Duds of the Year: 25 Cars on Life Support in 2017
U.S. consumers never bought more cars than they did in 2016. Some 17.55 million new cars and trucks found American buyers throughout the year, beating the all-time record by a small margin. Despite fears the auto industry had peaked, car buyers rode the wave of an improved economy, which hit its own record of 75 straight months of employment gains.
That pace has mostly held steady for the auto industry in 2017. As usual, pickup trucks are leading the way. Ford F-150 continues its 35-year reign atop the U.S. sales charts, and other Detroit models have followed suit. Meanwhile, SUVs and trucks have their biggest share of the market (nearly 60%) the industry ever seen. That trend leaves cars — especially smaller cars — quite vulnerable. This dark side of the story is one that’s worth telling.
Despite the favorable market conditions, consumers are steering clear of many cars you can find in dealerships. Twenty-five models in particular are either showing huge sales declines or simply low volumes due to their enduring unpopularity. As their struggles continue through the start of 2017, these 25 cars are officially America’s least wanted vehicles.
25. Toyota Avalon
It is difficult to find a car that lasts longer than Toyota’s Avalon. The full-size sedan has a remarkably high percentage of models that reach 200,000 miles and keep on going. However, that is not translating to many sales in 2017. Avalon sold just 2,610 units in February, which was down 34% from the year prior. At 112th place on the sales charts, Avalon could use some more fans in America.
24. Jeep Patriot
Between 2014 and 2017, Consumer Reports found about half of Jeep Patriot buyers regretted their purchase, with their chief complaint being reliability. Since Jeep is replacing Patriot with the new Compass, these problems may have solutions in the near future. Until then, Patriot will continue taking a beating in the sales department as it’s phased out. Sales were cut in half between 2016 and early 2017.
23. Mini Cooper
While some Mini models hold their own or show improvements, the four-door Cooper hardtop has hit a very rough patch. Sales dropped a whopping 56% through February 2017 compared to the prior year’s numbers. For some perspective, it recently posted a depressing total of 481 sales per month, which doesn’t even place it in the top 200 on the U.S. market.
22. Ford Transit Connect
The average consumer might never consider Ford’s Transit Connect an option, but this work van has been a solid performer for the Blue Oval brand over the years. In 2017, Transit Connect has joined other E-Series models in a sales slump. Through the first two months of the year, its sales were down 35% and managed a pace of only 2,102 units per month. This performance pushed it onto the industry’s back lots, i.e. 127th place in the U.S. market.
21. BMW 5-Series
There is a new BMW 5-Series coming to U.S. dealerships in 2017, but the outgoing model has failed to tempt consumers. Available 5-Series models dropped 26.6% to 32,408 units in 2016, placing the car at 128th on the market. The numbers are even worse in 2017. Through the first two months of the year, 5-Series sales plunged 47%, year over year.
20. Jeep Compass
A new Compass is coming to replace both Patriot and the outgoing, underachieving SUV bearing its same name. That moment cannot come soon enough for Jeep, which has seen sales for this model fall off a cliff in 2017. Through February, Compass dipped no less than 61%. To get an idea how hard it’s fallen: The car that once sold 9,000 units a month had plunged to 2,700 sales by early 2017.
19. Chevrolet SS
Would you buy a four-door Chevrolet sedan for $47,000? If you answered no, you agree with just about every U.S. car consumer. Chevy’s rear-wheel Super Sport (SS) bruiser was always a darling of the critics that never sold, but it has reached the point where it barely registers. As of February 2017, SS had locked down 244th place and was selling a mere 312 units a month. Fittingly, SS production will end with the demise of GM’s Australian operation in 2017.
18. Toyota Prius c
In a wold where the remarkably efficient 2017 Toyota Prius (52 mpg) is losing market share every year, the “fun-sized” Prius c (46 mpg) has struggled to make its case to consumers. Sales fell nearly 40% to 1,372 units in February 2017. That landed Prius c in 165th place on the U.S. market, which is a sad fate for such a practical car. With gas still cheap enough to tempt truck buyers, that signature Prius fuel economy does not have the same appeal.
17. Dodge Dart
To see a car American car shoppers really didn’t want in 2016, just look at the Dodge Dart. Sales crashed some 50.6% for the discontinued model dealers couldn’t shove off the lot. Its total of 43,402 sales put it at 110th place for the year. In December 2016, it declined 74% compared to the previous year, and the song has remained the same for 2017.
16. Nissan Juke
Nissan Juke may have a face only a mother could love, but it has certainly seen better days on the auto market. In the early going of 2017, Juke sales fell 30%, year over year. At this point, the funky crossover is struggling to sell 1,200 units a month and has held down 162nd place on the charts. Next stop, obscurity.
15. Buick Regal
If you ask auto journalists and reviewers, many will tell you great things about Buick Regal. If you ask American car buyers, most will say they never considered buying one. This premium sedan, which was selling over 2,000 units a month in 2016, can barely post half that number in 2017. Regal’s sales decline hit a stunning 54%, year over year, through February 2017.
14. Volvo XC90
Among the bizarrely neglected cars of our time, the Volvo XC90 may top the pack. It won dozens of awards during its debut year on the market, and enthusiasm among auto journalists everywhere remains high. Sales are a different matter entirely. Through February, XC90 notched 158th place on the U.S. market with sales down 40% from the prior year. Even widely hated (and fully discontinued) vehicles like Dodge Dart are outselling XC90.
13. Lexus IS
The U.S. market has been hard on sedans in general, and polarizing models like Lexus IS have had a hard time maintaining any sort of rhythm. Through February 2017, the sporty luxury model saw sales dip 43%, year over year. With under 1,700 units a month going on the books, IS is no longer in the top 150 on the market.
12. Cadillac CTS
Overall, Cadillac sedans have been in a rut on the U.S. market, with ATS showing double-digit declines from 2016 as it flounders in 182nd place on the charts. CTS got off to an even worse start in 2017 with a drop of 38%, year over year. The sport sedan managed to sell just 913 units in February, landing it in 191st place. It seems like no amount of Soho-based ads can save these cars.
11. Fiat 500X
You won’t find great reviews of the Fiat 500X, which ranked worst in reliability among small SUVs in Consumer Reports surveys for 2016. Perhaps that reputation is preceding the 500X at Fiat dealerships in North America. Through the first months of 2017, sales dropped 44% with 500X struggling to hit 600 units per month. That performance landed it 199th place, a shade above the Mendoza line.
10. Kia Rio
Buyers looking for a cheap mini car might kick the tires of a Kia Rio, but that hasn’t happened often in 2017. Sales had fallen some 43%, year over year, leaving only 840 new models for American consumers in February. Declines for the first two months of the year (37%) offered only slightly better news.
9. Acura ILX
Ask American consumers to pick the Acura ILX out of lineup and you will encounter confusion on all fronts. Some might confuse it for a Honda Civic with a fancier badge (and rightly so — it’s based on that car). However, no amount of incentives could save ILX through the early going of 2017. This car slumped down 51% with just 739 sales in February. It now holds 195th place on the sales charts all by itself.
8. BMW 2-Series
Among the big luxury brands, BMW had by far the worst year of the bunch in 2016. Altogether, the German brand slumped 9.5% year over year, while Audi and Mercedes-Benz made gains in America. One of the drags on BMW’s numbers was the 2-Series, which slumped 45% through February 2017, a month in which it sold just 598 units. That performance pushed it to 198th on the market.
7. Nissan 370Z
It may be surprising to learn that the Nissan 370Z is still available new. This car has been on the road since 2002 and, following its peak of 37,000 sales in 2003, has steadily declined toward irrelevance (i.e., 2016, when it moved 5,913 units). In its days of brisker sales, it was known as one of the deadliest cars in America. These days, it might have a hard time finding someone to crash it. Just over 400 units were sold in February 2017.
6. Acura RLX
For those who thought ILX had a limited audience, we present Acura RLX. This $55,000 sedan has most of the tech and safety features anyone could want. Now it just needs to find buyers … As it stands, there is not much room to fall for RLX on the U.S. market. It hovered at 252nd place through February 2017 and barely sold 100 units in March. Only a handful of cars are less relevant.
5. Chrysler 200
We don’t want to pile on the Chrysler 200, but the numbers don’t lie. This midsize sedan showed the sharpest decline of any active vehicle in 2016. All told, sales fell 65.8% — from 110,000 units to 57,294 — year over year. Journalists frankly hated this car, and consumers agreed, giving it terrible reviews for quality and reliability in recent years. Apparently, Chrysler’s retirement of the 200 didn’t come soon enough. Its downward spiral continued through the first quarter of 2017.
4. Lexus CT
The Lexus CT 200h and sport models are soldiering on in 2017, but consumers are getting less interested all the time. After a dismal 2016, CT suffered even more declines early this year. Compared to a year earlier, these cars slumped a full 40% and sold just 458 units in February. The nameplate held down 212th place on the U.S. sales charts with that performance.
3. Fiat 500L
Crowds have never lined up to get a Fiat 500L, but the situation became dire in early 2017. After 14 months of sustained irrelevance, 500L nearly fell off the sales charts entirely with 72 sales in February 2017. That was good for 253rd place, which is basically the bottom of the barrel. Compared to the year prior, Fiat’s bloated four-door model declined 81%. For evidence backing up the market’s take here, see the Consumer Reports review in which 500L rated 22nd of 22 available compacts.
2. Mitsubishi i-MiEV
Could American car buyers want the Mitsubishi i-MiEV any less? That’s a tall order for an electric car that resembles an insect, but i-MiEV is somehow making it happen. Mitsubishi managed to sell just one of these cars in February, pushing the total to five for the year. If you think that’s laughable (we do), just remember there is still potential for this car to fall further (i.e., to zero sales).
1. Kia K900
Technically, Kia K900 is not the worst of the worst-selling cars in America. (Mitsubishi i-MiEV would take that honor.) However, the stately luxury sedan sold just 31 cars in February 2017, pushing it to the brink of extinction. It ranks 270th on the U.S. sales charts. Like several other cars on this list, critics love K900, Now if they can only convince some buyers to take their word for it …