IT’S A FACT. We don’t always buy the best cars. Sometimes we buy cars because they’re cheap, or because they’re the right colour or because the dealership’s just around the corner. We might be put off by a reputation that’s a generation out of date or we might just want something that does a job and is perfectly unobtrusive.
As a result of this, some manufacturers have excelled themselves and brought us some genuinely impressive cars which have then remained resolutely stuck to showroom floors. Imagine how dispiriting it must be to spend seven years developing a new car at enormous cost, to benchmark the best cars in its class, to launch it to rave reviews and then the thing’s a sales dud. Here are ten cars that should have sold a lot better than they have.
Here is the very darling of the motoring press, a sports coupe that has been garlanded with awards, and which our UK cousins Car just lauded as the very best vehicle on general sale. That’s quite some accolade. Let’s just say that the purple prose hasn’t exactly translated into a rush of orders here in Australia. Last month, the A110 shifted precisely zero units. Yep, the very best car money can buy (allegedly) got beaten in the sales charts by the Ssangyong Stavic. Ouch.
Okay, here’s a question for you. Would you rather buy an Audi R8, a Honda NSX or a BMW i8? They represent three very different options in the premium coupe market, but it seems that Aussie buyers have voted ‘none of the above’. Yes, these three fantastic supercoupes all registered a big fat zero in August. While the hybrid BMW and Honda might be more of an acquired taste, if you’re looking for the last of the great naturally aspirated V10s, you’ve got a choice of the R8 or a Lamborghini Huracan. And given that the Audi is, model for model, around $70k cheaper than its Italian cousin, we thought that more than, er, none of you would have signed on the dotted line in August.
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The problem with the car market at the moment is that everybody is getting out of passenger cars and into SUVs, especially premium SUVs, right? Well tell that to BMW, who shifted just four X6s in August 2018. While the X6 isn’t my cup of tea, it’s nevertheless one of the better offerings in its class and has latterly prompted Mercedes-Benz and Porsche to launch ‘coupe’ versions of their GLE and Cayenne models respectively. They may well wonder if they missed the boat on that particular trend, the X6’s sales dipping by 87 percent compared to August 2017. Alternatively, these newer, shinier things may well have stolen the BMW’s thunder. It was even outsold by the Infiniti Q70, brought to you by a brand that has just pulled the plug on the Aussie market. With a new model just around the corner, now is the time to get a bargain X6!
The best SUV in its class? Well we certainly haven’t seen anything better and the current Volvo XC60 probably deserves the top spot in its segment, much like its XC40 sibling. Both carried off Wheels Car of the Year awards and the XC60 is the most awarded new car ever built. It’s a gem. Therefore it’s more than a little surprising to find it being outsold by the Lexus NX. And the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and the Mercedes-Benz GLC. It even has Porsche’s Macan breathing down its neck.
The most innovative and exciting car of 2018? That could well be the Jaguar I-Pace, a car that marked a transition in EVs away from Tesla and towards people who knew a bit more about how to style and manufacture cars. And, in August, it was rewarded with a sum total of 13 registrations. Its sales were virtually doubled by the Maserati Levante which demonstrates a couple of points to us. Australians like noisy exhausts and, on occasion, it’s possible to be a bit too clever for your own good.
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The Porsche 718 Boxster is the benchmark against which everything else in this premium roadster class is judged. While your mileage may well vary on whether the turbocharged four-cylinder engine is better or worse than the old six-pot screamers, it’s hard to argue against the Boxster being the best drive available at that price point. Well, you think it would be. The fact remains that in August, you could count Boxster registrations on one hand. What’s more, it was outsold by the creaky Mercedes-Benz SLC, a model which was initially released in 2011. Is there no justice?
The Arteon does it all. It’s seriously quick, it looks fantastic, it’s packed with tech, it’s got some fiendishly smart suspension and, for a car this slinky, it even has a practical side with a big liftback that can swallow heaps of gear. If you’d designed this car, you’d probably sit back, crack open a beer and reflect on a job well done. And then cry into that same beer when you realised your masterpiece was being outsold by the dullard Lexus ES. Yep, in August, the Arteon found 34 new owners and the Lexus 41.
Still, things could be worse. You could be Alfa Romeo. The Italians bet the farm on the Giulia, and its SUV sibling, the Stelvio. The Giorgio platform that underpins them cost €5 billion to develop and was to be the springboard from which Alfa took on the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes. Here in Australia at least, it doesn’t seem to be working out that way. The Stelvio and Giulia are brilliant drivers cars and beautiful to behold, but together they registered 71 sales in August, split 17 for the Giulia and 54 for the Stelvio. Their combined performance registered less than half the sales of the Suzuki Baleno. Sergio Marchionne’s vision appears to have stalled.
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The Commodore is a good car. There, we said it. It’s one of the better medium range family sedans available, it looks good, it drives well and you can get an amazing deal. What it isn’t is an adequate VF successor. If you’re able to separate the two and not get hung up on the heritage, you’ll probably end up pleased with your purchase. Unfortunately not too many people are prepared to do that, and in the ZB Commodore racked up a paltry 509 sales in the last month’s data available (August 2019). That’s over 25 percent down on this time last year.
If you thought the Commodore was a struggler, here’s a better car that does even worse, registering just 201 registrations in August. Yes, the 6 is getting a little long in the tooth, but it’s still comfortably the best looking car the Japanese manufacturer produces, it’s beautifully finished for its price point and is a decent steer too. It sells about a fifth of what the class-leading Camry does and probably deserves better.