Luxury-car brands that failed to fire
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.