Just as consumers purchase cars that best fit their lifestyle needs, automakers likewise produce cars that it believes are the best fit for the market. However, the devils are in the details and a jarring oversight can cause a product to flop.
Last week, Forbes created a flop compilation of 2011. Enlisting the expertise of three veteran automotive journalists, Consumer Reports’ senior automotive engineer Jake Fisher, Web2Carz’s senior writer Tim Healey, and Autoline Detroit TV and radio’s John McElroy, the trio put their heads together to create a subjective list of what they believe are the worst vehicles on the market today. Vehicles eligible for nomination are 2011 models or any 2012 model vehicle that is currently on sale.
Not surprisingly, the first vehicle addressed is the Smart ForTwo. Selling only 327 units in October, rumors have suggested that the Smart brand may discontinue. McElroy also added that the tiny two-door’s transmission is, “the worst transmission maybe of all time.” A replacement for the current ForTwo will come in the shape of a joint project with Renault. Expect the successor to this flop to arrive next year.
Still, the ForTwo is nothing compared to the Chevrolet Aveo. If you thought selling only 327 units was low, Aveo’s nationwide sales last month only reached a pathetic 65 units, a 98 percent decline from the same period last year. Its retail failures are mainly attributed to the hype around Aveo’s better and bolder replacement, the 2012 Chevy Sonic.
Not only compacts, but trucks and SUVs were included in the list as well. The reliability of the Nissan Titan has dropped below the class average for the past five years. It lacks a full time AWD system, lacks interior space for passengers, and has a noisy engine that drones the cabin. As for SUVs, the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport compact crossover is neither sporty nor practical, the Acura ZDX has no outstanding qualities and sold only 131 units, Web2Carz calls the Dodge Nitro “behind the times”, and the Lincoln MKT possesses undistinguished styling and suffers from a brand that is no longer in vogue.
But outgoing models aren’t the only flops. New for 2011, the latest generation Volkswagen Jetta was redesigned to compete with a more competitive price point. However, in order to achieve the Jetta’s new low price, much of its essence evaporated as well. Its responsible handling and sharp steering feel disappeared. The high quality German interior was replaced with cheap plastics and regressed build quality.
The same could be said about the latest Honda Civic. It has long held one of the highest Consumer Reports scores but the 2012 redesign has dropped its score to one of the worst vehicles competing in the small car category. Just like the Jetta, its nimble handling was replaced by a soft suspension and braking distances that are too long.
If nothing else, hopefully this flop list can cause a board room meeting or two for automaker executives to reflect on the credibility of the products that they are creating. Tim Healey says, “[Automakers] realized that it really is all about the product– it’s not just about marketing. And that’s a good thing.”
GALLERY: Worst Car Flops of 2011