cost GM billions, GM was desperate to find new ways to amortize the costs of that design fiasco. (The Aztek and the Rendezvous were also built upon this old design.)
    The Saturn dealerships had at that time, become known for soft-poly exteriors and specialized engines, but without new cars, were eager to take the Relay. For many dealers, the first vans that arrived at dealerships loaded with options like all-wheel steering, and luxury interiors, became Saturn service vehicles after sitting in lots unsold.
    The van was not a Saturn and Saturn couldn’t sell them to folks who wanted a Saturn.

    • 0 avatar
      redgolf

      “the van was not a Saturn and Saturn couldn’t sell them to folks who wanted a Saturn” – neither was the Saturn Aura and the Saturn Sky! both built at plants other than Spring Hill, Tn. shame on letting a 100 year car company go down so soon!

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      It came out in 2005 actually and was gone by 2007.

      And for those that forgot what a Relay was you’ll remember its ugly step sister the horrible Chevy Uplander. Or the invisible Buick Terraza or the plastic clad Pontiac Montana. All terrible.

      The idea seemed to be: take a mini-van which nobody wanted and try to make it look like a SUV which people were itching for. The only thing people did was scratch their eyes out after seeing one.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I mean, really, GM’s final U-bodies were just cynical holdovers meant to keep three-row non-truck options in the product portfolio until the Lambdas (Enclave, Acadia, Outlook, Traverse) were ready in 2007/2008.

        I would be more horrified if it looked like they had actually applied themselves.

      • 0 avatar
        Land Ark

        “The idea seemed to be: take a mini-van which nobody wanted and try to make it look like a SUV”

        Actually no, the Uplander (and therefore the others) “replaced” the actually decent selling Venture. It was mostly just a refresh to add the front end and the reasoning was to update the van’s crash test results from insta-death to acceptable. The snout added much needed front end structure to keep the floor pan from wrapping around a driver’s chest in an offset crash.

        The ugliness was just an unfortunate bonus.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          Having owned multiple GM minivans, and Chrsyler minivans, I have to admit that the Montana SV6 was my favourite.

          The heavy front end, made it a ‘beast’ in the snow. It was relatively quiet, and a very comfortable vehicle to be a passenger in.

          Sold it to my employer who uses it as a ‘run around’ and it is still going strong. In retrospect, I kind of wish that I had kept it.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Genesis’ crossovers, if they ever even get the green light.

    I think the Honda Element was also a bit ahead of its time.

    Cadillac’s whole Alpha sedan lineup was completely out of touch. They were literally a decade late to the party with a platform they are basically going to have to write off.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I will voice a word of defense for the AMC Concord. As a kid, I spent a fair amount of time around various AMC products in my immediate family, including lots of Gremlins and Hornets, from which the Concord was based.

    When PLCs replaced muscle cars after the first oil crisis, AMC was hosed. Their brand new Matador intermediate car was perfect for 1970, not 1974. Sales suffered and AMC really did not have an entry in the PLC segment. When the Ford Granada/Mercury Monarch came along in the mid 70’s it opened up the door to a whole segment of Luxury Compacts. It took AMC a couple of years, but they were able to field a legitimate player in this segment with the Concord.

    A new look, a decent standard equipment list and fairly competitive pricing propped up AMC Concord sales for a while. By the early 80’s and another oil crisis, the Concord seemed to devolve back to it’s Hornet roots a bit, but still offered a good value, if you wanted a brand new 10 year old car. (That’s not a slam, I might be one of those people…)

    One of my old bosses had a second year Concord as his daily; it was five or six years old at the time. It held up rather well to Northwestern Pennsylvania winters and the car was pretty solid. I never spent any real time in one of those until them and at that time in my life it wasn’t my cup of tea. But a quiet, inexpensive to run little coupe made sense for some people.

  • avatar
    syncro87

    The VW 411/412 would be one of the better examples of out of touch, out of time.

    Volkswagen sunk a ton of corporate blood and treasure into a vehicle that was outdated and uncompetitive before it even hit dealer lots.

    This at a time when their Asian competition was just starting to hit stride in the US market.

    A costly to develop product that was a total miss at the worst possible time.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    What about a company abandoning a market segment just as it goes hot? Dodge made Ramcharger SUVs up through 1993, failing to introduce an update with the 1994 Ram redesign just as the SUV market exploded (pun slightly intended).

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      Actually Dodge did have a new Ram based Ramcharger for 1994. It was only sold in Mexico.

      • 0 avatar
        cdotson

        I’m fully aware of that. Maybe that’s more on-topic for this QOTD, they introduced it to a country that to my knowledge did not experience the mid-90s SUV boom seen in the US and denied it to a country where it was likely to do better.

    • 0 avatar
      syncro87

      Actually, everybody quit that market segment, not just Dodge. Ford with the full size Bronco, and GM dropped the 2 door full size Tahoe / Yukon.

      The SUV market did indeed explode, but the 2 door market for the same imploded. A 4-door Ramcharger might have made it, to compete with the Expedition and the like.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Indeed. What’s funny is the little mini-resurgence the 2-door SUV market has had, which is already waning. The Jeep Wrangler JK launched the first four-door wrangler, but it also upgraded the 2-door from a dedicated off-road tool to something genuinely tolerable as a daily-driver. Land Rover launched its Range Rover Evoque with a coupe variant. If that was too pricey for you, you could get the MINI Paceman, which was marketed as a crossover. And then there were the convertibles: the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet and the Range Rover Evoque Convertible.

        But…that segment is already dying again. The MINI Paceman and Range Rover Evoque Coupe quietly disappeared. We all know what happened to the Murano CrossCabriolet. Land Rover still makes a Range Rover Evoque Convertible, but 2019 is the last year, because the redesigned 2020 will not have such a variant. And, given the immense popularity of the 4-door Wrangler, I wouldn’t be surprised if the 2-door were completely discontinued.

        But, hopefully, there’s the new Bronco.

        • 0 avatar
          MRF 95 T-Bird

          The 2 door SUV models like the S-10 and the Explorer Sport were being discontinued as their replacements were being designed.
          I don’t think they will ever ditch the Wrangler 2 door because it’s still popular among many who don’t need the long wheelbase and it’s more maneuverable for off roading.
          Plus it’s just plain iconic.

    • 0 avatar

      I always assumed that was because the Dakota-based Durango was already in the works. It would naturally compete against the Ranger-based Explorer and the S10-based Blazer of the time.
      The Ramcharger was a 2-door, most popular as a tow vehicle. It didn’t really translate directly with the SUV market of the early ’90s.

      A 1994+ Ram-based SUV could have competed with the Suburban, and later the Expedition, but I can see how in 1994 that wouldn’t have seemed like enough potential to justify the development cost of a Ram-based full-size SUV.

  • avatar
    jatz

    Don’t nobody care what fussy enthusiasts think of the EcoSport. Or the Encore, Trax, HRV, CHR….. ad copycatium.

  • avatar
    CannonShot

    The Nissan Titan jumps to mind. It’s both out of touch and out of time. Already it seems to be at least five years behind Ford, Ram and GM. Maybe Nissan should consider leaving the full sized truck segment altogehter and shifting their focus to the new Frontier. And the Toyota Tundra . . . It’s more reliable and better quality than the Titan, but more of a dinosaur. Tundra sales would probably double if they made a good faith effort to update it.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      It would be interesting to know the internal politics at Toyota…when the Tundra was in the pipeline, their truck guys were on a roll, I know they did a lot of engineering work here in the States. A lot of folks expected them to become a real player in the sales race, maybe even overtake Dodge.

      They sort of left it to age in place.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        I think Japanese leadership felt burned by the timing of putting in the resources to make a class-leading truck in 2007 (it truly was back then in most metrics), only to have sales drop out with the Katrina gas hike to $4+/gal and then shortly after that the recession that totally cratered car sales. Ever since then they seem to be content to mainly maintain a presence in the half ton space, with a core of loyal buyers and not much else.

  • avatar
    someoldfool

    And no heater. Seriously? I wondered how anyone could drive a Beetle in the winter and then VW tries to sell us a 4 door sedan with no heater? A co-worker had one, thought it was wonderful. But then he thought a lot of crappy things were wonderful.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Are you referring to the Type Iv (411 and 412)? I had multiple Beetles with no heater and a Type III squareback/shooting brake with no heater. The Type IV squareback that I had did have the ‘optional’ heater. And boy did it heat the car. Unfortunately it was only an on/off option with no thermostat. So you either froze or sweltered.

      There were also fears of carbon monoxide poisoning. And what might happen in a crash.

      Otherwise the Type IV was wonderfully utilitarian/useful and had some good design/engineering touches. It was light years better than the small wagons such as the Pinto/Vega etc offered by the domestic manufacturers, but was the first of VW’s long decline regarding reliability.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    I remember an issue of Car and Driver a decade ago that had full introductory road tests of both the Hyundai Genesis 4.6 and the Lincoln MKS. Time has shown that the Lincoln was probably the less terrible buy, but the contrast in ambition between the two cars was depressing. Here was the brand that brought us the throw-away Excel twenty years earlier making the brand that brought us the mass produced automobile a hundred years earlier look like pathetic clowns. The prices were pretty much the same for Hyundai’s S-class clone and Lincoln’s cartoon reskin of an obsolete Volvo. It’s amazing Ford is still around, and that Hyundai still hasn’t figured out durability.

  • avatar
    nels0300

    The new Mazda3 with expensive manuals and econo car rear suspension.

    Out of touch with what Mazda used to be.

    But I get it, Mazda wants to sell more cars, is targeting more traditional customers, and I’m the one who is really out of touch.

    Also, the Genesis G70 is out of touch. It needs a wagon rear end and a ~6 inch lift.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I like this.

    I find it profoundly interesting when an automaker imports a car from one of its other markets, but doesn’t do anything to change the controls or interfaces, so that it looks profoundly apart from the brand’s other wares in the US. The most egregious example I can think of is the Saturn Astra. It may have looked like a Cobalt/G5 relative from the outside (and indeed it was), but the interior, electronics, and interfaces were completely different and looked nothing like anything GM sold in the US. Ditto for the Pontiac G8, too, actually. Granted, GM turned around and did the same thing with the Buick Cascada, which is also a rebadged Opel, but they now have a unified electronic and interface architecture (Global A), so there’s not a big difference.

    Another type of car I find interesting is the one in which an automaker overestimates how quirky it can make the car, and then has to dial it back come refresh time. Centrally-mounted gauges, odd seat shapes, or just a really-funky front fascia…whatever it is, they release it and customers complain, causing them to have to walk it back. Some examples of this are the 2002-2005 BMW 7 Series, the 2003-2005 Nissan Quest, and the 2006-2007 Subaru B9 Tribeca (which became the Tribeca upon its 2008 refresh).

    The third type is the emergency refresh, when an automaker grossly miscalculates what consumers want in a car from a quality standpoint, and then has to revise the car after the first year. The most recent example of that was the 2012 Honda Civic. The Civic had pretty much always been the benchmark of the segment, but the 2012 looked and felt cheap. And it came out at the same time as cars like the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze, 2012 Ford Focus, and 2011 Hyundai Elantra (the Elantra wasn’t any more premium, but it wore expensive styling and cost thousands less). Another example was the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu. GM made the 2013 Malibu wider, but—in an (unsuccessful) bid to make it appealing in Europe—they gave it the same “tweener” midsize wheelbase as the Buick Regal/Opel Insignia. This cut down significantly on rear legroom, and they wound up doing a refresh in 2014 with revised seat rails and scooped out rear seats. It also wore Chevy’s then-new schnoz, with the small upper grille and large lower one.

    Finally, the one that gets me is when an automaker releases a new or redesigned car, but withholds some vital upgrade until the next year. Bonus points if it’s an enthusiast car. The most blatant example of this I can think of is the redesigned (heavily-refreshed) 2010 Mustang, bearing the same 4.0-liter V6 and 4.6-liter V8 engine options. Yet, the much-improved 3.7-liter V6 and 5.0-liter V8 arrived for 2011…a year after the redesign. Why Ford chose to irritate its enthusiasts and burn up goodwill from some of the Mustang’s most die-hard fans…I’ll never know.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      The 2012 Civic was a victim of fake news. Doubt it? They were the best selling Civics of all time and they’re worth far more today than any of their competitors.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        The 2012 Civic certainly experienced cost cutting and regressed in a few ways, and the competition did indeed step up significantly in the same time frame. But to say they were truly bad and for CR to remove their “recommended” label, I thought that was hyperbole. I had a 2012 LX Sedan for several years and aside from poor sound insulation, that car never put a foot wrong for me. Fun and better feeling to drive, and better put together than my friend’s 2016 (IMO).

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          My mom had an ’08 or ’09 Civic that she traded in on a ’12, and she hated it – too noisy, she said.

          Noise / general lack of refinement seems to be the main problem with that year’s model.

          The “generation” after 2012 was REALLY dull to drive. Hated the CVT.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            This is going back a few years, but when they went from the last of the square-ish styled Civics to the jelly bean in the 91-92 model changeover, the new cars, while bigger and faster, also felt noisier. While the earlier cars purred, the revised engines also purred but made more mechanical noise.

            It’s not the only make/model/year when that happened.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Mine was a 5spd which really was a saving grace. Fantastic feeling shifter, and with only 2650lb of curb weight to haul around, the 140hp R18 actually felt pretty satisfying. Crazy smooth to rev, more responsive to the gas pedal in 5th on the highway than you might expect (sitting at 3k rpm at 70 which was actually not tiring at all given how smooth the motor was). The seats were really well shaped to my 5’11” frame as well, I’d knock down 10 hour drives in that car like they were nothing. I got a number of tanks in the 40mpg range as well.

    • 0 avatar
      multicam

      Yes, the Mustang! As soon as I read the first sentence of your last paragraph I knew you’d be mentioning the 2010 and ‘11 Stang. I had a ‘12 with the 3.7L V6 and loved it. You can always spot a ‘10 mustang because it has the body style of the ‘11-‘12, but no 5.0 badge if it’s a V8 and a single exhaust tip if it’s a V6.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Cadillac ELR. Great-looking, but too slow, and laughably expensive. And, in typical GM fashion, they finally gave it respectable performance and a lower price after skipping a model year. More a case of out of touch than out of time.

    Since the brand’s apparently going electric, let’s hope they learn something from this debacle.

  • avatar

    I’ve got one. The new for 1990 return of the Chrysler Imperial. Super K-XL platform, lots of chintz, and just entirely out of touch. Not even MotorWeek could come up with much nice to say about it, besides “old fashioned.”

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      My boss at the time bought one of these from his brother, who was a Chrysler/Dodge dealer. He was driving it home during rush hour, and suffered a massive coronary and died in it.

      Dying in a K-car Imperial is no way to go.

      • 0 avatar

        That is an awful way to end a life.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        That’s terrible. Hopefully, the fact that it was rush hour means that he was traveling slowly.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          As I recall, he was able to pull off to the side of the road before he died. Thank God – otherwise a lot of folks could have gotten killed.

          Nice guy…he was maybe 45 when he passed away, and he left a wife and kids.

          Strange twist of fate: his brother (the car dealer who sold him the Imperial), who was about the same age, took over the business, and he died of a heart attack a few years after that.

          I guess the luggage-store biz is a killer.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        @Freed

        I think its classy in a cheezy sort of way. Back in the day I knew a man who stroked out while driving his ’97 Mark VIII and crashed into a wall not surviving. I thought that was especially classy, at the time at least.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    I think the LS never got a good run, FR platform IRS, manual transmission, Euro styling and suspension tuning. I don’t know what issues there were with the platform but it would’ve been a good launching point.

  • avatar
    volvo

    Out of touch. Never sold but only available as a public user program was the Chrysler Turbine car. There is a good Wiki article on it.

    In 1965 one pulled up next to me at a stoplight and it was so cool to hear that turbine idle and then come up to speed. like being next to a turbo prop airplane.
    Great reliability using any fuel
    Program ended in 1966 with all 50 cars taken back. Fuel economy and emissions killed the Chrysler turbine engine program which lasted until 1979

  • avatar
    conundrum

    That Ech-o-o-Sport is a Fiesta underneath. Autocar wondered how anyone without malice aforethought could have screwed up the steering, ride and handling of a Fiesta so badly, and gave it two stars out of five back in 2013.

    The redo and move to Romania production for European customers was only a couple of years ago. The revamp was also supposed to have been applied to the ones from India sent here. But that may have been a misspeak accidentally on purpose. In any case, Autocar gave the Romanian one a grudging three stars, and said it was still bottom of the class and in need of a serious overhaul. Of course, Europeans can get it with a 2 litre turbodiesel with well over 220 lb-ft of torque, so theirs at least can climb hills. What a sad little sack it is.

  • avatar
    Pete Zaitcev

    Suzuki Kizashi. If only they spent the effort on something CUV-like instead. Like, jacking up SX4 can calling it “Kakeri” or whatever.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Is it wrong that I would drive a Cimmaron today?

  • avatar
    WildcatMatt

    I’ll nominate the 5th generation A-Body Buick Century which soldiered on far too long with far too little updating. What was contemporary in 1986 was positively frumpy in 1996 compared to the likes of the LeSabre, Regal, and Riviera.

    Although come to mention the Regal, I’m pretty sure the 1995 2-door Regal shared the Century’s front clip with slightly different fenders…


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