Sacrificed on the altar of rationalization by Peugeot, which preferred a city car technically close to its 104, the Visa, the Axel practically gave the latter its look. Scheduled to be released in 1976, the stillborn little Citroën finally saw the light of day thanks to the Romanian. That year, the Ceausescu government launched a call for tenders to acquire a car and the factory to build it, and the double chevron won.
At the end of 1976, a company co-owned by the latter and the Romanian State was created, Oltcit, to produce it from 1978. The communist administration being very slow, production only began in 1981… and the expensive Oltcit sold wrong in Eastern Europe. The exchange rate helping, PSA realizes that it can buy copies at a very low price and sell it cheap in the West, while remaining profitable. It starts in 1984.
Alas, even if the Axel, western name of the Oltcit, manufactured in Craiova by unmotivated workers, is upgraded in Aulnay, it remains of insufficient quality. Worse, its flat-four engines (those of the GSA) consume a lot, it only exists in three doors and the network wonders what to do with it, since it competes with the LNA and Visa… Thus, despite a very low and of real qualities (comfort, handling), the Axel will be a failure. It was withdrawn from the French catalog in 1988. For the record, it was the last 100% in-house Citroën and it gave its torsion bar rear suspension to the 205.
Alfa Romeo Arna
To arouse a hateful reaction in an Alfisti, there are two methods. Talk to them about the takeover of Alfa by Fiat and remind them that before, their favorite brand produced the Arna. However, this one, on paper, combines the advantages. Fruit of an alliance with Nissan, eager to establish itself in Europe, it recovers the shell of the Cherry in which the excellent Italian flat-fours are implanted.
All this allows Alfa to acquire a modern entry-level, therefore susceptible to high volumes, all at a lower cost, knowing that its finances are dry. In practice, everything is wrong. The Japanese platform, planned for transverse engines, must be largely modified to accommodate the boxers, necessarily longitudinal. Which causes delays. Worse, the industrial process is crazy: the hull elements arrive from Japan in wooden crates, then are assembled on several sites around Pomigliano d’Arco.
Moreover, when the car was revealed in 1983, its design was considered to be appallingly banal. Finally, it can only be sold in markets where the Nissan Cherry is not offered. But no matter, because in any case, the Alfis rejected this Alfa with mixed DNA, yet the only one at the time not to rust! It is lively and holds the road well, but nothing helps, the customers do not want it. It’s a total failure. If enthusiasts had known that a few years later, they would have to settle for rebodied Fiats…
An all-aluminum city car is a stupid idea, and it was matured at Audi. The brand with the rings has made itself the champion of this material, interesting for top of the range, but difficult to implement. It requires a spaceframe structure, unsuitable for high production volumes because it is time-consuming and therefore expensive. Additionally, aluminum is complex to repair, which can only be done by highly trained technicians.
Also, when the Audi A2 was released in 1999, we had a small, light (895 kg) and well-made urban minivan, but overpriced (129,900 F at 75 hp, or €26,400 today, without the radio), expensive to rectify after one of the inevitable small shocks to which it will be very exposed, not so spacious and oddly designed. As the A2 is not very comfortable either, it is shunned by customers.
Audi will be able to animate the range, in particular by offering a 1.2 TDI version, supposed to swallow only 3 l/100 km thanks to an incredibly low Cx (0.25!), The A2 remains far from its objectives and production is stopped a year ahead of schedule. It was a money pit, estimated at more than a billion euros. Audi has reinvested in segment B with the A1, a re-bodied Polo: Ingolstadt financiers have stopped having nightmares!
At Mercedes, we produced pure splendours, such as the 540K or the 300 SL Papillon, we innovated so much and more, we marketed the best luxury sedans in the world, but we also committed the CLC, in January 2008. This is a C-Class Sport Type 203, originally launched in 2000, hastily replastered into C-Class W204 and cheaply manufactured in Brazil.
Basically, when this vaguely sporty compact appears, it is already outdated dynamically, decked out with an old-fashioned dashboard, and not very well finished, in short, it is unworthy of Mercedes. Sales collapsed in 2009, and production stopped at the end of 2010. The CLC had the merit of accustoming Mercedes customers to a certain mediocrity in the compact segment, paving the way for the third-generation Class A…
Let it be said, sliding doors are practical on a J7 van, but totally unsuitable on a city car. Why ? Because they induce technical constraints which, on their own, not only define the line of the car but also lead to irrecoverable excess weight.
Peugeot learned this the hard way with the ineffable 1007 launched in 2004. Pininfarina couldn’t do anything to make its shoebox silhouette look pretty, nor did the engineers manage to contain the weight of this little car 3.73 m long but 1,200 kg all the same! As a result, it is inefficient, greedy… And expensive!
Worse, the (very slow) electric sliding system for the doors eats up too much passenger space, with the 1007 posing as a compact minivan. Result, a deserved commercial failure, and a production stopped before term.
Renault Fluence ZE
Carlos Ghosn had at least one merit, he understood the interest of electric motorization very early on. This resulted in the very interesting Zoe in 2012 and the very questionable Fluence ZE a year before. Why this pejorative qualifier? Because this Zero Emission family sedan (hence its name) can only travel 160 km between two recharges.
Refills that you can then only do at home, as the public terminals are conspicuous by their absence! So, we have a cumbersome and almost unusable car, especially in winter, when the heating reduces autonomy. Some administrations would have, it seems, equipped with Fluence ZE… We will not even want to buy it to collect it, as we would with an Avantime but with an even more perverse spirit, so much its line is a banality to cry!
Porsche Cayenne Diesel
“No, there won’t be a diesel Porsche. Why ? Because the diesel stops at 4,500 rpm, where the fun of a Porsche begins”. That’s basically what I heard during the press conference, on the occasion of the launch of the restyled Cayenne, the type 957, in 2007. Six months later, the Cayenne Diesel came out.
So, we were knowingly lied to at Porsche as it was already difficult to assume to market a 2.2 ton machine burning diesel. The manufacturer vaguely tried to justify it by putting it in parallel with a tractor that it produced in the 1950s… Under the hood, we didn’t trot in Zuffenhausen, recovering a V6 TDI Audi as is.
However, customers have bought this oiled SUV in significant numbers, mainly for tax reasons. The second-generation Cayenne (958) also ran on diesel, then the manufacturer came to its senses…
Lancia Flavia II
I’ve already written all the bad things I think about “badge engineering”, and it’s not the Lancia Flavia that’s going to make me change my mind. Please note, I am not talking about the sedan of the 60s, but the inexcusable coupé-cabriolet that appeared in 2012.
It is actually a Chrysler 200, itself a restyled Sebring. In other words, an American technically outdated, poorly manufactured, poorly finished and motorized despite common sense for the European customer. Indeed, it is satisfied with a 2.4 l atmo winded, noisy and greedy, hitched to an automatic gearbox. For a constructor who has won the World Rally Championship ten times, that’s a dream come true… Or not!
Also bulky, heavy and softly cushioned, the Flavia is not a queen of dynamism either. Is she at least beautiful? But no ! Apart from a few disappointed dealers, one wonders who bought this rolling error, withdrawn from the market at the end of 2013…
Naturally, the cars that shame their manufacturer are not limited to those mentioned here, we could also mention the Suzuki XC90, the Maserati Biturbo (I hurt myself a lot by mentioning it at the Trident, in Modena!) , the Fiat Panda I diesel (even the Italians didn’t want it), the VW Fox (a nest with electrical failures), the 1990 Ford Escort (unreliable, badly suspended, addicted to rust), the Opel Sintra (unreliable and dangerous in the event of an impact), the Toyota Urban Cruiser (no one understood who it was aimed at and especially not the customers), the Cadillac Cimarron (an Opel Ascona sold at the price of a BMW) …