The auto industry is filled to the rafters with models and in the US alone, there are nearly 300 of them, including various permutations of the same — standard and extended wheelbase, for example.
Some models such as the Toyota Corolla, Chevrolet Silverado, and the Mazda 3 are golden to the manufacturer, and are so ingrained within the brand that without them each company would be in a far different place.
But there are others that wouldn’t be missed, including a few that look as if they have been beaten with an ugly stick. Yet still others may have been the right model for perhaps a season, but the market has since changed and a mercy killing is in order. Our list of seven mercy killing worthy models begins with the worst first.
1. Mitsubishi i-MiEV
What can you say about his homely electric vehicle that hasn’t been said before? Besides having an incomprehensible model name that fortunately has been shortened simply to “i,” this electrified Mitsubishi i-MiEV hatchback has never been a gamer.
You can blame the vastly supported and more technologically advanced Nissan Leaf for making this model largely irrelevant. But that would overlook a simple point: the “i” is ugly, is loaded with cheap plastic parts, and has a short 62-mile electric-only range.
Its low $22,995 starting price and available $7,500 federal tax credit is its only appeal. And selling no more than two dozen models per month doesn’t imbue confidence in a brand that appears ready to exit the US market. In this case, maybe Mitsubishi needs a push.
2. Jeep Compass
The Jeep Compass along with the Patriot have forever changed this quintessential American off-road brand, but not in a good way. Similar models based on the same platform that once underpinned the retired (and boring) Dodge Caliber, the Compass is the tamer looking of the two. It also looks like a toy Jeep and it certainly doesn’t behave much better.
Both models do the Jeep brand much injustice as they have the exterior visage that suggests something far more sophisticated, but aren’t able to deliver a true off-road experience. But that’s what you get when you settle for something that isn’t as rugged as the Wrangler or as refined as the Grand Cherokee. A new model to replace both is in the works and when it appears the Compass and the Patriot will mercifully cease to exist.
3. Lexus CT 200h
Attacking anything Lexus is a risky proposition as Toyota’s luxury brand routinely leads all customer satisfaction surveys. Diehard luxury enthusiasts often criticize the marque as not having the pedigree of a BMW or a Mercedes-Benz, but that hasn’t stopped shoppers from buying a Lexus. The thinking with some is, “your definition of luxury may be different than mine.” Meanwhile, Toyota is laughing all the way to the bank.
Unlike its German competitors, Lexus does not augment its fleet with fuel-saving, performance-oriented diesel models. Instead, Lexus relies on a Toyota staple — hybrids — to fill out its generous product line. It is a strategy that works most of the time, although the forgettable and very much Toyota Corolla-like HS 250h Hybrid was mercifully killed after just three years.
Another model that should go on the chopping block is the Lexus CT 200h. It has a Lexus face (and whether you like the spindle grille look or not is a matter for a separate conversation) plastered to a hatchback body. On closer inspection, it doesn’t take much to imagine a Corolla hatchback.
As with any Lexus, high-end materials and a high-quality build are this small hybrid’s strong suits. That advertisers say that it “eats asphalt” is terribly misleading. It simply does not. Giving this model the HS 250h treatment would go far in lifting the brand. Or now that Toyota has finally found turbo nirvana, outfitting it with a proper powertrain just might work.
4. Lincoln MKT
The Lincoln MKT is an example of a product that does everything to detract from a brand. Then again, others may contend that the MKT accurately portrays what Lincoln is all about — humdrum, if not ugly models that offer only a pretense of all things luxury.
Where should we start? This wagon-like crossover utility vehicle is dominated by an oversized, double-wing grille. It looks like it wants to bite. Its profile is all wagon, but the rising beltline at its rear quarter points to a jumbled mess. The wraparound rear lighting assembly only adds to the busyness, leaving people speechless or crying out in agony.
Falling sales of the MKT and for the similar, but downmarket Ford Flex may signal this model’s demise. Its available turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 may give the MKT a lot of punch, but that sole redeeming feature cannot mask a truly hideous design.
5. Dodge Grand Caravan
Minivans are now maxi-vans as they have grown in proportion through the years. The segment also peaked more than a decade ago with most families now choosing SUVs, especially crossover utility vehicles. The Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey are considered the best of the lot with models from Chrysler, Kia, Dodge and Nissan somewhere further down the purchase consideration list.
The current Dodge Grand Caravan and the similar Chrysler Town & Country have been around since 2008. Both advance a boxy persona and are about as drab of a pair of minivans you can find anywhere. The current generation Town & Country has come to an end as a new model will begin production next Feb. 29 in Canada. Unfortunately, the Dodge Grand Caravan will continue “as is” through the 2017 model year before it rides off into the sunset. In our opinion, its end cannot come soon enough.
6. Volkswagen Passat
Volkswagen may be the largest car manufacturer in the world, having wrested control of that honor from Toyota this year. The German automaker knows how to build cars, but the one thing they haven’t solved is the finicky and persnickety US consumer market.
Take the Volkswagen Passat….please! What could have and should have been a standout model is anything but that. Sure, it meets many of the basic requirements for the segment and adds in a diesel option where its competitors fear to tread. But its style is just not exemplary enough to interest consumers. Yes, the Passat is more like the Camry and the Honda Accord, but Volkswagen doesn’t have the stellar reputation of either manufacturer. Volkswagen needs to talk with its upscale sister, Audi, to understand the US market. It also needs to rework the Passat so that it is less passive and more aggressive in its countenance.
7. Hyundai Azera*
The Hyundai Azera gets mentioned here, but with an asterisk by its name. That’s because there is nothing inherently wrong with this model, rather it is in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Hyundai updated the Azera in 2012, following a very successful update of the midsize Sonata, and the release of two larger and more luxurious Genesis and Equus models. But it is the two models immediately below and above the Azera that are sucking the life out of this large sedan, competitor to the Toyota Avalon, Chevrolet Impala, Ford Taurus, and the Nissan Maxima. Indeed, the Azera has only one more cubic feet of cabin space than the Sonata, yet costs thousands of dollars more. Further, the top end of the Azera segment meets the lower end of the Genesis sedan. These two factors likely account for the reason why sales are only about one-third the 20,000 units Hyundai thought this model could sell. In this case it would be better to kill the Azera and to concentrate on the product line winners here.
Let the Mercy Killings Begin!
Chances are the manufacturers will be slow to kill off the worst of the lot or modify the same. However, consumers not only voice their opinions, but they vote with their wallets. And that’s why all seven models featured here are selling far below the numbers that each respective manufacturer thought possible.
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