Top 10 "black sheep" cars -- pimped and tricked out vehicles that do not belong in the lineup! What were they thinking?

Introduction

Ever looked at a car, and wondered, which "genius" at the car company decided that it was a good idea to put this car in their lineup?

These are the black sheep of the modern auto industry. They simply do not belong in the lineup at all, yet there they are. It may have made sense to the auto execs at the time, but to us, the consumers, it made no sense at all.

Here is a whole list of them, and there are blame to go all around... Europe, US, Asia... Either a luxury car maker decided to add something weird into their lineup, or a regular car maker decided to add an outrageous model to their lineup. The result is... strange.

Please keep in mind that there are plenty of weird models that doesn't seem to fit at first glance. However, most vehicles and car companies have a history. Ford Probe was an homage to their test vehicles, and GT40, is of course, homage to their GT racers. Chevy Corvette had been around for a LONG time. So most models make sense... until the auto execs actually approve something that makes you wonder... what the **** were they thinking?

NOTE: All pictures are courtesy of NetCarShow, where wallpapers can be downloaded and shared, or Wikipedia, where the pictures are Creative Commons license. 

Cadillac Cimarron, a pimped out Chevy Cavalier
Cadillac Cimarron, a pimped out Chevy Cavalier

Cadillac Cimarron

About twenty years ago, Cadillac want to bring the luxury a bit down-market, so they took a Chevrolet Cavalier, a small, light-weight, economy car, and added a lot of sound proofing and body cladding, and an upgraded leather interior. It was so slow, they then had to upgrade the engine to a V6 to move all the weight around. The end result is a pimped-out Cavalier with a Cadillac badge. In fact, the dealerships were told NOT to refer to the car as a Cadillac. That of course, did not work, and the car became "Cadillac Cimarron".

Aston Martin Cygnet, a rebadged Toyota microcar at exorbitant prices
Aston Martin Cygnet, a rebadged Toyota microcar at exorbitant prices

Aston Martin Cygnet

Aston Martin is a great brand that makes grand tourers like the DB9 and DBS. So who had a nervous breakdown and approved the Cygnet project? What Cygnet really is: slap the Aston Martin badge on what is essentially the Toyota version of the Smart Car, called the iQ, and priced it at 32000 British Pounds. Did they had a dream where James Bond smashed his Aston Martin into a wall, and decided that wreck would be their inspiration for the new car?

Keep in mind that this car is decked out like an Aston Martin. It actually has hand-stitched leather inside, and they are only selling it someone who already owns an Aston Martin as sort of a city-car. 

A supercar from Toyota, but is it really a Lexus?
A supercar from Toyota, but is it really a Lexus?

Lexus LF-A

Lexus was, is, and will be a luxury brand. So why would Toyota launch a hypercar that cost too much, loses money on every sale, and is NOT a luxury car, under the Lexus badge? The LFA is an AMAZING car... It can meet a Ferrari 599GTB on even terms. But IT IS NOT A LEXUS.

What LF-A should be is a Toyota. Toyota had the Supra, and it had the Celica, so it definitely had sports cars before. Lexus had roadsters and coupes, but NOT supercars. It just doesn't fit. If Nissan can launch their GT-R as a Nissan, why can't Toyota launch the LF-A as a Toyota?

(Yes, I know about the Acura NSX. However, only in the US and Hong Kong are they known as Acura NSX. Everywhere else in the world they are Honda NSX. I rest my case)

Volkswagen Phaeton, a Bentley with a Volkswagen badge
Volkswagen Phaeton, a Bentley with a Volkswagen badge

Volkswagen Phaeton

Volkswagen literally means "people's car". And the Volkswagen Phaeton is anything BUT that... Who would buy a $70000 Volkswagen, even if it's a nice big one? It is essentially a Bentley with a Volkswagen badge, as its frame is based on the Bentley, and its engine is sourced from the Audi W12. But is it a Volkswagen? Or is it a Volkswagen with delusions of grandeur?

Phaetons sold so poorly in the US, that Volkswagen did not bother importing any since 2006. On the other hand, Phaetons seem to sell well in Europe, that the 2011 model as just launched. Different tradition over there, but it still doesn't sell as good as BMW 7-series, Mercedes S-class, or even the Audi A8's.

Hyundai Equus, a Korean Lexus, but is it a Hyundai?
Hyundai Equus, a Korean Lexus, but is it a Hyundai?

Hyundai Equus

Hyundai wants to fight all comers on all fronts, and their new Genesis sedan and coupe, and their Tau engine, are excellent. However, when you have a brand known for bargain cars, a luxury car the size of Lexus LS460 doesn't fit in the brand. When people think luxury cars, people do not think Hyundai. Thus, having the Equus in Hyundai's lineup has a similar problem with Volkswagen Phaeton... great car, wrong image.

Hyundai needs a new luxury brand launched, like Nissan, Honda, and Toyota did way back when. In that case, it is very similar to Volkswagen Phaeton.

Kia Borrego, an SUV for the post-SUV era
Kia Borrego, an SUV for the post-SUV era

Kia Borrego

Kia is known for cars even CHEAPER than Hyundai. The Kia Sportage, Kia Sephia, and others were successful because they are such bargain basement cars. So why would they launch a Ford Explorer-sized luxury SUV, called Borrego in the US (Mohave elsewhere) based on the same type of truck frame chassis, with similar mileage, and price point, years after the SUV fad is over in the US of A? Crossovers available now are larger, gets better ride, AND better fuel economy than this time anomaly.

UPDATE: Apparently even Kia had seen the light... the model will disappear from the Kia lineup as of 2010 model year.

MB A-class, a tiny car, but not so tiny price.
MB A-class, a tiny car, but not so tiny price.
MB B-class, slightly larger than A
MB B-class, slightly larger than A

Mercedes-Benz A-Class and B-Class

Mercedes-Benz, the inventor of the automobile, has a reputation of making premium automobiles for premium prices. So does MB actually need a mini and a subcompact? They certainly think so.The result is the A-class and the B-class, both tiny, compared to their next largest, the C-class.

Fortunately, they decided NOT to launch such vehicles in the US, as not to ruin people's perception of MB as a premium auto-maker. Even some auto critics considered the cars to have ruined M-B's image as a premium car maker. However, there are rumors that they will bring the B-class to the US, because it is made in Mexico. yes, M-B has a factory in Mexico. And if you really want one, you can head to Canada. They sell the B-class there.

You can see BMW's genius in buying the Mini brand... The cheapest car in their lineup is the Mini Cooper. Then you go up to the 1-class, then the 3-class, and so on. MB can't do that as they don't have a separate brand for the "tiny cars". Unfortunately, the tiny cars still look like someone slapped a MB badge on something like a Honda Fit (Honda Jazz for non-US folks).

Chrysler's TC by Maserati, essentially a pimped out Lebaron
Chrysler's TC by Maserati, essentially a pimped out Lebaron

Chrysler's TC by Maserati

Dragging it from the annals of history... About 20 years ago... Chrysler TC was a car during the Lee Iacocca years at the helm of Chrysler. He intended the TC to be a "halo car" (i.e. the ultimate) for Chrysler, and he was good friends with then owner of Maserati. The result was the TC. The cars were made and assembled in Italy in Maserati's factories and brought over... with mostly Chrysler parts. It enjoyed HAND-STITCHED leather interior, mostly European parts, and superb attention to details.

Unfortunately, it costs too much (MSRP was $33000 at 1989 launch, over $56000 in 2009 dollars), and was not that different from the similar (and much cheaper) Chrysler Lebaron. The car didn't sell anywhere NEAR expectations, and was shelved after only 3 years, having only sold 7500 units.

Would you buy a Lincoln pick-up truck?
Would you buy a Lincoln pick-up truck?

Lincoln Blackwood / Lincoln Mark LT

I'll admit that Lincoln Aviator, the up-scale cousin of Ford Explorer, would make sense. However, whose idea is to up-scale the F-150 Crewcab? Yet it was done, and that became the Lincoln Blackwood, which died after a few years. In fact, there was a Neiman Marcus Edition of Lincoln Blackwood! It then got resurrected as the Lincoln Mark LT after a few years, then died again, at least in the US. The Lincoln Mark LT is still available in Mexico.

Before you harp on me about the Cadillac Escalade EXT, I have to remind you that the Escalade EXT is based on the much-more-clever Chevy Avalanche, with a mid-gate that allowed the bed to be accessed from within the vehicle, among other goodies. They may look the same, but they don't work the same. Also, being featured in the Matrix movie sure didn't hurt the Escalade EXT's sales either.

Jaguar X-type station wagon
Jaguar X-type station wagon

Jaguar X-type

Ford owned Jaguar for some time, and when Jaguar decided they need to boost sales by introducing a smaller, more affordable Jaguar (which is fundamentally a big mistake), Ford pimped out the compact known as the Ford Mondeo (In the US, it is known as the Ford Contour / Mercury Mystique), and told Jaguar engineers "work with this". The result was the X-type.

Ford Mondeo is NOT a bad car, mind you, and the Jaguar X-type was the best selling Jaguar, and still is. And when Mondeo evolved in Europe (it died in the US 10 years ago) X-type evolved as well. However, it never was good enough to take on its rivals: the BMW 3-series, the Mercedes C-class, and the Audi A4's.

Conclusion

Hope you have enjoyed my little "rant" about failed logic in the auto industry. If you spot any more black sheep cars, leave a comment. In the meanwhile, I'd like to thank NetCarShow and Wikipedia for providing all the nice pictures. You can download the pics and much more at the NetCarShow website.

Comments 18 comments

Trelawny 6 years ago from Ireland

Say you've always had a Mercedes, you love the cars and you love the brand but as time goes by somehow a big car is not what you want now the kids have all grown up. Big cars also take a lot of space on ever more congested European roads, tricky to park as well and boy are they thirsty, drinking into the pension a little too greedily for your liking. Enter the A class, a Merc for loyal customers who don't want the hassle of keeping and driving a large car anymore. Makes perfect sense to me.


kschang profile image

kschang 6 years ago from San Francisco, CA, USA Author

If you've always had a larger MB, and your kids have grown up, you'd go for a coupe like the CL or CLS coupes, or the SL and SLK roadsters. :D You wouldn't worry about gas, and parking isn't a chore if you've being doing it all your life. :D Does NOT make sense to me. :)


Trelawny 6 years ago from Ireland

Oh well, we must agree to disagree then. BTW, A couple of points, have you driven much in the UK and how much are you paying for petrol? Here in Ireland it's 1.3 euros a litre or, if my maths is correct, $6.4 a US gallon. People do worry about that sort of thing y'know. ;-)


kschang profile image

kschang 6 years ago from San Francisco, CA, USA Author

I watch a lot of Top Gear and Fifth Gear, so I am somewhat familiar with the the road conditions in the UK. You could be driving the diesel version instead of the petrol version. A lot more diesel options in Europe than here in Yank land. :D


Trelawny 6 years ago from Ireland

Top gear is to the motoring world what Playboy is to womanhood. Very glossy, clever, successful and an icon of its time, but hardly realistic.

The trouble with UK and especially Irish roads is lack of space. They can often be narrow and land is in short supply so places like supermarkets try to cram as many 'spaces' into the car parks as they can. Big cars can often be a nuisance trying to manoeuvre into the resulting tiny boxes and a pain in towns generally. The winding Cotswold roads that Jeremy Clarkson is so fond of test driving around are not typical of the UK and they pick the quiet times for filming. I should know, we used to live about 20 miles from him. :-)


kschang profile image

kschang 6 years ago from San Francisco, CA, USA Author

Actually, I was referring to the other parts of town... Like the time they killed a tree... or left a van in the car wash... burning. :D Fifth Gear seem to do a bit more urban testing.

Not saying that there is NO market for a smaller Benz, but A-class and B-class are a bit TOO small. C-class, at least, is the proper size. I believe this review summed up my feelings...

"...the interior trim wasn't worthy of a Hyundai. It still had a three-pointed star badge, which helped it sell, but it never felt like a proper Benz. " -- http://www.insideline.com/bmw/1-series/2008/bmw-1-...


Trelawny 6 years ago from Ireland

Horses for courses at the end of the day. I think the concept is right but whether they screwed up on the actual manufacturing and design is another matter entirely. There was the infamous Elk/Moose Avoidance test when the A class was first launched-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moose_test


kschang profile image

kschang 6 years ago from San Francisco, CA, USA Author

Yeah, that's kinda fun. Speaking of moose... The American TV show Mythbusters did a test... when you see a moose, is it better to avoid it, or is it better to speed up and hope you can plow under it? They had to build a "moose simulator". :D Look it up some time.


nicomp profile image

nicomp 6 years ago from Ohio, USA

Hey, I used to drive Cimarrons when I worked for GM because GM gave them to us from the employee car pool. I vividly remember sitting in the car and thinking "what were they thinking?" A compact Cadillac?


kschang profile image

kschang 6 years ago from San Francisco, CA, USA Author

My aunt used to drive a Cimarron before she upgraded to a Lexus ES300. Wasn't even in the same league. :)


brand directory 6 years ago

This Lexus LF-A is really good! I like the style and the color. Thanks posting this brand directory.


vernonf1961 5 years ago

The Lincoln Blackwood and Mark LT trucks were modeled after the F-150 crew cab pick-up. And the Navigator after the Expedition. Please get your facts straight.


kschang profile image

kschang 5 years ago from San Francisco, CA, USA Author

@vernon: Oops, you're right. I mean the very similar Lincoln AVIATOR, my bad. :) I'll fix it now.


mico 5 years ago

I drove a chevy cavalier and it was so great, fast and reliable.http://www.micocrane.com


kschang profile image

kschang 5 years ago from San Francisco, CA, USA Author

Did you drive the version that was made into the Cimarron though? I doubt it. :)


jtrader profile image

jtrader 5 years ago

How about adding the X-6 to that list? The shape is horrible.


kschang profile image

kschang 5 years ago from San Francisco, CA, USA Author

You mean the BMW X6? It's a little out of place, but it actually does drive like a BMW. I wouldn't say it's a TOTAL black sheep. Though I may consider it for a volume 2. :)


Terrence Spori 4 years ago from Reading, England

I suppose that Mercedes does have a sort of economy brand in the Smart car series. I think the B class is a grey area.. though having driven one it definitely doesn't feel as premium as a C series. The A class on the other hand, I think could have better gone under the Smartcar label. Although maybe it is just for loyal customers who prefer to own all their cars from one brand, but it does dilute their premium brand perception, with their stated competition being Vauxhall and Ford. Similar to Audi's A2, which although innovative, I think doesn't quite fit in with the rest of their lineup.

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