DriveTimes five

Lux­ury-car brands that failed to fire

Sunday Star-Times - - DRIVETIMES -

Toy­ota’s Lexus premium brand has had a pretty rough time estab­lish­ing it­self as a se­ri­ous player in the lux­ury seg­ment, but is largely there now. In fact, it’s one of the few lux­ury brands from main­stream car man­u­fac­tur­ers that has ac­tu­ally worked out. But over-reach­ing is all too com­mon among the in­dus­try. Today, we look at an­other five lux­ury brands that haven’t fired.


Honda was the first Ja­panese brand to give the lux­ury thing a go when it launched Acura in the US and Canada in 1986. While the Acura brand is much loved by its fans, it has failed to get a de­cent foothold, mainly be­cause its cars are pretty much just re­badged Hon­das – as op­posed to gen­uine lux­ury cars. In its first full year of sales Acura sold 109,470 ve­hi­cles in the US, ris­ing to 143,708 in 1991. Last year it sold 161,360 ve­hi­cles. That’s not a lot of growth in 26 years.


From the late-1980s Mazda had a crack at a lux­ury brand in the Ja­panese do­mes­tic mar­ket with Efini. By 1991 Efini had ab­sorbed Mazda’s other sub-brands Eunos and Au­tozam, but still largely failed to amount to much of any­thing. Again, this was be­cause Efini cars were re­ally stan­dard Maz­das with a dif­fer­ent badge, al­though deal­er­ships did sell the Citroen Xan­tia and XM near the end. Can’t imag­ine why that didn’t work.


In 1987 Austin Rover Cars of North Amer­ica (there’s an un­likely com­bi­na­tion of words) launched the Ster­ling brand to take on the likes of Acura. Yes, that’s right: Ster­ling sold a ver­sion of the Rover 800 in Amer­ica to take on Acura’s ver­sion of the Honda Leg­end, which was pretty much the same thing as the 800 any­way. Sales were ini­tially strong, with the Ster­ling 800 of­fer­ing a clas­sic ‘‘Bri­tish in­te­rior’’ that ap­pealed to a num­ber of Amer­i­can buy­ers, but ter­ri­ble build qual­ity soon ground things to a halt and Ster­ling was wound up in 1991.


In 1985 Ford de­cided it didn’t have enough con­fus­ingly close brands, so launched Merkur through its Lin­col­nMer­cury di­vi­sion. With the in­ten­tion of sell­ing Euro­pean Ford prod­uct badged as Merkur, the brand in­stead went on to be­come one of the short­est lived mar­ques in US his­tory when Ford pulled the plug in 1989. Merkur sold a neutered ver­sion of the Sierra XR4i (the Merkur XR4Ti with a 2.3-litre turbo in place of the 2.8-litre V6) and the Scor­pio, but no one cared. Things prob­a­bly weren’t helped by the fact that Mekur was a very silly name.


Launched by Citroen in 2012, DS is an avant-garde lux­ury brand trad­ing on the French mar­que’s rich his­tory. But with­out the Citroen name. Make sense? No, we can’t fig­ure that one out ei­ther. While it pro­duces some very in­ter­est­ing cars, the brand is strug­gling to make much head­way in terms of sales – DS sold 129,000 cars when it launched in 2012 and this has steadily fallen since then to a low of just 85,981 last year. That should prob­a­bly worry some­one. Most likely who­ever came up with the idea in the first place.

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