We have seen numerous best-sellers from the 90s, but not all cars made in the decade were received well – a great many struggled and failed to capture the hearts of consumers. Some were bad, some were just badly marketed, and others failed to align with the brand's established identity.
From Dodge's repeated attempts to make an economy car to Ford trying to come up with the perfect Bronco, here are cars from the 1990s that were never received well and had to be discontinued due to their poor commercial performance.
The Cadillac Catera was sold between 1996 and 2001, but Cadillac only managed to sell 95,000 units of the car over all those years. The Catera was actually a rebadged version of the Opel Omega B and was manufactured in Germany.
This rear-wheel drive luxury sedan was not bad in any way other than the fact that the car you are seeing right now does not scream Caddy in any way imaginable. If a person is paying Cadillac money, they expect their car to look like a Cadillac. This car did not, resulting in the brand giving up on it.
The Mystique was a sister car to the Ford Mondeo that was introduced in 1993. In the European market, it was very warmly received and became the class leader instantly. However, in North America, people were less than excited about the car due to its outdated design from the 1980s and a POOR safety rating from the NHSTA.
Finally, Ford decided to move the Taurus up their brand hierarchy, and the Mercury brand was just not in the shape to keep pumping money into a car no one wanted to buy, leading to the model being finally discontinued in 2001.
Pontiac Trans Sport
The Trans Sport was positioned as a sports minivan, but the car had problems on a number of different levels. From the title of the worst performing vehicle in the class on safety grounds to a weak engine that was not enough for a vehicle this size, the Trans Sport was just destined to fail.
Pontiac introduced two generations of the car, but from the aerodynamic front end to the gull-wing doors, nothing was enough to make the car a success in the market. Pontiac finally discontinued the car in 1999, just nine years after its introduction.
The Geo Metro was praised by American buyers eight years after its sale stopped in the North American market. It was a rebadged version of the Suzuki Cultus offered by the collaboration of GM and Suzuki.
Offered in 1989 and discontinued in 2001, this car received no interest due to being just another lackluster Japanese import at a time of opulence and excess in the US. However, following the financial crash of 2008, the Metro became popular in the second-hand market due to its superb fuel economy and negligible maintenance and repair costs.
The Eagle Vision was a full-size sedan made by Chrysler's Eagle brand between 1992 and 1997. The car was introduced to replace the Eagle Premier, the car from which its design was derived. Over the five years that the Vision was made, it sold a little over 100,000 units.
The Chrysler 300 M replaced the Premier after the Eagle brand was officially canceled in 1997. To be fair to this car, the Vision was not a bad vehicle in itself; it was just associated with a brand that no one was interested in.
The Plymouth Breeze was the same car as the Dodge Stratus under the skin and was presented to the same audience, just under another Chrysler brand. Like the Stratus and the third variation of the same car (the Chrysler Cirrus), the car was not very well appreciated by the market and was eventually discontinued.
This was the time when the Plymouth brand was already struggling, and the car was, in fact, a desperate effort to bring the dying brand back to life. Ironically, it ended up making matters worse for the brand.
The Corsica was a front-wheel drive compact car produced by Chevy between 1988 and 1997. It was meant mainly for the US market, even though it was named after Corsica in France. The car was offered as a 5-door hatchback or a 4-door sedan.
As was the case with many compact cars made by Chevy, the Corsica was not very well received. Chevy had always been associated with cars with big V8s and crazy performance, and it was still going to take some time before the brand cemented itself as an economy car maker. Even though the Corsica was not a huge success, it aided in that transformation.
A successor to the Ford Aerostar, the Windstar was introduced in 1995. It remained in production until 2007 and was discontinued due to constantly decreasing sales. The Windstar came with the same engine as the Taurus of that time, the 3.8L Essex V6, and was plagued by the infamous head gasket leakage problem.
The Windstar was also subjected to recalls due to subframe corrosion, faulty rear axles, and other issues. These reliability issues, combined with the weak engine performance, ultimately led to the demise of the minivan in 2007.
The 1990s (third-generation) LeBaron was such a bad car that it caused the discontinuation of a nameplate that had been around since 1930 in one form or another. The most important factor contributing to the failure was the fact that it was posed as a sports convertible while it hardly had any performance to match all those claims.
The LeBaron offered a V6 as the most powerful engine, and even that had no turbo and was severely underpowered for a car that was trying to be a sports car. That, and the general unpopularity of two-door convertibles at that time, led to the poor performance of this car in the market and eventually its cancellation.
A relic of the old times, the Oldsmobile Silhouette was a luxury minivan made by GM's Oldsmobile division. This was one of the many tries by GM to enter this market segment, and none of them was a particular commercial success, ultimately leading to the closure of this segment entirely by GM.
As the Silhouette was based on the same U-Category platform as the Trans Sport, it also received a POOR safety rating and was classified as the most unsafe minivan in the market. That is not the title you want to have when marketing a vehicle people are supposed to transport their families in.
The Tracker was made by GM, Suzuki, and CAMI Automotive of Canada between 1989 and 2004. It was marketed as a mini SUV, but due to its body-on-frame construction and off-road capabilities, it was officially classified as a light truck.
The vehicle was manufactured by multiple automakers but was unsuccessful mainly because of safety concerns. The Tracker had one of the highest fatality rates per registered vehicle in the US for its class, leading to dwindling trust from buyers and the SUV being finally discontinued.
The Ford Contour was closely related to the Mondeo and was offered in the North American market, but people were not in the mood to pay mid to late 1990s prices for a car with an early 1980s design. The Contour was finally discontinued in 2000.
Ford even tried to introduce an SVT (Special Vehicle Team) version of the car in order to bring customer interest back to the brand, but no amount of rebranding or cosmetic changes could get people to buy the car. Only 11,500 units of this model were ever sold in the five years that it remained in production in the North American market.
Dodge is not exactly the brand that comes to mind when considering the best mid-size family car on the market. It has tried multiple times to enter the non-performance segment, and none of those tries could be a commercial success.
The Stratus was a mid-size sedan introduced in 1995, but seeing how the car performed on the market, it was discontinued in 2005, never to make a comeback. The Stratus was not a bad car by any means, but the fact that it was a Dodge that was not a 10-second car mainly contributed to its demise.
The Oldsmobile Achieva, despite its name, never achieved anything significant in its six-year production run from 1992 to 1998. The car was not essentially a bad one, but at that time, there was just a lot of competition in this segment, and Oldsmobile was known for its muscle cars, not compact economic sedans.
The Achieva was competing in the same segment with the Corolla, Civic, and Lancer. No one wanted to buy a car with the less-than-stellar performance of the Japanese market and the questionable reliability of the Americans.
Imagine a car with the reliability and maintenance cost of American muscle and the power and performance of a Honda, even the looks. Can you really see such a car being a huge market success? Well, that was the story of the Dodge Neon, a car from a muscle car brand with the performance of a Honda.
After trying to get people to drive a subpar Dodge for ten years, Dodge discontinued the car in 2005. One of the reasons for the discontinuation of the Neon was Dodge's realization that they had a better chance of succeeding with muscle cars than economical ones.
The Cavalier was not a bad car by any account, but it did not get the reception from the buyers that GM and Chevy were expecting. If you look at the car in a vacuum, it was a fairly powerful one with acceptable handling and a comfortable ride.
However, Chevy is a brand known not for compact economy cars but for powerful sports and performance cars. People did get acceptable performance and reliability from the Cavalier, but it was not enough to satisfy the expectations associated with the brand name. Finally, in 2005, Chevy pulled the plug on the car for good.
Ironically, the Ford Aspire failed to aspire much confidence in the buyers, leading to it being eventually phased out within four years of its introduction. The Aspire was a sedan version of the economical hatchback in Ford's lineup, known as the Figo.
The Ford Aspire failed to live up to the standard that people expected from the brand, leading to the eventual crash of the sales numbers and the car being killed by Ford. It still lives on in some low-income markets, but this car was not a successful model in the US.
First-Gen Jeep Grand Cherokee
The OG Jeep Grand Cherokee was not the icon of luxury and opulence that is associated with the nameplate these days. When Jeep first released the Grand Cherokee back in 1992, the brand was more of a utility vehicle than a luxury overland car brand.
The idea of a family SUV made by Jeep that also claimed to be the 'Fastest Utility Vehicle' in the world was not as attractive in the early 1990s as it is today. However, Jeep learned from the mistakes and shortcomings of the original model and made improved versions of the vehicle, becoming one of the most successful SUVs on the market.
Introduced in 1995 as a compact car to succeed the Sunbird, the Pontiac Sunfire marked not only a name change but also a significant shift in styling. The fresh aesthetics were in line with the revamped Chevrolet Cavalier, as both shared the updated J platform designed to meet stricter safety standards, beginning with the 1996 model year.
Unfortunately, the car could never become the commercial success that Pontiac hoped for throughout its 11-year run. General Motors eventually replaced the Sunfire with the G5 in Canada for the 2006 model year and the United States for the 2007 model year.
The Lumina was introduced in 1989 as a midsize sedan in the North American market and was offered till 2001. It was discontinued due to diminishing sales because the nameplate failed to get the same notoriety as the Impala it aimed to replace. The final nail in the coffin of the Lumina was the re-introduction of an improved Impala.
The Lumina was sold for some time in a few Asian markets, but in the North American market, production was stopped in 2001. The silver lining to this cloud was the improved Impala was a great success all over the world.
If you have not already noticed, the mere name of this car is cringe-worthy to the highest degree possible. The Sundance came out in 1990, but after just four years, Plymouth realized that this was not the car they wanted the future generations to know them by the reference of.
The Sundance was one of the worst-performing vehicles, not only in the 1990s but also in the entire history of the Plymouth brand, and one of the reasons this brand was slowly phased out by Chrysler. It was plagued by an unimpressive engine, lack of quality control, and just overall bad reviews from users.
The Ford Tempo was a compact car produced between 1984 and 1994 by Ford Motor Corporation. Mercury also sold it under the Topaz nameplate, but neither was a commercial success. Ford was seen testing a third generation of the Tempo in 1990, but the idea was eventually scrapped in favor of the Mondeo.
Ford hardly ever succeeded at making a commercially successful compact car as that market segment was always occupied by the Japanese manufacturers who had perfected the art of making inexpensive cars that had low fuel consumption and high reliability.
While Americans love V8s, the Chevrolet Beretta was not one of them. With low performance, questionable style, and a name withholding the V8 insignia, this car did not do well in the United States when it was released.
The Beretta was introduced in 1987, but sales declined every year until GM stopped production in 1996. The main reason for the failure of this car was that it had the 2-door coupe body style but not the powerful engine that people demand in such cars.
Another day, another try by Dodge to make a compact economy car, another commercial failure. These 3-door and 5-door cars were introduced in 1987, and Dodge tried for seven years to make the cars a success before wrapping up in 1994. Dodge even went so far as to install a 175hp V6 in the car but to no avail.
The main reason was the same: the brand Dodge is introduced with the likes of Hellcat, Demon, Chargers, and other cars that go out there and shred the tarmac. This was never going to succeed.
The Cirrus was the same car as the Dodge Stratus and the Plymouth Breeze and was plagued by the same issues. The company that was known for making performance-luxury cars like the 300C and 300D was just not the right one to be making this mid-size sedan.
Like the other two cars based on the same design and everything, Chrysler tried to make the Cirrus a success for just under a decade, but it was soon clear that the product was not marketable, and the brand had to do away with it.
Fourth-Gen Ford Taurus
The 2023 Taurus is a success, in fact, one of the best sellers in Ford's lineup that year, but that is not to say that this nameplate was without its problems back in the day. The first generation of the Taurus came out in 1985 as a mid-size sedan, not a full-size one in the modern era.
Sales of the Taurus steadily declined in the '90s until 2005 due to the increased competition by Japanese cars like the Camry, Accord, and Altima. Ford discontinued the model in 2005 but relaunched it in 2007 with an improved and bigger version of the car.
Second-Gen Chevrolet Blazer
The Blazer was not always the flashy, modernistic SUV that we all know today. The earlier generations of this SUV had a lot of struggles and obstacles that Chevy had to overcome to make it the successful SUV it is today.
The second generation Blazer, with V6 engines, was not as powerful as people would like it to be. Moreover, the 4300 Vortec V6 engine was also plagued with a number of reliability issues. Thankfully, Chevy made all the right improvements, and the Blazer came back more successful than ever.
Produced between 1988 and 1997, the Ford Probe sold 197,000 units in the first year of production and a total of 310,000 over the entire production run. To say that people were disappointed after the initial interaction with this car would be a massive understatement.
The car had great looks, and Ford made big promises to the buyers, but the actual product failed to live up to the high consumer expectations. Ford did try to make improvements and refine the car, but nothing was enough to win the trust of people back, leading to Ford being forced to give up on this car.
Chevrolet Lumina APV
When the Chevy Lumina failed to be a commercial success, the brand tried to make a minivan with the same name, based on the same platform as the Pontiac Trans Sport, but it too did not succeed and had to be discontinued after just seven years.
The minivan was plagued with the same issues as the Trans Sport. It had a poor safety rating, a weak engine, and less-than-impressive handling. The company was so fed up with the performance of the car on the market that they did not even offer a second generation of the van.
With 8.2 million+ sales over its lifetime and as one of the most established names in the market, the legacy of the Explorer is nothing to scoff at, but that is not to say that this journey was without struggles. The earlier generations of the Explorer were plagued with tire reliability issues, notoriously bad engines, and deadly crashes.
Ford finally ended their partnership with Firestone tires, owing to the issues they caused in this vehicle, and improved the safety, stability, and reliability of the SUV, eventually paving the way for it to become one of the best mid-size options on the market.
The GMC Jimmy was a full-size SUV based on the same platform as the Yukon and was offered between 1985 and 2003. While it lasted over a decade on the market, consumers were not impressed with the SUV, which was eventually rebranded in hopes of selling more.
The Jimmy was eventually rebranded as the more luxurious Envoy, and that model is around even to this date. The truck-based SUV had issues, including ride quality and stability at the start, which led to the eventual phasing out of the vehicle in the early 2000s.
The Regal was first introduced in 1973, and it is safe to say it was the go-to option for people looking for an entry-level mid-size luxury car for a very long time. However, the diminishing interest of people in the car was due to a general shift of the market away from sedans and towards SUVs and crossovers.
In 2019, Buick announced the end of sales of all their sedans in the North American market and shifted all their focus towards the more in-demand SUVs and crossovers that are their main business in this market now.
Chevrolet S-10 Blazer
The S-10 Blazer was based on the Chevy S-10 pickup truck and was produced from 1983 to 2005. It was offered in five and three-door format, with the former being more successful than the latter.
The SUV met its demise due to an extremely harsh ride quality (as it was based on a truck), unreliable engine options, and high competition in the market in the 90s. However, Chevy learned from their mistakes and improved this SUV into the Blazer, one of the best options available in this segment today.
Produced between 1986 and 2011, the Dakota was discontinued mainly due to the general lack of interest from the buyers in the mid-size truck market. Even though the Dakota did not fail in the 1990s, that decade can be attributed to the failure of the truck as it failed to modernize in the next century.
Dodge also moved their focus from trucks to SUVs and muscle cars, making a new division called RAM for trucks, which was positioned as this premium truck brand with no place for economic mid-size variants within its lineup.
While the Pacifica from Chrysler is the best-selling minivan in the US, that is not the case with all the minivans that this company produced. Back in the day, when Plymouth was a part of Chrysler, the company produced the Voyager, a minivan in the B-Segment that remained in production for nine years but never got a chance to shine in the eyes of American consumers.
This was mainly because the brand was known to make muscle cars and performance vehicles and not exactly vans for families. All that, added to the fact that Plymouth was phased out as a brand, led to the demise of the Voyager.
Pontiac Grand Am
The Grand Am had been around since 1973, and people seemed to like it until the third generation was released in 1985. That led to steadily declining sales, and eventually, the car was phased out by Pontiac in 1998.
The Grand Am was a full-size sedan developed to rival similar offerings by the likes of Ford and Chrysler. However, the third generation was noted for being unsafe, especially for the driver and front passenger, in the event of an impact from the side. There were some reliability and durability issues as well, which further dropped sales.
Produced between 1992 and 2002, the S-Series is another example of cars that were released by dying American car brands towards their end. But, ironically, these cars ended up accelerating the eventual demise of these brands.
One of the main reasons the Saturn S-Series failed was that its safety rating for frontal crashes was barely acceptable, and the side impact and the rollover performance were not even tested. All that, compounded by a general lack of trust in the brand, caused this car to be discontinued.
The Villager was a minivan made by Nissan and Ford (under the Mercury brand) between 1992 and 2002. The same model was also marketed as the Quest by Nissan. The Villager and Quest were good vans but were affected by the same collaboration and coordination issues faced by joint ventures.
Mercury Monetery replaced the Villager, and Nissan introduced the third generation of Quest after the conclusion of the joint venture between the two companies. After the Mercury brand was closed, Ford started making the newer generations of the Windstar, but that was also not a successful minivan.
In its heyday, the Buick brand was one of the most desirable ones in the entire US, but those days were long gone when the Skylark's sixth generation came out. The 6th-gen Skylark never even sold 100,000 units in any year it was in production. The brand just wasn't relevant anymore.
Once one of the leading brands in the US, it was cars like this, a lack of modernization, and the general mistrust of people in the brand that Buick now only makes a handful of models.
Ford Bronco II
SUVs are not particularly known to be very good to handle on the road, but the Bronco II was an exaggerated case of that as some testing procedures were canceled "out of fear of killing or injuring one of its own drivers," as noted by Ford's engineers who were on the design team of the Bronco II.
That, and the overall inefficiency of the vehicle, led to it being poorly received by the buyers. Ultimately, the SUV was discontinued in 1990, just five short years after its introduction to the market. However, Ford made the improvements in the latest Bronco released in 2019.