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The Best That Weren’t Bestsellers: The Best Cars That Didn’t Sell



If it’s good, it will sell. That’s not quite true when it comes to these 3 cars from Toyota and Subaru, Porsche, and Mercedes Benz.

If you build it, they will come. This has long been the foundational principle of every manufacturer and designer who has prized quality above all. It’s the belief that if you make something that’s good, people will want it and buy it. Sadly, that’s not always the case. Critically acclaimed TV shows, movies, and songs don’t get the ratings and audience they deserve, and the same is true of the following cars:

Subaru BRZ / Toyota Scion FR-S

Here you get 2 brands and models for the price of one. That’s because it’s the same car that Toyota and Subaru collaborated on to produce. While there are differences in trim and colors between the two models and the BRZ is more expensive because the navigation unit is standard, everything else is the same.

When this car came out, the automotive media was ecstatic. It was hailed as one of the best—if not the best—car of the years 2012 and 2013. Experts loved the design and the performance, and they were delighted by the sports car performance at an affordable price. It’s like paying half the cost of a Porsche Boxster.

It really was that good. The chassis inspired a lot of confidence, the steering wheel gave a lot of feel, and the braking action was phenomenal.

It was first available in the latter half of 2012, during which Scion sold 11,417 models. So you’d think that by extrapolating for the whole year, it would sell almost 23,000 units the next year, right? Well, not quite. Buyers only got 18,327 units for the whole of 2013. And then by 2014, the sales were only a little over 14,000. The same downward trend was found at the Subaru side.

Some experts suspected that the suspension was to blame. It wasn’t quite comfy enough for daily driving, they said.

So what should you do? If you find one for sale, get it—it’s that good. So what if it wasn’t as popular as it should have been? That only goes to show that sometimes the masses get it wrong.

Porsche Cayman

The Porsche Cayman is always a favorite among the knowledgeable. Over the years, its various incarnations tend to join various lists of best cars for the year. But the low sales figures of the Cayman are due to one simple, unavoidable fact—the 911 is still regarded as the one and true Porsche.

Porsche sold a little over 7,000 Cayman units in 2006, and in 2007 it was down to a little over 6,000. After that, it never went past 3,500. On the other hand, in recent years the 911 sold more than 10,000 units annually.

However, when you drive the 2 you may notice that the Cayman is actually the better car. The steering is awe-inspiring, the structure is appropriately sturdy, the transmissions are terrific, and the styling is undoubtedly beautiful. It’s one of the best cars in the world, and it’s unfortunate that its sales figures didn’t reflect that fact.

Mercedes-Benz E-class Wagon

In 2014, Mercedes-Benz was able to sell 66,400 E-class variants. But only about 2,300 of these were of the wagon type. And that didn’t quite make sense.

After all, the cost of the 2015 Mercedes-Benz E350 4MATIC wagon was only about $4,200 more than what you have to spend for a comparable (luxury or sport trim) 2015 E350 4MATIC sedan. For the extra money, you received a 3rd-row seat as well as extra cargo capacity. And it looked great. In fact, many confessed to thinking that its looks were better than the sedan’s.

Who knows why the sales figures were so low? Perhaps it’s because station wagons are now passé, and SUV now rule. But this should have sold more if there was justice in the automotive world.

Mazda 6

If you compare the sales figures of the Mazda 6 to the Porsche 911, then they aren’t all that bad. In 2014, about 53,200 went to appreciative buyers. But in the niche of midsize sedans, those sales figures are paltry. After all, during that same time Toyota sold more than 428,600 Toyota Camry units. That’s a ratio of more than 8 to 1.

It’s easy enough to figure out what went wrong. The main problem was that previous versions of the Mazda 6 weren’t really all that good, so buyers stayed away and went with the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord.

But then it all changed for the 2015 model. This time Mazda brought in a new crew to work on the Mazda 6. This was the same crew that produced the sublime Mazda 3 and the awesome new Miata. And they came out with a fast car (0 to 60mph in 7 seconds) that conserved fuel (37 mpg). The interior materials were stylish, the chassis was responsive, and the look was upscale. But in the end, the previous reputation of the Mazda 6 proved its undoing.

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