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 appearance. Scheduled to be released in 1976, the little stillborn Citroën finally saw the light of day thanks to the Romanian. That year Ceausescu’s government put out a tender to buy a car and the factory to build it, and he won the double chevron.
At the end of 1976 a company owned by the latter and the Romanian state, Oltcit, was created to produce it from 1978. As the communist administration was very slow, production only started in 1981… and the expensive Oltcit sold poorly in Eastern Europe. The exchange rate helps, PSA realizes that it can buy copies very cheaply and sell it cheaply in the West, while remaining profitable. It starts in 1984.
Unfortunately, even if Axel, the Western name of Oltcit, manufactured in Craiova by unmotivated workers, is updated in Aulnay, it remains of insufficient quality. Worse still, 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 LNA and Visa… So, despite a very low price and quality realities (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 It was withdrawn from the French catalog in 1988.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 gave the 205 its own torsion bar rear suspension.
Alfa Romeo Arna
There are two methods to arouse a reaction of hatred in an Alfisti. Talk to them about Fiat’s takeover of Alfa and remind them that their favorite brand used to produce Arna. However, this, on paper, combines the advantages. The result 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 equip itself with a modern entry-level car, therefore susceptible to high volumes, all at a lower cost, knowing that its finances are dry. In practice, everything is wrong. The Japanese platform, foreseen for transverse engines, will have to be extensively modified to accommodate the boxers, which are necessarily longitudinal. Which causes delays. Worse still, the industrial process is crazy: the elements of the hull arrive from Japan in wooden crates, then they are assembled in different shipyards around Pomigliano d’Arco.
Also, when the car was introduced in 1983, its design was considered appallingly mundane. Finally, it can only be sold in markets where the Nissan Cherry is not offered. But it doesn’t matter, because in any case the Alfas rejected this Alfa with a mixed DNA, yet the only one at the time not to rust! It’s lively and holds the road well, but nothing helps, the customers don’t want it. It’s a total failure. If enthusiasts had known about it a few years later, they would have had to settle for the redone Fiats…
An all-aluminum city car is a stupid idea, and it was matured at Audi. The brand with the rings has championed this material, interesting for the top of the range, but difficult to make. It requires a spaceframe structure, which is unsuitable for high volume production because it is time consuming and therefore expensive. Furthermore, aluminum is complex to repair, which can only be done by highly trained technicians.
Also, when the Audi A2 came out in 1999, we had a small, light (895 kg) and well-made, but overpriced (129,900 F at 75 HP, or €26,400 today, excluding radio) urban minivan, expensive to rectify after one of the inevitable little bumps it will be very exposed to, cramped and oddly styled. Since the A2 is not very comfortable either, it is avoided by customers.
Audi will be able to animate the range, in particular by proposing a 1.2 TDI version, it should only swallow 3 l/100 km thanks to an incredibly low Cx (0.25!), the A2 remains far from its targets and production is stopped a year ahead of schedule. It was a money pit, estimated at over a billion euros. Audi has reinvested in the B-segment with the A1, a rebodied Polo: the financiers of Ingolstadt have stopped having nightmares!
At Mercedes we have produced pure splendor, such as the 540K or the 300 SL Papillon, we have innovated much and more, we have 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 redone to C-Class W204 and cheaply produced in Brazil.
After all, when this vaguely sporty compact appears, it is already outdated dynamically, embellished with an old-fashioned dashboard, and badly 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 A-Class…
Let’s face it, sliding doors are practical on a J7 van, but totally unsuitable on a city car. How come ? Because they induce technical constraints which, by themselves, not only define the line of the car but also lead to an excess of unrecoverable weight.
Peugeot learned this the hard way with the ineffable 1007 launched in 2004. Pininfarina could do nothing to make its shoebox silhouette look good, nor could the engineers keep the weight of this 3-long little car down. 73m but 1,200kg anyway! As a result, it’s inefficient, greedy… And expensive!
Worse still, the (very slow) electric sliding system of the doors eats up too much space for passengers, the 1007 posing as a compact MPV. Result, a deserved commercial failure and a production stopped before the deadline.
Renault Fluence ZE
Carlos Ghosn had at least one merit, he understood the interest of electric motorization very early on. This led to the very interesting Zoe in 2012 and the questionable Fluence ZE a year earlier. Why this pejorative qualifier? Because this Zero Emissions family sedan (hence the name) can only travel a maximum of 160 km between two charges.
Top-ups that you can then only do at home, given that public terminals are notable for their absence! Thus, we have a bulky and almost unusable car, especially in winter when the heating reduces the range. It seems that some administrations have equipped themselves with Fluence ZE… We don’t even want to buy it to collect it, as we would with an Avantime but with an even more perverse spirit, its line is such a banality to cry!
Porsche Cayenne Diesel
“No, there won’t be a diesel Porsche. How come ? Because the diesel stops at 4,500 rpm, where the fun of a Porsche begins”. That’s basically what I heard at the press conference, on the occasion of the launch of the facelifted Cayenne, type 957, in 2007. Six months later, the Cayenne Diesel came out.
So, Porsche knowingly lied to us because it was already hard to assume they were marketing a 2.2 tonne diesel car. The manufacturer vaguely tried to justify it by paralleling it with a tractor he produced in the 1950s… Under the hood, we didn’t trot around Zuffenhausen, catching up on an Audi V6 TDI as is.
However, customers bought this oiled SUV in significant numbers, mostly for tax reasons. The second generation Cayenne (958) also ran on diesel, then the manufacturer came to his 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 will change my mind. Attention, I’m not talking about the sedan of the 60s, but about the unforgivable coupé-cabriolet that appeared in 2012.
It is actually a Chrysler 200, itself a facelifted Sebring. In other words, a technically obsolete, poorly manufactured, poorly finished and motorized American despite common sense for the European customer. Indeed, he is satisfied with a long-winded, noisy and greedy 2.4 l atmo coupled to an automatic gearbox. For a manufacturer who has won the World Rally Championship ten times, it’s a dream come true… Or not!
Even bulky, heavy and softly cushioned, the Flavia is no 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…
Of course the cars that have put their builder to shame are not limited to those mentioned here, we could also mention the Suzuki XC90, the Maserati Biturbo (I was very wrong to mention 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 faults), 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 above all not the customers), the Cadillac Cimarron (an Opel Ascona sold at the price of a BMW)…