Sometimes it's good we don't get cars here
Car enthusiasts spend a lot of time dreaming about the glorious machinery that isn't available here. Whether they're rare sports cars, slick wagons, or hot hatches, there are a lot of cars we wish we could get. So many that we created a gallery of the cars we really wish made it here.
While the grass often looks, and sometimes is, greener on the other side, there are usually some weeds mixed in. And it's easy to forget that. So we compiled a list of the disappointing and appalling automobiles from overseas that we should be thankful haven't come here.
Reese Counts: Lancia YpsilonI never want to see a Lancia Ypsilon in person, much less in the United States. This Fiat 500-based city car is the last remaining product of a once great Italian automaker. It's aging, underpowered, and nothing more than a rebadged version of another fine car that's getting old. Italy can keep it.
FCA seems to have given up on Lancia. Their most recent products have been rebadged versions of the Chrysler 300 and Chrysler Town & Country. Those have both been killed off. There doesn't seem to be any point to the brand anymore. When Americans think of Lancia they think Fulvia HF, Stratos, 037, and Delta HF. Let's keep it that way.
Alex Kierstein: Ssangyong RodiusIf you think the SsangYong Rodius is, uh, odious now… you shoulda seen it before the redesign. It’s the only multi-purpose vehicle capable of making the old Buick Rendezvous, a tarted-up Aztek, look positively glamorous. As of 2013, the Rodius (or Turismo as it's known in some markets) is a mishmash of unflattering angles, strange bulges, and an interior best described as “Fisher Price alien spaceship”. It probably drives fine, being heavily based on older Mercedes-Benz mechanicals, but I can’t imagine a vehicle I’d want to import less than this misbegotten SsangYong. And that name? Apparently “Rodius” is a bad portmanteau of “Road” and “Zeus” – as in, Lord of the Road. Whatever.
Joel Stocksdale: BMW 2 Series Active Tourer and Gran Tourer
The BMW 2 Series Active Tourer and slightly longer Gran Tourer seriously upset me, and because of two specific reasons. First, it literally starts on the wrong tire thanks to its most blasphemous component, its front-wheel-drive drivetrain. Historically, BMW has only produced rear-drive cars. Even its economical electric car, the i3, and the company's affordable 1 Series hatchbacks are rear-drive. But for this tiny people mover, BMW threw in the towel and gave it a simple, space-efficient front-drive system. Not that a front-drive BMW can't be good, but the company has a brand for that, it's called Mini.
The second big issue is the name. BMW has already been butchering its naming scheme by giving sedans and hatchbacks coupe names. The 6 Series nameplate has had a particularly rough time, since it no longer features a coupe, and instead it has a somewhat ungainly hatchback, an admittedly attractive sedan, and a convertible. But the 2 Series Tourers go a step farther. At least the sedans and hatches with coupe names attempt to be sleek and coupe-like, with varying success. The Tourers are unashamedly van-like. They share more in common visually with the SUV line, and a car like that shouldn't be named after a coupe.
And for all these reasons, BMW should keep the 2 Series Active and Gran Tourers far away from our shores.
David Boldt: Fiat 500L MPW
In the ‘90s, after a generation of mediocre designs by American manufacturers, along with half-hearted attempts at meeting safety and emission regs by virtually everyone, there was – almost suddenly – a new respect for the needs of the consumer and enthusiast. In short, there were no bad cars.
That, of course, was then; this is now. I can identify but one bad car in the U.S. market, Fiat’s 500L. An abortive attempt to combine the Fiat 500’s innate charm with the Mini Countryman’s semblance of utility, the U.S. consumer ends up with a marginal effort deserving of no country. And while we do receive the 500L in the States (presumably under cover of darkness – in enclosed transport) we don’t yet receive the longer, 7-passenger 500L, dubbed MPW in Britain, and the 500L Living in other markets.
The MPW variant, Fiat’s marketing team tells us, is a Magic Purpose Wagon. And if exported to the U.S. there’s only one bit of ‘magic’ we’d request: Make it bloody disappear. With a stretched wheelbase and – to its credit – more interior room, in this new ‘plus’ size Fiat’s design team has done the almost impossible, making a decidedly unattractive, awkward shape even less attractive, more awkward.
Jeremy Korzeniewski: Tata Nano
The annals of history are full of vehicles created specifically to make a country's population mobile. From two-wheeled Vespa scooters and three-wheeled Isetta bubbles, all the way to four-wheeled runabouts like the Ford Model T and Volkswagen Beetle, getting from Point A to Point B as cheaply as possible has been a hallmark of well-thought-out design.
Suffice it to say that nobody is likely to mention the humble Tata Nano in the same breath as the seminal Mini and Citroën 2CV. The Nano is the very definition of cost-based engineering, with the stated goal of selling a car in India for the low, low price of one lakh rupees – roughly $2,000 US at the time.
Troubles were myriad. Production was delayed, costs quickly spiraled way over that initial launch price, and Indian auto buyers reacted with a collective yawn. Perhaps the removal of an externally accessible trunk was too much to overcome. Or maybe it's lone windshield wiper, tiny three-lug wheels, lack of power steering or air conditioning, and underpowered two-cylinder engine just wreaked too much of cost cutting.
In any case, the idea that any sort of Tata Nano could be sold in the United States – initially planned for 2015 – was laughable.
Greg Rasa: Pyeonghwa Motors
Ah, North Korea. You've been on our minds. We don't want your nuclear missiles. And to a slightly smaller degree, we don't want your cars. Luckily, the Hermit Kingdom isn't making cars at the moment – or unluckily, since it's cranking out ICBMs instead.
But for one shining decade, the 2000s, North and South joined hands in a venture called Pyeonghwa Motors. It was founded on the South's side by the Unification Church, and in 2009 it actually turned a profit and hit peak production of 750 cars, a sad counterpoint to South Korea's thriving auto industry. (The problem with building cars in this workers' paradise is that nobody can afford cars. Or gas. Or food.)
"Made" is putting it loosely, as Pyeonghwa bolted together shameless copies of three or four models. Its Junma flagship sedan, shown here, was a knockoff of South Korea's SsangYong Chairman, which itself was a knockoff of a Mercedes. Pyeonghwa Motors still exists in billboards, at least, propaganda to let citizens think the regime makes something other than trouble.
We kid, of course: There's no chance of our two nations striking up a trade relationship. Then again, you never know.