DeLorean DMC-12
moisseyev /istockphoto
DeLorean DMC-12
moisseyev /istockphoto

Love ’Em or Loathe ’Em

It takes a lot of time, effort, and money to develop a new car model. Subaru, for example, spent more than $1 billion to develop the current-generation Impreza. So when an automaker goes through the trouble of introducing a new car, you’d better believe a lot is riding on its success. But for every Impreza or Camry or Mustang or Corvette — models that have sold millions and endured for decades — there are some cars that linger unloved in showrooms or simply aren’t built to last.

Ford Edsel
Edward Haylan/istockphoto

Ford Edsel (1958-60)

Okay, it’s kind of cheating to include the Edsel, which is the textbook case of how not to design, build, and market a whole new car brand. Don’t give it a name that rhymes with pretzel. Don’t design a massive grille that resembles a horse collar or bidet. And don’t charge Lincoln prices for a Ford. Attention to quality control might help, too. The company lost as much as $350 million on the ill-fated endeavor in today’s dollars, and the Edsel disappeared from showrooms after just two years

Amphicar
Amphicar by Alf van Beem (CC BY)

Amphicar Model 770 (1961-65)

This dual-purpose vehicle was a car on land and a boat in the water. President Lyndon Johnson owned one and loved to ferry visitors around his Texas ranch in it. But the clunky, cumbersome Amphicar didn’t impress many drivers, apart from wealthy ones like Johnson with gobs of money to burn. West German manufacturer Quandt Group expected to sell 20,000 annually — only around 4,000 were ever built.

Triumph 1975
Triumph 1975 by Vauxford (CC BY-SA)

Triumph TR7 (1975-82)

Advertised as "the shape of things to come," the wedge-shaped TR7 was distinctive, to be sure, and not just for its angular sheetmetal. The Triumph was a quality-control inspector’s nightmare. It dribbled oil. The retractable headlights got stuck. The roof leaked. And on and on… As one former driver told Hemmings Motor News, the two best days in the life of a Triumph owner were “the day you bought it and the day you sold it.

Related: 22 Vintage Convertibles That Will Blow Your Hair Back

DeLorean DMC
kontrast-fotodesign/istockphoto

DeLorean DMC-12 (1981-83)

Former GM wunderkind John DeLorean could do no wrong in Detroit, but once he struck out on his own DeLorean could do little right. His dream of building a stainless-steel, gull-winged sports car, announced to great fanfare in 1973, didn’t see the reality of production until 1981. Desperate for cash, DeLorean got caught up in an FBI sting operation that — despite being exonerated in court — essentially ruined him and his company. Roughly 8,300 DMC-12s were built.

Related: 12 Unique Cars That Should Be Resurrected

Cadillac Cimarron 1985-1988
IFCAR/Wikimedia

Cadillac Cimarron (1982-88)

Here’s a recipe for disaster: Take a car platform shared with the compact Chevy Cavalier, throw in a leather interior and a few other fancy upgrades, give it the ridiculous name of “Cimarron by Cadillac,” then charge luxury car prices and persuade buyers that it’s a true Caddy. General Motors predicted first-year sales of 75,000 units; they sold a third of that. And sales declined nearly every year thereafter. In Time magazine’s list of 50 worst cars of all time, editors noted that the Cimarron “remains its biggest shame.”

Dodge Rampage (1982-84)
Dodge Rampage (1982-84) by Mr.Choppers (CC BY-SA)

Dodge Rampage (1982-84)

It’s a car! It’s a truck! It’s a ... coupe utility vehicle? The Dodge Rampage (and its mechanical twin the Plymouth Scamp) were supposed to embody the best of both car and truck, much like the iconic Chevy El Camino. And for what it was, the Rampage was adequate. It could haul up to a half-ton of cargo in its pint-sized bed, with handling that was in line with what a car driver would expect. But consumer response was lukewarm: Chrysler sold fewer than 18,000 of these during its brief two-year run.

Renault Fuego
Renault Fuego by Randy43 (CC BY-SA)

Renault Fuego (1982-85)

Renault was hoping to light a fire under its anemic U.S. sales with the introduction of the sporty Fuego in 1982. But America has always had a prickly relationship with the French, and the bloated hatchback left would-be buyers cold. Poor build quality didn’t help, either. At one point, the automaker had to recall some models because the car’s steering wheel could fall off of the steering column.

Rover Sterling 825 SL 1988
Rover Sterling 825 SL 1988 by RL GNZLZ (CC BY)

Sterling (1987-92)

Convinced that Americans needed another British luxury car brand, U.K. autobuilder Rover launched Sterling to much fanfare with the 825 sedan. Developed in tandem with Acura (the Legend was Acura's version) and featuring a Honda-built V6 engine, the Sterling 825 and its successor the 827 promised precise Japanese engineering and refined English style. But like other British vehicles, quality control was atrocious — even the burled walnut trim had to be replaced in some instances — and sales plunged quickly. In the brand's final year in America, Sterling sold only around 2,000 cars.

Chrysler TC Maserati
Chrysler TC Maserati by Mesatrooper (CC BY-SA)

Chrysler TC by Maserati (1989-91)

Chrysler had a perfectly fine convertible in the LeBaron. But the company wanted something upscale, something classy, something … Italian. So they commissioned Maserati to design and build a convertible that Chrysler would then import. Unfortunately for the TC, it shared many of the same components with — and bore an uncanny resemblance to — the LeBaron droptop, which had just been given a facelift. At nearly twice the price, Chrysler managed to sell fewer than 7,800 units during its (mercifully) brief production run.

Related: 20 Classic Italian Sports Cars We Wish Were in Our Driveway

General Motors EV1
General Motors EV1 by RightBrainPhotography (Rick Rowen) (CC BY-SA)

General Motors EV-1 (1997-99)

Oh, what could have been had General Motors actually been able to make a success of the world’s first production electric passenger car — instead of literally crushing it out of existence. The EV-1 was only available in a handful of cities, mostly in Southern California, and only on a lease basis. The few people who could get their hands on one were, for the most part, thrilled to drive an EV-1. But GM saw little upside to mass-producing the pricey vehicle when they could make a mint selling cheap-to-build, gas-guzzling SUVs instead. The company revoked the lease program en masse, gave a handful of EV-1s to museums, and destroyed the majority. Only 1,171 of these vehicles were ever produced.

Related: 20 Electric Cars Cheaper Than a Tesla

2002 Chrysler Prowler
kenmo/istockphoto

Plymouth Prowler (1997-2002)

In the late 1990s and early aughts, automakers were all about retro-inspired vehicles. But the success of VW’s resurrected Beetle didn’t translate to other throwback designs like the Prowler. “Original – yes, but not really attractive,” writes Seyth Miersma of Motor1.com. This aluminum-bodied two-seater came equipped with a trailer hitch in case buyers wanted to spend $5,000 for the optional trailer so they could fit more than a duffle bag in the car’s tiny trunk. Chrysler sold roughly 11,700 Prowlers, including one that’s since been sealed in a time capsule in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

LEXUS IS300 SPORTCROSS (2002-2005)
LEXUS IS300 SPORTCROSS (2002-2005) by Andrew Duthie Follow (CC BY)

Lexus IS300 SportCross (2002-2005)

A high-performance luxury station wagon? If BMW could make a go of it (pun intended), surely Lexus could. Except they couldn’t. By all accounts, the SportCross was a solid, well-built, sporty vehicle. But the younger drivers Lexus hoped to lure away from European brands like BMW stayed away in droves, perhaps because as Michael Frank of Forbes put it, “Lexus is all about not raising your blood pressure.” The Japanese automaker couldn’t persuade consumers to buy more than about 3,000 vehicles during its brief time in the U.S.

Related: Japanese Cars That Changed the Game 

Chevrolet SSR
coast-to-coast/istockphoto

Chevrolet SSR (2003-06)

Another retro-inspired vehicle that should have been left on the drawing board, the Chevy SSR “looked like something the folks at Hot Wheels would come up with,” in the words of Hagerty writer Andrew Newton. The 300 horsepower generated by the standard 5.3-liter V8 engine in the debut model wasn’t powerful enough for the sports car fans, while the smallish bed and coupe-like interior didn’t appeal to truck buyers. Chevy managed to sell about 24,000 SSRs before putting it out to pasture.

Nissan Murano Crosscabriolet
Nissan Murano Crosscabriolet by travelr16 (CC BY)

Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet (2011-14)

What did the auto world need back in 2011? Not a convertible SUV, apparently. Car and Driver’s editors said people would hate it, and they weren’t wrong. Nissan sold fewer than 7,000 of these all-wheel-drive weirdos before ending production. Ironically, used CrossCabriolets command a premium on the resale market. As Bloomberg’s Kyle Stock put it, “It makes very little sense as a car — which is one of the main reasons people love it.”

Mitsubishi electric car i-MiEV
Sjo/istockphoto

Mitsubishi i-MiEV (2012-17)

Mass-produced electric passenger cars had become more of a technological reality by the time Mitsubishi rolled out this little roller skate of a vehicle in the U.S. “Don’t equate cheap with bad: The i-MiEV is actually not terrible to drive,” Car and Driver wrote in a review. Measuring roughly 11 feet long and less than 5 feet wide, it was the smallest vehicle Mitsubishi offered — which could explain why in bigger-is-always-better America only about 2,100 were purchased.

Related: 50 of the Smallest Cars Ever Made