Sub-3000 Club: The 10 Slowest-selling Cars of 2012

January 23, 2013
2012 Acura RL Front Three Quarter
The headlines at the start of every month often herald the models that top the sales charts. Nameplates such as Ford F-series, Toyota Camry and Corolla, and Honda Accord consistently lead the pack, with hundreds of thousands of units being sold every year.
We rarely hear about the cars at the other end of the spectrum, however. In 2011, we took a look back at 2010 sales figures and told you which cars sold in the lowest numbers -- fewer than 3000 units. Now that the 2012 sales numbers are in, we’ve once again rounded up the lowest-selling nameplates, those that sold less than 3000 units. We’ve excluded exotics that rarely sell more than a few hundred in a year; models that bit the dust mid-year and, therefore, didn't have a full calendar year of sales; and cars that were discontinued prior to the 2012 calendar year but were still on dealership lots.
10. BMW Z4 – 2751 copies sold
The current-generation BMW Z4 has always been a bit of an odd duck – it's neither as driver-focused as the Porsche Boxster nor as stylish and relaxed as the Audi TT. It's no surprised, then, that the Z4 is on the list, moving just 2751 copies in 2012. BMW has already shown an extremely mild update to the car for 2014, which should help boost sales a little – there is a new sDrive18i entry-level model that should come in below the current car's $48,245 base price including destination. Perhaps this will help the Z4 move off the list next year.
9. Subaru Tribeca – 2075 copies sold
Subaru has been on a roll lately, selling every car it can build; in fact, the automaker is looking to expand its Indiana plant to build an additional 50,000 to 100,000 cars per year. However, our bet is that the Tribeca SUV is the lone Subaru without a capacity constraint. Just a hair over 2000 Tribecas were sold last year, making it one of four models to return to this list. The Tribeca cannot seem to shake the initial negative reviews from its 2005 debut and has consequently languished on the marketplace ever since.
8. Cadillac Escalade EXT – 1934 copies sold
General Motors announced that 2013 would be the final year for the Chevrolet Avalanche, the Escalade EXT's down-market twin. Chances are that 2013 will be the last year for the Cadillac version, as well. All of GM's full-size SUVs will be replaced in the next 18 months, and the EXT's slow sales numbers indicate that this truck won’t stay around for long.
7. Jaguar XK – 1633 copies sold
Jaguar has done a reasonably good job of keeping the XK fresh in the five years since its debut. The range-topping Jag has gone under the knife twice and has seen various powertrain updates over the years. Our favorite is the ludicrous XKR-S with its 550-hp, 5.0-liter supercharged V-8 and addicting exhaust note. Even the "base" XK -- with a 385-hp normally aspirated version of the same engine -- is a gem, combining good driving dynamics with the tasteful interior and exterior of a grand tourer.
However, we may be alone in our love for the XK. The two-door's sales fell 76 percent last year, finding just over 1600 buyers willing to take one home. Despite climbing scores in quality surveys, Jaguar's reputation for poor reliability probably hampers the brand's sales, especially for its oldest model. The XK's starting price of $79,895 (with destination) probably doesn't help, either. Sadly, sales will probably decline further in 2013 – the arrival of the newer and cheaper F-Type may cannibalize XK sales until a new model makes its debut.
6. Mercedes-Benz R-Class – 1473 copies sold
We commend Mercedes-Benz for taking a risk and rolling out the R-Class, which straddles the line between wagon and SUV. However, taking a risk means there is a chance for failure, and the R-Class has never set the sales charts ablaze. In its final year on sale in the U.S., the three-row R moved fewer than 1500 copies. American buyers looking for a three-row Mercedes will now be pointed to the GL SUV; however, the R-Class will continue to live on in China.
5. Mercedes-Benz G-Class – 1330 copies sold
Sales of the Geländewagen were actually up from last year (by just 139 units), and the automaker has rolled out a substantial update (well, substantial for the 34-year-old G, anyway) with LED running lights, an all-new cabin, and new engine options.
A high price and extremely limited production – the cheapest model, the G550, starts at $113,905 and the G-Class is mostly hand-built at the factory in Graz, Austria -- ensure that there will always be only a small number of G-Classes on the road.
4. Acura ZDX – 775 copies sold
After having a 2010 Acura ZDX in our Four Seasons fleet for a year, we came away confused about the mission of the ZDX. Although it’s luxurious, the ZDX did its job no better than the average luxury coupe while adding the downsides inherent in an SUV wrapper. It seems that we aren't the only ones who are befuddled by the odd-duck ZDX, as fewer than 1000 buyers took one home last year. In an attempt to buoy sales in the coupe-like crossover's final year, Acura gave the ZDX a little aesthetic nip and tuck for 2013.
3. Mitsubishi i-MiEV – 588 copies sold
There has been a lot of chatter from automotive executives and pundits about why electric cars haven't yet gained traction. Of the three current all-electric offerings – Ford Focus Electric, Nissan Leaf, and Mitsubishi i-MiEV -- the i-MiEV has fared the worst. Whereas the Nissan Leaf sold just shy of 10,000 units (and the Focus EV wasn’t on sale for all of 2012), the egg-shaped Mitsubishi only managed 588 sales in 2012. Much of the blame can be placed on two factors: Mitsubishi's small dealer network and the fact that, from behind the wheel, the i-MiEV feels more like a grown-up golf cart than a scaled-down car.
2. Porsche Cayman – 462 copies sold
A number of forces came together in 2012 to give the Cayman the short straw in Porsche's sales. First was the appearance of the all-new 991-generation 911 Carrera, which pushed sales of the 911 up 31.4 percent over 2011. Second, an all-new Boxster made its debut halfway through the year, giving mid-engine Porsche buyers a newer, more luxurious option. Fans of the Cayman had to wait until the 2013 model year for the all-new car to make its debut, which it did at the L.A. Auto Show in November. Expect 2013 sales numbers for the Cayman to swell once the car goes on sale this spring.
1. Acura RL – 379 copies sold
The Acura RL, which last had a total redesign in 2005, has had a hard time getting a foothold in the marketplace. A facelift in 2009 helped, and updates in 2011 kept the sedan reasonably fresh amid a raft of updated competitors. However, that clearly was not enough – the RL landed also on our list last time around, and its numbers in 2012 sales were even worse. Part of the reason for the dismal sales results was a dwindling inventory; 2012 marked the RL's final year on sale. Acura has already shown the 2013 RLX, which will replace the RL as the brand's flagship sedan when it goes on sale in March.


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2012 Acura RL

Base AWD 4-Dr Sedan V6
starting at (MSRP)
3.7L V6
Fuel Economy
17 City 24 Hwy
2012 Acura RL