Some car segments hit the skids in 2016, and it’s easy to see why. There were hybrids that fought cheap gas and lost. On other cases, small cars got lost in the shuffle of trucks, crossovers, and the biggest, baddest SUVs of all. Though it seems impossible in a country that buys over 16 million new cars a year, some vehicles simply never find a home here.
Automakers have options when they watch a model struggle. One good idea is rushing out a mid-cycle refresh. Whatever you forgot to do in the first try, maybe you can add it for the upcoming model year and snag a few thousand more sales. However, there are some cars that are doomed from the start. No added tech or new paint colors will matter in the long run.
The least popular cars of 2016 were a mix of the ugly, the malfunctioning, and the impractical
This post is devoted to the lost souls of the industry, the vehicles that need something — anything — to jumpstart their declining sales. Here are the 10 cars automakers couldn’t give away in 2016.
1. Toyota Prius V
The original Toyota Prius V made sense: It got great economy but was not as confining as the compact models. Families could pack luggage, load up the kids, and travel in comfort. However, times have changed. These days, there are several cars that match its economy with better style. In fact, Prius V actually got a worse mileage rating in 2017 compared to 2016. That’s bad news for a car with sales down 50%. Meanwhile, slicker models like Ford Fusion Hybrid cost less while delivering better fuel economy ratings.
2. Fiat 500L
Say what you will about the media — auto journalists were dead right about Fiat 500L. The brand’s four-door model was torched by reviewers who hated nearly everything about the car. Combined with lousy crash test scores and poor reliability ratings, the 500L lost whatever momentum it had in 2016. Through the first 10 months of 2016, sales declined 59%, year over year. It got to the point where Fiat dealers in the U.S. could barely sell 100 models a month.
3. Cadillac SRX
The Cadillac SRX had a run for over a decade before ending production in 2016, when GM’s luxury brand unveiled the XT5 as a replacement. With the kiss of death and huge discounts on remaining models, dealers had a hard time selling people on the SRX with the XT5 looming overhead. It was most obvious in October, when sales dropped 98% to 118 units on the month.
4. Ford Focus Electric
It’s hard for a model to underperform when its peak sales month was 264 units. However, Ford Focus Electric found itself there in 2016. This EV’s powertrain and range remain unchanged since its debut in 2012, and consumers have mostly written it off despite the generous incentives on the table. Just 734 models sold through October. There is no timetable for the 2017 model’s arrival, but plug-in enthusiasts can’t be encouraged by the “over 75 miles” of range quoted on the Ford website. (We expected well over 100.)
5. Kia K900
Folks love the Kia K900, the luxury chariot of LeBron James that was favorably reviewed not once but twice by Autos Cheat Sheet. Nonetheless, this car remains a victim of branding. Not enough people are ready to ditch premium German brands and opt for a Kia just yet. Hence the K900’s place on the sales list: 264 out of 298. Worse yet, it’s in decline. In 2016, K900 dropped 67% through the first 10 months of the year. It needs a comeback like the one James pulled off in the 2016 NBA Finals.
6. Dodge Dart
Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne once considered the Dodge Dart a feather in the automaker’s cap, but the small car never really caught on in America. After announcing it would end production late in 2016, Dart continued to be sluggish despite heavy incentives for dealers to move it. At its best, Dart sold a fraction of the segment’s most popular models. At its worst (in 2016), it didn’t crack the top 100.
7. Mini Cooper Hardtop 2 Door
Though one month of Ford F-150 sales outshine the entire Mini brand’s yearly haul, 2016 has been even tougher on the small car lineup. The outgoing Paceman and Roadster disappeared as quietly as you’d expect, but the Hardtop 2 Door dipped nearly 50% despite its intention to stay on the market. We’ll see if Mini’s strategy of getting bigger works, but it’s safe to say the status quo did not.
8. Mitsubishi i-MiEV
While there was never such a thing as a “good” year for Mitsubishi i-MiEV, 2016 featured some particularly demoralizing sales tallies. For example, the tiny electric car sold just 1 unit in March, and that was after selling a total of 7 cars in the first two months. You really have to feel for dealers with this model. Buyers can deduct the $7,500 tax credit off the purchase price of $22,995 and still no one will buy it. In several states, incentives bring the price down around $13,000. Yet no one wants it.
9. Volkswagen Touareg
It’s hard to believe any American consumer leaves the house intending to buy a Touareg. This oddly named Volkswagen SUV gets decent reviews but definitely has one of the worst names on the market and the unfortunate reality of a diesel variant in its past. Combine that with an all-new model on the way and you have a sales disaster in 2016. This car declined 68% in October, year-over-year, with just 271 sales.
10. Lexus CT200h
Toyota had more than slumping Prius sales to contend with in 2016. Lexus hybrids were just as difficult for dealers to move. For example, the Lexus CT 200h dropped 40% through the first 10 months of the year, with its October dip (48%) even more alarming. As Lexus’s most affordable car, CT 200h states its case as an economical option with a premium badge. But consumers tend to expect more than 134 horsepower when they hop inside any car they’ll use on the highway. Until that changes, this car will be a tough sell.