The Best Cars That Nobody Buys

2012-buick-regal-gs

Mazda MX-5 Miata

Average monthly sales: 571
The Mazda MX-5 Miata may hold the Guinness World Record as the best-selling roadster of all time, but it still hasn't sold that many copies. Drivers around the world have purchased 900,000 MX-5s since the car launched in 1989; by contrast, Smart has managed to sell 1.3 million copies of its Fortwo city car since 1998. In other words, a compromised city car has found far more buyers in 14 years than a lively roadster has in 23 years.

Those relatively low sales volumes are in stark contrast to the rave reviews the MX-5 draws from enthusiasts around the world. The Mazda Miata has long been a favorite car at Automobile Magazine, owing to its simplicity and pure, connected driving experience. The MX-5 is the cheapest roadster you can buy in America, which makes it an ideal choice for sun-loving drivers who want an affordable drop-top. At the same time, the car's light weight, nimble suspension, and prominence in racing series has made it an easily attainable choice for racers and driving fanatics on a budget.

Frankly, however, even true enthusiasts are ready for an update to the MX-5. Although we love the car, it has changed very little over the past 23 years. The current generation, known by devotees as the NC Miata, has been on sale with only a few tweaks since 2005. Fortunately a new version will arrive by 2015 at the latest. Mazda recently inked a deal with Alfa Romeo to share development of two new rear-wheel-drive roadsters; the next MX-5 and Alfa Romeo Spider will share a platform, but each will have unique styling and an engine from its parent company's lineup.

The Miata's dedication to driving enjoyment also means it isn't the most well-rounded vehicle on the road. The passenger compartment is cramped, especially for tall drivers, and the 5.3 cubic-foot trunk won't accommodate that much luggage or groceries. Fuel economy is only average. Couple that with an abundance of wind noise and a buzzy highway demeanor, and it's easy to see why the Mazda MX-5 isn't an ideal everyday car for many people. Although it offers a lot of fun for the money, the MX-5 is more often a second car or weekend toy than a primary vehicle.


Porsche Cayman

Average monthly sales: 67
Cheaper, smaller, and less powerful than the vaunted 911 range, the Porsche Cayman is nonetheless a rewarding car thanks to the nimble handling afforded by its mid-engine layout. The Cayman is so much fun to drive that it has long been a favorite at Automobile Magazine, but the coupe apparently hasn't become a favorite with customers. Sales of the Cayman have been slow for several years, and so far in 2012 it's the worst-selling Porsche.

One explanation could be that the Cayman's convertible cousin, the Porsche Boxster, was just redesigned for 2013. As true Porsche fans probably know a new Cayman is in the works, they could be waiting to buy the new model. However, that doesn't explain why sales have been so sluggish since the Cayman was launched in 2006.

It's also tempting to assume that the Cayman struggles because its performance doesn't match up to that of the 911. While its engines are smaller and less powerful engines than those of the 911, the Cayman is still a serious sports car. Even the slowest Cayman has a top speed of 165 mph and can run from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.5 seconds.

Instead, the real reason is that the Cayman is overshadowed by the iconic Porsche 911. Not only does the three-digit nameplate have five decades of heritage behind it, the 911 name and design are synonymous with the Porsche badge for many people. Customers who are ready to buy a Porsche want the quintessential, traditional Porsche 911, and are unlikely to settle for a Cayman just because it's cheaper.

Porsche will soon unveil the next generation of the Cayman, but if it seems that would help draw more attention away from the 911, think again: a new, more powerful version of the 911 debuted last year, and Porsche already is hard at work developing many more variations of that car.


Suzuki Kizashi

Average monthly sales: 503
What's not to love about the Suzuki Kizashi? It's a smart family sedan that actually offers steering feel, attractive design, and a buttoned-down suspension. It's a supremely practical car that also makes driving enthusiasts smile, and the Kizashi is even available with all-wheel drive for wintry climes. Sadly, the Kizashi sells at a slower rate than the Chevrolet Corvette sports car. The problem is not the car itself, but that buyers just aren't aware of the Kizashi.

A big part is a lack of a dealer network: Suzuki only has 250 automotive showrooms scattered across the country. Volvo, by contrast, has 350 dealerships, and Toyota has over 1200. Suzuki also has a far stronger reputation for building motorcycles and ATVs than cars. The Kizashi also struggles because it tries to straddle several segments: it may be far better than many compact cars, but it's just a bit too small to be competitive with midsize sedans. And while Suzuki would have you believe the Kizashi's quality and performance are on par with the likes of an Audi A4, the car is still saddled with a low-rent Suzuki badge.

Finally, there's the issue of the other products in the showroom. Most Suzuki models on sale today are several years old and no longer very competitive, and quality new products like the Swift haven't been imported from Asia and Europe. Add it all up, and it's easy to see why many new-car buyers might skip visiting the Suzuki showroom. In doing so, they're missing out on a gem of a family sedan.


Volvo S60

Average monthly sales: 2075
We just wrapped up one year with our Four Seasons Volvo S60, and came away very impressed. The Volvo sedan was something of a sleeper hit that seduced us with its fabulous interior, smooth yet powerful engine, and outstanding steering. Whether being used as a luxury cruiser to blast along the highway, or as a grocery-getter to run around town, we found the S60 to be versatile and rewarding. Still, since it went on sale here in 2010, the Volvo S60 hasn't sold in very large numbers.

One problem could be that, despite offering two powerful turbocharged engines, the S60 isn't really seen as a sports sedan. Purists looking for cars in this segment may ignore the S60 because it is front- or all-wheel drive, whereas enthusiasts tend to gravitate toward rear-wheel-drive cars like the BMW 3 Series or Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Luxury buyers could be put off by the Volvo badge, which lacks the driveway cachet of a Lexus or a Mercedes emblem. Volvos tend to have a reputation as staid boxes for dull drivers. Based on the modern looks and lively personality of our S60, those connotations are totally unwarranted.

Twelve months behind the wheel convinced us that the Volvo S60 has the refinement, style, and performance to take on the best from Japan and Germany. Now Volvo just needs to convince customers of the same thing.

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tostik37
The S60 is a great car, and maybe these numbers look small compared to the massive volumes of cars cranked out by the Japanese, American, and German automotive giants, but, for tiny little Volvo, it's their 3rd best selling car (after the XC60 and V40).
jjye2
@v8catThe Genesis doesn't look much like a Mercedes (looks more BMW-ish), unlike say, the LS430 which the head of Mercedes design decried as a 'copy' of the S Class.As for why buy the Equus over the GS, the Equus has significantly more passenger room (the Equus is one class size up) and has service, such as at-home/office pick-up and drop-off, that most Lexus dealers do not provide.
jjye2
I don't quite understand why the Genesis is on the list, selling around 1,800 a month, while the Infiniti M sells around 800 a month and the brand new Lexus GS sells around 2k a month (prior to the new model, the GS was selling as low as 200 a month), both the M and GS having AWD while the Genesis does not.Plus a new Genesis sedan(with AWD) is set to launch next year and the Genesis should again handily pass the GS in sales.
BarnPhind
I'd love to get the Cayman...could afford the MX-5...but can't convince the wife it's not a girl's car...
Fyrewerx
LOL... I wish my front Geezer teeth were that straight.I think its grill is definitely the worst feature. If I do trade the Vette in on one, I'll probably have a custom shop put in blacked-out grid, or at least paint the "teeth" black.
Rotoautomobile
I'd say in common with almost all the cited examples, except the S60, is they are butt ugly. Or at least, nothing exciting. The S60 looks good to me and I agree its a great car. The Buick, even though I happen to like Buicks generally because of their quality and reliability, is just plain too old looking. Geezer front teeth. And Opel has never had a succesful car ever in the US (as far as I know) and very rarely in Europe. Make them interesting and they will sell!
BPirnik
I have a 2009 Mazda 5, and at the time, it was in a class of 1. 3 row seating, plenty of space for a family of 4, and a small size made it the only logical choice when I went shopping for a family car. I must admit though, that my wife is French and having spent a lot of time in France, I have come to appreciate right-sized cars. I also added a class 1 towing kit, so I can pull a small trailer, making it a do it all car.
mjed1983
I bought a Regal Turbo when I was 28, now i'm 29. I love it more than any car I've ever had. I had a Trailblazer, a Saturn Aura and I wanted a step up. I loved the Genesis, it's a great car, but it's rear drive, which just doesn't work in Buffalo winters. I drive my Regal to Toronto and back a few times a month, and it's fantastic. All my friends think it is a sweet car. I could have had a BMW 3 series, which is a nice car, but everyone has one. I also liked the Audi A4, but there it has not real advantage on the Regal apart from a better name. I'm sure the Regal will catch on, just give it some time. It was the car of the year in Europe for one reason; it's a great car.
sonitro
I'm sure the Suzuki is a really great car but do not like the name "Kizashi"...they should of went with a different cooler name! I'm sure that has kept some people away..maybe it just sounds too foreign.
s.2032
I think that K9 sounds like a real dog.
ShinySteelRobot
@honur wrote "People keep buying BMWs regardless that the upkeep is prohibitive"Actually if you buy a BMW then for the first four years your upkeep is ZERO. BMW even pays for oil changes.Because of that, well into its sixth year my BMW upkeep has averaged less than my previous car (a Honda) on an average yearly basis. Unless something major goes wrong, when I sell my BMW next year I expect I will have paid less in total than I paid for upkeep of my Honda over an equivalent span of ownership.
dmfinpa
I have a Maxima coming off lease in early 2013. After reading this article I'll take a look at the Regal. I like the Max, but I understand Nissan has no plans to update/upgrade the 2013 model beyond minor tweaks. I have little interest in driving (more or less) the same vehicle I've been in for 39 months. I have friends that own a Genesis. They love the car but hate the service. Most of their dealers are not in the same mindset as BMW, MB & Lexus, and they treat their customers accordingly. For people coming out of those marques (I was a Beemer owner myself for years) this won't cut it. They do need to launch a network of luxury dealers for the top couple models.
v8cat
Sorry, The Buick name to me says "old fart", and I am almost 70 years old - really. It's kind of like the Mercury grand marquis.As far a the Genesis sedan, the styling says Mercedes copy. If you buy one, it just says, I did not have enough money to buy the real thing (MB). Also a friend of mine who owns a Sonata says the Hyundai service dept isn't all that great so why would you buy an Equus when you could buy a Lexus GS for less money?
Fyrewerx
I'm seriously thinking of trading my Corvette in for the Buick Regal GS. And I'm only 65 yrs old.
ancientmariner
In the fall of 2011. my wife and I rented a "standard family car" for our vacation in Maui. On our arrival, the rental company said they didn't have one available, however they would give us a Genesis for the same price! I was delighted as I had wanted to drive one.It was a very fine car but controls were a little difficult to adapt to. My wife turned on the wipers often when she turned the steering wheel, in bright Hawaii sunshine and couldn't easily figure how to turn the wipers off.. It would have helped to have a briefing on where to find things. Bought a 2012 Hyundai Sonata GLS soon after our return home and very satisfied with it, although I would have preferred having a power driver seat as standard.Gets honest 35-36 mpg on the highway but about 22 in town. Plenty of room for a big guy at 280 pounds.
honur
In the US what is practical, logical, common sense does not apply to buying a car. What others think of the vehicle is what counts. The car is like a trophy wife. It is to impress others or to make a statement. A VW TDI cost less, has more room and gets better mileage than a Toyota Prius but the green and liberal crowd buys the Prius. There is no logic in this decision only bias. People keep buying BMWs regardless that the upkeep is prohibitive and many far better and less expensive cars have the same featuresexcept for the name. Don't look for common sense in our car buying.
dollarandsense
Good article, all great cars in their areas but nitche cars in many ways. My wife loves her mazda 5, which I added back-up camera,sensors,DVD/nav. I love the genesis. I have driven a flex and a suzuki both were very good and the miata for the price can't be beat. Oh and I am too young for the buick, just 60.
dollarandsense
Good article, all great cars in their areas but nitche cars in many ways. My wife loves her mazda 5, which I added back-up camera,sensors,DVD/nav. I love the genesis. I have driven a flex and a suzuki both were very good and the miata for the price can't be beat. Oh and I am too young for the buick, just 60.
DanWilson
The biggest mistake that Hyundai made was to call the Equus a Hyundai. When it first came out, it was simply called called the Equus, and was known as Hyundai's luxury brand, ala Infiniti to Nissan, Lexus to Toyota, etc. But then somebody decided to affix the Hyundai brand name to it, and that's where it stopped being viewed as a luxury model. Same with the Genesis Sedan (the Genesis Coupe is a Hyundai, no question there). I think separating those two from Hyundai under a new name is a great idea and will do wonders for their image.
shle896
It's a shame about the Buick sales because for the first time in a LONG time they're actually building quality, innovative and attractive cars. The Buick brand doesn't have the best reputation, but to pair it with the name "Real" is ridiculous. They need to use a number system like BMW or come up with new names never used in the past. A friend of mine has a new Regal and it's every bit as awesome as Acura's I've driven in, but the negative connotation of the name "Regal" kind of ruins it. That said, GM is building terrific cars and I think that's most important. The old stereotypes will die out in time, but it will take a while.
nosebleed
GM is having trouble moving Regals for two reasons: "Buick" and "Regal". If they had just stuck with Opel Insignia, well... Same thing will happen with the new Chevrolet Impala. Nice car, but negative connotation with the name. What Accord buyer would consider a Regal?
reuben.clamzo
Flex, I have one word for you; plywood. As in, the Flex can't carry a flat sheet with the tailgate shut. It's got the heft and footprint of a minivan without the versatility. Its place in Ford's lineup is as a minivan alternative, but minivans are the Swiss Army knife of vehicles. Buyers in this market demand the broadest capability available.
Facelessdrone2005
This isn't that accurate. The Cayman regularly outsells the Boxster. It is at least equally popular. Of course, neither one sells that much.
mrtraced
Buick is too pricey and they gave us the 2001-2007 Rendezvous...they need to be punished a little longer. Flex - it is ugly and who wants a stylish hearse? Genesis Sedan - I feel it is perceived as having a free falling depreciation Mazda 5 - It is a hideous mini station wagon - a stiff wind would blow over that tall creature. Mazda Miata - you can buy a good used one for half to a quarter of the price of a new one. Porsche Cayman - Mostly jerks drive 'em and a 6 cylinder for 70k? - no thanks. Suzuki - Nice car but too pricey for a car that small. Volvo - Who wants a Chinese car?
DrivingGlovesMike
The Genesis is an incredible car for the price point. What Hyundai is doing now is even more impressive than what Honda did in the 1980's.
DERRECK153WP
I drove the Genesis is a great car, great warranty rear wheel drive, great interior. The Regal is an awesome car to drive, the look and design of the car is great nice power good ride.
DERRECK153WP
Its probably because magazine companies rave about the car when they first come out then they raged them when put in test against other cars like motor trend, and a few other magazines i won't name, people have to get out and test drive the cars for themselves then make there choice and stop listening to magazines cause what one might like one might not...

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