The luxury market is a segment to be desired and feared in the auto industry. If you’re a part of it long enough (see: Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, et. al.), anything with the badge is likely to translate to profits regardless of how far it strays from the brand’s core principles — we’re looking at you, Mercedes coupes that aren’t really coupes, and the dozen-plus models of BMW’s crossover and SUV lineup. If you’ve had it, lost it, and got it back again, like Cadillac or 2000s-era Jaguar, then it’s one hell of an uphill climb to get back into customers’ good graces. After all, this rarefied air is a place where Lexus — a 27-year-old brand — is still looked at with skepticism as a new-comer; it isn’t easy to find acceptance here. Just ask Kia as it tries to find buyers for the K900.
But the higher the sticker prices, the larger the profits, and as a result, mid-market brands are forever looking to move up, while the big guns continuously search for new ways to tastefully expand downmarket and hook the latest generation of young professionals hungry for their first real status-symbol on wheels. Sometimes it works; often it doesn’t.
So as the luxury market expands and contracts along with the economy, it’s unsurprising that dozens of luxury cars have come and gone over the years. We’ve come up with 10 embarrassing, underrated, or flat out head-scratching models that were interesting enough to give a second look.