July 13, 2016
Auto buyers are a fickle bunch. Sometimes a new model is released to fanfare, positive press reviews, and a strong response from buyers. Two years later, dealers are complaining about them taking up space on their lots. Or sometimes, a car is a can’t-miss hit on paper, and flops terribly. Take the infamous Pontiac Aztek for instance. It was a tall five-seat crossover with optional all-wheel drive that had as much space inside as a minivan. But its design by committee styling was hideous, and its awful build quality doomed it (and ultimately Pontiac) from the start.
But that’s an extreme case. More often than not, buyers flock to what’s popular, leaving less-than-popular segments to wither and disappear; the station wagon begat the minivan, which begat the crossover, and so forth. With gas prices low and the economy strong, dealers are having a hard time keeping crossovers and SUVs in stock, but buyers are leaving midsize sedans and EVs in the lurch. And its even worse for smaller niche models.
Using data collected by Good Car Bad Car from March 2016, we looked at the 20 worst-selling cars in America. While many of the offenders were late model vehicles that dealers still can’t unload, we found quite a few current models that have completely fallen off the sales cliff. Ranked in order of sales decline, here are the five cars no one wants to buy anymore.
5. BMW i3
BMW’s i3 is one of the most groundbreaking designs of the decade; a forward-thinking, unapologetically advanced car built to usher in the age of electric vehicles. But a weak range (81 miles, 150 with the $3,800 gas-powered range extender) and high price ($42K and up) mean that all the early adopters have bought theirs by now. As a result, BMW dealers are having a hard time getting them off their lots. In March 2015, 922 i3s found a home. In March ’16, sales were down 64%, to just 332 cars sold.
4. Chrysler 200
The once dominant midsize sedan segment is rapidly shrinking, and no company feels it more acutely than FCA. The 200 isn’t a bad car; in fact when it was introduced just last year, Chrysler had high hopes for it. But despite an attractive design, it won few converts with its uninspiring driving experience and cramped rear quarters. The final straw came when FCA chief Sergio Marchionne publicly called the car a failure just days before the company announced it would be phased out after 2018. With that vote of confidence, production has stopped on the 200 because dealer lots are jammed with them. When it was brand new in March ’15, a respectable 19,190 found a new home. March ’16? Just 6,176 were sold, down 67.8%.
3. BMW 6 Series
Of all the models on this list, the 6 Series is really the least deserving. While BMW’s lineup has become bloated with all manner of crossovers and SUVs, the 6 Series is one of the most cohesive models to wear the roundel. Available as a coupe, convertible, and four-door Gran Coupe, the 6 Series is an elegant, compelling alternative for fans of fast, luxurious GT cars, and for purists who think the 5 Series has gotten too bloated. Plus, the performance-focused M6 Gran Coupe is widely considered to be one of the best sedans in the world. No matter; in March ’15, the entire lineup found just 2,434 buyers. A year later, it found a paltry 389. That’s an 84% downturn.
2. Mini Paceman
Just a few years ago, Mini was filling its lineup with quirky niche models to appeal to a small but loyal fanbase. Now, the brand is refocusing on its small cars while offering a unique combination of performance, practicality, and luxury. Today, the Paceman is a relic of Mini’s wilder days, a big (for Mini), two-door crossover with room for four. To some, it’s a budget Range Rover Evoque, and its $23K entry price makes it a bargain. But there’s virtually no market for an entry-level two-door crossover (it kind of defeats the purpose for young families), and as a result, the Paceman likely isn’t long for this world. Mini only sold 112 of them in March ’15. This year? Just 15, an 86.6% decline.
1. Mazda CX-9
Mazda’s biggest SUV on the lots may have the year 2015 printed on its window sticker, but don’t let that fool you. The CX-9 was plenty competitive in its day — but its day was 2006. One of the oldest vehicles on the market, Mazda has had a hard time finding any takers for its aging people mover; just 117 CX-9s left the lots in March. A year before, 1,489 had, a 92.1% downturn.
Of course, the CX-9 is all-new for 2016, arriving at dealers now, and has the potential to be one of the most competitive three-row SUVs on the market. If any car on this list is due for a rebound, it’s the Mazda.