When it comes to cars, failure can be measured in a variety of ways: Sales, perception and desirability are but a few. Yet when a model does fail, it's rarely in a spectacular blaze of glory. More often than not automotive failures atrophy and (like a bad sitcom) disappear without notice.
Remembering them is the purpose of this story.
A lack of sales performance is the most objective way to measure failure, but the numbers seldom tell the whole story. Sometimes a design team creates a car so repulsive they're liable for crimes against humanity. Often a marketing department takes too many liberties with a new model's expectations and reality pulls it back to Earth with an audible thud. And sometimes a car just doesn't make sense financially or otherwise.
The ill-fated Pontiac Aztek easily tops any number of ugly and awful lists, but we're sparing this low-hanging fruit for more reasoned choices. We're also limiting eligibility to cars produced in the last 10 years, so no Edsel, either. Here, then, based on sales numbers, styling and our hard, fast opinion are the 10 biggest failures of the last decade.
10. Honda Insight — 67,128 sold since April 2003*
On its own merits, it's difficult to call the Honda Insight a failure. When it debuted in December 1999, it represented the first hybrid vehicle offered in North America, beating the Toyota Prius to market by seven months.
The Insight scores points for originality, but it gets decimated by the Prius in terms of sales by a ratio of 18 to one. The Insight also trails the Prius in a number of other metrics. The two-seater first generation Honda Insight returned remarkable fuel economy figures, but it lacked practicality and refinement. The second-generation four-door Insight made improvements to both, but fuel economy dropped well below that of the Prius.
9. Ford Thunderbird — 59,200 sold between 2002 and 2006
It was the early 2000s. Retro-styled cars were all the rage with the Mini Cooper and VW Beetle stirring up a wave of nostalgia. Ford jumped on the "old is new" bandwagon with the 2002 Thunderbird.
Styled to fall in line with the classic 1955-'57 Thunderbirds, the revived RetroBird certainly turned its share of heads. But under it all was a repurposed Lincoln LS. Chopping off its roof resulted in body flex, which Ford combatted with heavy bracing. On the whole, this new 'Bird lacked any notable innovation, and the carryover of parts from Lincoln was disappointing.
When Ford pulled the plug, this four-year revival barely outsold the original three-year run classic, which sold 53,166.
8. Chrysler Crossfire — 52,217 sold between 2003 and 2009
Note to manufacturers: Don't name cars after something you don't want to be caught in.
Born out of the Chrysler/Daimler-Benz partnership, the Crossfire was built on an aging SLK roadster platform. It seemed that most were pleased with the Crossfire's boattail styling, but as the aforementioned Ford Thunderbird proved, style only goes so far.
The antiquated recirculating-ball steering made it slow to respond, handling was disappointing and at the same time, the ride was harsh. To further pile on the drawbacks, the interior fell short of expectations, as did overall performance and everyday convenience. In the end, not even Celine Dion could save the Crossfire, and the final insult came when remainders were sold off on overstock.com and eBay.
7. Chevrolet SSR — 23,479 sold between 2003 and 2008
Is it a pickup or a roadster? Neither, because both of those can justify their existence. The retro-styled Chevrolet SSR is one of the oddest vehicles ever squeezed from Detroit's loins. It was based on GM's midsize SUV platform but lacked any real utility. This two-seat hardtop convertible had the potential for some al fresco driving entertainment, but being overweight and underpowered (early models were powered by GM's 5.3-liter V8 making 300 horsepower) kept any actual fun at bay.
Despite an increase in power output and interior improvements in 2005, sales remained abysmal. Some say that the SSR stood out on the highway. So does a car fire.