Usually poor sales figures suggest that a car isn’t great. However, it’s not always the case. Some of the best cars simply come out at the wrong time or are let down with the wrong marketing campaign.
These cars — the good cars with bad sales records — are the ones we’re interested in today. Over the past week, we’ve been digging through old sales ledgers to pick out hidden gems that risk being lumped in with all the bad cars with bad sales records.
So, here are the 10 best (but worst-selling) cars ever made.
#1 — Nissan GT-R
Unveiled in 2007, the Nissan GT-R falls somewhere between middling success and disappointing failure. After a brief flurry of activity when it launched, the Nissan’s sales slumped into the hundreds in both Europe and the US.
In 2017, Nissan managed to shift just 578 models in the States and 816 in Europe.
To put those numbers in perspective, the similarly priced Porsche 911 shifted 8,970 units in America and 15,053 units in Europe.
Despite a facelift in 2017, we just can’t see this 11-year-old coupe attracting more sales any time soon. And that’s a shame because the GT-R is a brutally quick coupe that’s practical enough to use in everyday life.
#2 — Alfa Romeo 4C
The Alfa Romeo 4C is a painfully good looking car. And while it’s not as performance-driven as the 718 Boxster, its infectious Italian charm more than makes up for it.
First unveiled to the public in 2013, the 4C got off to a very slow start, selling just 66 cars in Europe. And while sales did increase both in Europe and in the US, the 4C never really caught on in the same way Porsche’s pint-sized Boxster did. Nowadays, it’s pretty unlikely to pass this Italian stallion on the road.
#3 — Subaru BRZ
The Subaru BRZ was developed in collaboration with Toyota and it’s essentially the same car as the Toyota GT86. Like the GT86, it’s a super fun rear-wheel drive play thing that Joe Bloggs can actually afford.
However, unlike the GT86, people just didn’t buy it.
While it was moderately successful in the US (Subaru sold 4,131 units in 2017), it bombed in Europe, shifting just 527 last year, which is almost three times less than the identical Toyota GT86!
#4 — Infiniti Q70
The premium saloon niche is a super competitive marketplace dominated by fancy German marquees. If you want a premium saloon, you buy an Audi, a Mercedes, a BMW or, if you’re feeling the pinch, a Volkswagen.
While other manufacturers have tried to get in on the action, most have failed.
Japanese brand Infiniti was one of the latest to give it a go, bringing the truly excellent Q70 to Europe and the US. However, with the Audi A6, the BMW 5-Series and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class already well established, it was always going to be tough to win over motorists.
In Europe, Infiniti has only exceeded 500 sales per year on a couple of occasions. And when your competitors are shifting hundreds of thousands of new cars each year, it’s difficult to look at the Infiniti as anything less than a failure.
#5 — Mitsubishi i-MiEV
While the history of electric vehicles is dominated by talk of Teslas, Nissan Leafs and BMW i3s, there’s a handful of super important cars that tend to get forgotten. The Mitsubishi i-MiEV is one of them.
Launched to the public in 2010, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV was the first all-electric car that could adequately cope with the real world demands of everyday life.
The i-MiEV did shift a few units, especially towards the start, but it was soon eclipsed by slightly better EVs like the Nissan Leaf. Sales soon slumped and the i-MiEV soon vanished from our roads.
In 2017, Mitsubishi sold just 447 i-MiEV in Europe and just six in the States. Meanwhile, Nissan sold 16,832 Leafs in Europe and 11,230 in the US.
For the first proper, practical and affordable electric car, it’s a disappointing way to go out.
#6 — Lincoln MKS
The Lincoln MKS was a single-generation luxury saloon sold by Lincoln between 2009 and 2016. As a luxury saloon, it was a pretty decent car with a classy exterior design, a huge cabin and a great driving experience.
(Fun fact! In Canada, the official representative of the British Monarchy, the Governor General, uses a Lincoln MKS.)
Unfortunately, not even tangential royal approval was enough to save the MKS and, after several years of dwindling sales, Lincoln axed the MKS and announced it was going to replace it with a revived version of the Lincoln Continental. It’s a sad story for a great car and the MKS truly deserved a better farewell.
#7 — Acura NSX
The first generation Acura NSX (sold as the Honda NSX in Europe) was fairly successful, selling handful in Europe and a few more in the US. It was never a runaway success, though, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when Honda axed the model in 2005.
What was surprising was that Honda revived the line in 2016. The new NSX is a hybrid sports car with a 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 engine and three separate electric motors. When you combine the petrol engine and electric motors, the NSX can unleash almost 600 bhp, which is astounding!
Unfortunately, despite very positive reviews, the new Acura NSX has had a slow start. European sales started in 2017 with just 126 cars sold. In the States, things aren’t much better with 269 cars sold in 2016 and 581 in 2017. Compared to the first few years of the first generation NSX (it sold over 1,000 units in the US in 1990, 1991 and 1992), it’s a substantial drop off.
#8 — Lotus Evora
Lotus is known the world over for building small, agile and superb racing cars. Launched to the public in 2010, the Evora was built on Lotus’ first all-new platform since 1995! The styling and driving experience were absolutely sublime and it picked up positive reviews from almost every publication.
However, all that good stuff came at a price. A large price. The Evora retailed for around about £75,000, which pushed it into Porsche 911 territory. And while motorists were willing to spend money on the highly finished status symbol of the Porsche, they weren’t sure about the Lotus.
European sales have been all over the place, falling to a low of 98 units in 2014.
#9 — Mitsubishi Raider
Announced back in 2005, the Mitsubishi Raider is more or less a Dodge Dakota with some minor cosmetic tweaks. And that’s not a bad thing because the Dakota was a really solid pick up!
Unfortunately, the Raider was competing against the absurdly popular Ford F-150, which meant being a solid car isn’t enough to attract potential customers. And that’s a real shame as Mitsubishi could have developed the Raider into something truly special if they had had a chance.
The Ford F-150 steamrollered its competition and, after selling just 22,000 units, Mitsubishi axed the raider in 2009.
#10 — Renault Avantime
The Renault Avantime was a single-generation grand tourer slash MPV sold between 2001 and 2003. And it is, in my opinion, one of the best-looking MPVs ever made.
The angular back, two-tone design and sweeping panoramic windscreen are all insanely popular design features now. The Avantime suffered because it was 10 or 15 years early.
Frustratingly, no one wanted the forward-thinking MPV and they stuck with boring and boxy vans.
Renault axed the Avantime in 2004 after four years of dismal sales, shifting just 8,033 units.