• Jun 26, 2007
A list of the cars and trucks that have made the biggest 'Impact' over the past 25 years has been compiled by USA Today's Money section, and the humble 1992 Toyota Camry was voted into the number one spot. Close behind was the 1991 Ford Explorer, followed by Toyota's hybrid-electric Prius in third place. Remember, these cars were picked because of the strong impressions they left on the industry at the time of their introduction, not necessarily because they were good. That's why you'll see automotive disasters like the 1986 Yugo and the 2001 Pontiac Aztek ranked on the list, and predictable high-achievers like Ferrari and Porsche not even getting a mention.

Each of the cars on the list, in some way, managed to rewrite the rules for its respective segment, such as the Camry lifting the bar for reliable and affordable family sedans, or the 2002 BMW 7-series shaking up the once staid luxury saloon segment with its dramatic styling and innovative iDrive system. We have to agree with most of the cars that were picked, but we're surprised the first-generation Audi TT didn't make it.

Read ahead for the full list of cars.

[Source: USA Today via Winding Road] 1. 1992 Toyota Camry
2. 1991 Ford Explorer
3. 2001 Toyota Prius
4. 1984 Chrysler minivans
5. 1986 Hyundai Excel
6. 1986 Ford Taurus
7. 1990 Lexus LS400
8. 1990 Mazda Miata
9. 1986 Acura Legend
10. 1996 Toyota RAV4
11. 1994 Ford Mustang
12. 1991 Saturn SL
13. 1997 Ford F-150
14. 2003 Hummer H2
15. 2002 Mini Cooper
16. 1998 Lincoln Navigator
17. 1986 Yugo (GV)
18. 2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser
19. 2001 Pontiac Aztek
20. 2003 Cadillac CTS
21. 1986 Suzuki Samurai
22. (1994) GM Impact
23. 1998 Volkswagen New Beetle
24. 2005 Scion xB
25. 2002 BMW 7 Series

Tell us what you think deserves to be on this list below in the comments.


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  • 64 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      No 1993 Chrysler LH cars? Larger, and more powerful than the Camry or Accord at the time, plus more standard features (airbags anyone?)

      1994 Dodge Ram? Brought big-rig looks to the pickup truck segment.

        • 7 Years Ago
        While I don't think either would go to the top of the list, yea it seems that they should have made it instead of the Yugo or Aztek. Especially the Ram.

        Also I vote for the 83 Audi 5000 for the styling and the infamous "unintended aceleration" sotry which showed how much damage an ill-informed media story could wreak on a model and an entire car company.
      • 7 Years Ago
      No Honda-brand cars? A rather glaring omission.
        • 7 Years Ago
        There is an Acura up there
      Bryan
      • 7 Years Ago
      Some of these I can agree with but the 92 Camry? While it was definitely the best looking one ever what impact did it have besides handing the title to the Ford Taurus as the number 1 selling car in America? Or was that the Accord? Either way, they both fell off from number one. And ok the Model T is nowhere to be found which shows you this list is flawed. Scion? What? LOL.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I'm shocked, SHOCKED to see that my glorious first-gen TT didn't make the list, which was obviously compiled by know-nothing troglodytes. Oh wait - USA Today, same thing.
        • 7 Years Ago
        The first gen TT is an excellent car, but it did not really impact the market. That is to say, the Ford Explorer was a key contributor to popularizing SUVs. However, while the TT is sporty, fun, and cleverly styled, other companies have not taken much influence from the TT's design.

        Many people will say that the TT is a glorified GTI, but the TT is certainly more stylish and well worth the price premium over the GTI. However, the GTI is an extremely influential vehicle that deserves a spot on this list for popularizing small, quick, FWD hatches.
      • 7 Years Ago
      The 7-series just shows that with enough marketing, the American market can be convinced to buy anything--even something that has been flogged with the Bangle stick.
      • 7 Years Ago
      How did the Aztek make the list but not the Vehicross? I would expect the hideous SUV that is based on a minivan to make less of a splash than a hideous SUV with fangs that is based on an SUV that rolls over at will (see Consumer Reports test of the Isuzu Trooper, on which the Vehicross is based).
        • 7 Years Ago
        the Aztek was a colossal flop, not just a sales failure but derided for all aspects.

        The Vehicross just didnt fit. IT would probably thrive now after the Cayenne and others have paved the way for a sporty SUV.
        • 7 Years Ago
        I was kind of joking about the Vehicross. However, I do not think it would be much more successful now than it was in 1999. For one thing, two door SUVs are slow sellers, and most automakers have dropped 2 door SUV models from their lineups. Also, Isuzu attempted to make it look sporty, but it was no more successful than the Aztek at looking sporty. Even if the styling was excellent, it did not pack the punch of a Cayenne--or even a V6 RAV4.

        Isuzu considered the Vehicross to be successful because it came close to meeting sales goals. However, these goals were incredibly low--they only intended to sell 5000 units. Isuzu might be able to sell 5000 more Vehicrosses over the next four years if the brought the design back, but it would not be a threat to the Cayenne, Jeep SRT8, or other sporty SUVs.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I thought the Oldsmobile Cutlass would've been a candidate.

      25 yrs? How about of all time?

      I cast a vote for the old VW Beetle.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Cars that should have been on the list:
      1983 Audi 5000 - Father of the modern sedan. The Taurus and subsequent Camrys and Accords are inconceivable without the Audi 5000.
      2005 Cadillac STS - Nothing less than the rebirth of the American luxury sedan. Among American luxury cars, there's the STS and then there's everything else.
      2005 Chrysler 300C - Big honking V8, RWD, a touch of luxury, huge appeal among urban buyers, all for less than 40K. Don't believe it had an impact? Snoop Doggy Dog called the Chrysler Chairman personally and asked what he had to do to get one. For once, African-Americans were interested in Chrysler.
      1995 Chevy Impala SS - 'nuf said
      1987 Buick Grand National - The "Black-out Regal" is a classic.

      What doesn't belong on the list:
      Yugo - How can a piece of junk have an impact, especially when the company (and its home country) doesn't exist any more? We didn't need Yugo to popularize inexpensive cars. VW did that in the '60s and the Japanese did that in the '70s.
      Aztec - Where's the impact? Detroit is littered with ugly cars that didn't sell well. Same goes for the Scion xB.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I believe that the '92 Camry should be up on top. Not only did it make the car much larger in size compared to the previous Camry, it set the basis for the '97-'01 for becoming the best selling car in America. It also included a very smooth and powerful V6 engine (something the '90-'93 Accord didn't have). I have a 2000 Camry LE and I understand why it is the #1 selling car in America: smooth, reliable, quiet, and great gas mileage. However, I think the '90-'93 Accord should have been up here as well. My grandma had a '92 LX and that car was so damn nice and fun to drive. The CTS is up here because it finally helped GM bring back the RWD sport sedan, which was something they hadn't had for awhile (Plus, they are very nice cars to begin with).
      • 7 Years Ago
      Hello! The 1984 Jeep Cherokee basically defined the SUV product class. Ford Explorer #2...? That's just dumb
      • 7 Years Ago
      People wonder why the camry was even on the list and #1... And i hear people are saying "what about the 90-93 honda accord?".... the reason is look back to the late 80's and 1991, every single car was built virtually the same as far as japanese automakers goes, everything from the camry to the nissan sentra, maxima, to the honda accord and civic litterally looked all the same, not till 1992 rolled around when toyota released the camry, the first japanese mid sized to full sized car, i say full sized because it was litterally twice as big as the old car.

      And where was honda? they followed 2 years later in 1994 with their version of a midsized car, or what they call a midsize car, to me that accord wasnt even as big as the camry at that time...

      But people will still wonder, why, why the camry at #1...

      Like i said, it was a first for the japanese automakers to make a mid to full sized car, and it wasnt just like they copied the ford taurus, no no no, that american car was in a crap infested filth battle of its own... Atleast the camry came along with a decent interior, something different to everybody out there, and i can see why they say humble... Humility is a very good quality, thats why you see down the road a car like that this old is still a decent cheap older car, because not every kid got a hold of it like they would to a honda accord and abused it to death, but thats me just going on and on.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Sounds like someone went to a Lythia Toyota Dealership in Southern Oregon... You cant just walk into one dealership and accuse the whole organization that they are arrogant overrated bastards, thats like saying i met a black person on the street, and he treated me unfair, so now im gonna treat every black person I see in the future the same.

        I found it interesting how you brought up lexus, because thats toyota, and you brought up bmw, all they care about to compete with is mercedes and audi... You have to know the history of toyota and their build quality... Yes they have some growing pains, compare that to GM's back spazms and explosive diaria, i think i'd rather choose a company that has a good reputation... Not sure if you noticed lately in the last couple years, but because they have grown so much, and are #1, why do you think at every single dealership, they are building new and bigger and better dealerships? they have to keep up with the demand one way or another, if they didnt, they would be the sort of people you're talking about, so inless you went to a dealership that still has the old same people, i garuntee that wont be the case 5 years from now.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Humility is a great quality. The 1992 Camry was indeed a humble car, and in 1992, Toyota was a humble company. How things change.

        Over the past 15 years, Toyota, from the corporate office, to their ad campaigns, to the sleazeballs passing them out on dealer lots, has become one of the most arrogant car companies on Earth, and that's including the European marques.

        The moment I realized this was when I saw a commercial for the latest-gen Camry that closed with the line, "It's time to move forward." The tone with which the announcer said this line was so arrogant it was shocking.

        My job often has me interacting with car dealers selling every brand of car. Most are nice guys. Only at Toyota dealers do I walk out and say "What a bunch of arrogant douchebags." Honest to God, these guys run around like giddy little schoolgirls chanting "We are number one!" Nowhere else - not BMW, not Lexus, not Infiniti or Cadillac - have I encountered so many arrogant tools that are so proud that they don't have to put ANY effort into selling their products, since "they just sell themselves!"

        Once upon a time, Toyota was a solid, humble company. They still pretend to be, but fact is, they're an arrogant, overextended, resource-deprived, overrated giant that's letting their success get to their heads. They're like the plain-Jane vanilla girl that's "so very nice and pleasant" that turns into a whore, wins homecoming queen and turns into a vampish, barely-recognizable version of her former self.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Should not be on the list:

      1986 Hyundai Excel - Quickly forgettable junk cars that really had very little impact on the market.

      1986 Yugo (GV) - See above.

      2001 Pontiac Aztek - Just because everyone was so shocked that GM would build such an unattractive vehicle doesn't mean it had impact.

      1997 Ford F-150 - nice truck but impact? No.

      The 1992 Toyota Camry, 1994 Mustang and GM's Impact are all borderline as well, at least if you're specifically talking about vehicles that impacted their segment or the industry.

      So where's the '84 Corvette? Or the Maxima? Or the Avalanche? Or how about the NSX? These all had much greater impact than many on this list.



        • 7 Years Ago
        Your perspective is a little skewed. The Hyundai Excel was a piece of crap, but it was really the first "tiny" car to make it mainstream in the US. The things were even smaller than a Ford Escort (but the engines only lasted about 6,000 miles).

        Take a look at the 1996 F-150, then the 1997 model, and then look at today's pickups. It inspired most modern pickup design (even the once-edgy Dodge "Lovechild of a semi and Lee Iacoca" Ram has moved more toward traditional modern truck design).

        The Camry is the number one selling car in the world today. Without the first version, there wouldn't be a current version.

        The 1994 Mustang ultimately spelled (temporary) death for its only competitors. It showed once and for all that the 'Stang is the king of the muscle cars.

        Maxima? What makes it so distinct? Avalanche? Not much in the way of copy-catting so far. NSX? A small, fast sports car? Yawn. The list isn't directly about sales or pop culture. It's about lasting impression and positive impact. The only ones I agree with you on are the Yugo(nowhereinthiscar) and the Aztec. The only impact the Aztec had was the one that created the crater in GM's bank account.
        • 7 Years Ago
        ***1986 Hyundai Excel - Quickly forgettable junk cars that really had very little impact on the market.***

        It introduced a super-cheap car to a market that needed it, and was obviously good enough to help get Hyundai to where they are now, which is breathing down the neck of the Japanese. Who would have thought the Koreans would have had this kind of impact?

        ***1986 Yugo (GV) - See above.

        that really had very little impact on the market.***

        It introduced a super-cheap car to a market that needed it, but otherwise failed miserably. It showed that there is a very right (Hyundai) way, and a very wrong (Yugo) way of doing the same thing. Impact: How many Eastern Euro cars do we see in our market? How many Koreans?

        ***2001 Pontiac Aztek - Just because everyone was so shocked that GM would build such an unattractive vehicle doesn't mean it had impact.***

        It also showed that the market could only bear so much of everything, that trying to please everyone at the same time could yield a monstrosity. Like the Yugo, it was a giant cautionary tale that there is a very wrong way to do the right thing.

        ***1997 Ford F-150 - nice truck but impact? No.***

        Best-selling vehicle in America for how long now? By remaining essentially unchanged? That's pretty impactful.
        • 7 Years Ago
        The F150 sure does not respond well in the face of impact...

        http://info.insure.com/auto/collision/crashtestbasics.htm

        Bad pun.
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