Top 10 "Black Sheep" Cars That Never Belonged in the Lineup

Updated on December 18, 2017

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?

The cars below 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.

There is blame to go all around: Europe, US, and Asia. A car maker decides to add something that seems to have nothing to do with the rest of the lineup. The results are strange.

There's history behind some of these weird models that don't seem to fit at first glance; they don't come totally out of nowhere. The Ford Probe was an homage to their test vehicles, and GT40, was, of course, an 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.

1. Cadillac Cimarron

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

About twenty years ago, Cadillac wanted 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. Dealerships were told NOT to refer to the car as a Cadillac. But they did not obey orders, and the car became "Cadillac Cimarron."

2. Aston Martin Cygnet

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

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, call it the iQ, and price it at 32,000 British Pounds. Did they have a dream where James Bond smashed his Aston Martin into a wall, and decide in the morning that the 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.

3. Lexus LF-A

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

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.)

4. Volkswagen Phaeton

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

Volkswagen literally means "people's car". But the Volkswagen Phaeton is anything BUT that... Who would buy a $70,000 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, even 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, as the 2011 model as just launched. Different tradition over there, but it still doesn't sell as well as BMW 7-series, Mercedes S-class, or even the Audi A8's.

5. Hyundai Equus

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

Hyundai wants to fight comers on all fronts, including by launching a new luxury brand, like Nissan, Honda, and Toyota did way back when. Hyundai's 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 anywhere in the scene. When people think luxury cars, people do not think Hyundai. Thus, the Hyundai Equus has the same problem as the Volkswagen Phaeton... great car, wrong image.

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

6. Kia Borrego

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

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 was over in the US of A? Crossovers available now are larger, and give you a 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.

7. Mercedes-Benz A-Class and B-Class

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, 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 so, some auto critics considered the cars to have tarnished M-B's high-end image. 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 an MB badge on something like a Honda Fit (Honda Jazz for non-US folks).

8. Chrysler's TC by Maserati

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

Dragging it from the annals of history—about 20 years ago—we perceive that the Chrysler TC was conceived during Lee Iacocca's 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 the 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 $33,000 at 1989 launch, over $56,000 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 three years, having only sold 7500 units.

9. Lincoln Blackwood / Lincoln Mark LT

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

I'll admit that the Lincoln Aviator, the up-scale cousin of Ford Explorer, would make sense. However, whose idea was it 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! After a few years it was resurrected as the Lincoln Mark LT, 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.

10. Jaguar X-Type

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

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 contradiction in terms), 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) the 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.

Questions & Answers

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      • profile image

        Terrence Spori 

        6 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.

      • kschang profile imageAUTHOR

        kschang 

        6 years ago from San Francisco, CA, USA

        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. :)

      • jtrader profile image

        jtrader 

        6 years ago

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

      • kschang profile imageAUTHOR

        kschang 

        7 years ago from San Francisco, CA, USA

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

      • profile image

        mico 

        7 years ago

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

      • kschang profile imageAUTHOR

        kschang 

        7 years ago from San Francisco, CA, USA

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

      • profile image

        vernonf1961 

        7 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.

      • profile image

        brand directory 

        7 years ago

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

      • kschang profile imageAUTHOR

        kschang 

        7 years ago from San Francisco, CA, USA

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

      • nicomp profile image

        nicomp really 

        7 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 imageAUTHOR

        kschang 

        7 years ago from San Francisco, CA, USA

        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.

      • profile image

        Trelawny 

        7 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 imageAUTHOR

        kschang 

        7 years ago from San Francisco, CA, USA

        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-...

      • profile image

        Trelawny 

        7 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 imageAUTHOR

        kschang 

        7 years ago from San Francisco, CA, USA

        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

      • profile image

        Trelawny 

        7 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 imageAUTHOR

        kschang 

        7 years ago from San Francisco, CA, USA

        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. :)

      • profile image

        Trelawny 

        7 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.

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