10 Times Japanese Automakers Tried to Change the Game…and Failed Miserably

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Often unveiled at motor shows, these Japanese cars immediately caught the attention of the public and potential customers. The builders weren’t looking to make just another car, but something that would leave a lasting impression in people’s minds. These cars have often ticked all the boxes for success, when it comes to uniqueness, performance and looks.


However, due to a plethora of reasons including bad marketing, bad timing, regulatory restrictions and strong competitiveness, these JDM the cars could not stay on the market for long. While some got off to a good start before failing along the way, others failed miserably from the start.

Related: 10 Times British Carmakers Built Great Cars That Fell Dramatically

10/10 Subaru SVX

Red Subaru SVX parked
Via bring a trailer

The aircraft-inspired “window-in-window” SVX is an all-wheel-drive or front-wheel-drive coupe that marks Subaru’s entry into the luxury and performance market, from 1991 to 1996. Unlike the angular Subaru XT , the SVX has softer lines with its two-piece power side windows.

Red Subaru SVX parked
Via bring a trailer

From its debut until its demise, the SVX ran only with a 3.3-liter horizontally-opposed EG33 model flat-six engine. Released during Japan‘s “bubble economy” of the early 1990s, the SVX was tasked with changing the luxury/performance game for Subaru, with sales projections of 10,000 units each year. However, in 1993 Subaru only managed to sell 3,859 units before discontinuing the model in December 1996.

9/10 Acura ZDX

Silver 2010 Acura ZDX on the road
By: Acura

The sleek, low-slung Acura ZDX debuted in 2009 and was marketed as a “4-door luxury sports coupe”. With the midsize luxury crossover SUV, Acura effectively blurs the line between a coupe, sedan and SUV. Upon release, the ZDX was powered by an all-aluminum 3,664 cc V6 engine rated at 296 hp.

Silver Acura ZDX on the road
via USA Today

The ZDX is the first Acura to offer a 6-speed automatic transmission that’s no shortage of luxury appointments. Unfortunately, it never really caught on in the US market, selling just over 6,000 units from 2009 to 2013 before it was discontinued. Although Acura plans to bring the ZDX back as its first electric vehicle, we hope it will be more successful than the first attempt.

8/10 Isuzu Vehicross

1999 Isuzu VehiCROSS on rocky road
Via: Bring a Trailer

Among other things, the Isuzu Vehicross owes its poor reception to its extravagant design. For a two-door crossover aimed at winning the hearts of young people, the styling was overkill.

Silver Isuzu VehiCROSS on the road
Via: Bring a Trailer

Nonetheless, the Vehicross shines brightly when it comes to off-road adventures, with a 3.5-liter V6 engine producing 215 horsepower and 230 lb-ft of torque. But Isuzu failed to strike the right balance between a mini-sport-ute and a big SUV. The Vehicross only sold 4,153 units between 1999 and 2002 before the Yokohama-based automaker decided to phase it out.

Related: Throwback to the Isuzu Vehicross

7/10 Toyota FJ Cruiser

Front 3/4 view of an FJ Cruiser beside a shore, driver's side
via: Toyota

When it arrived in North America in 2006, the FJ Cruiser was well received for its cool distinction from the rest of Toyota’s lineup. Its unique retro styling, sturdy suspension and excellent traction control made it an early hit, selling 56,225 units in its first year.

Blue FJ Cruiser on the driveway
ViaToyota

However, a few years later, it became apparent that Toyota was focusing more on off-road capability than on lateral grip performance and body roll. This, coupled with the highly competitive midsize SUV segment, environmental concerns and poor fuel mileage amid rising gas prices, led to a sharp drop in sales of the FJ Cruiser in 2008. Unable to justify the continued production of the midsize SUV, Toyota pulled the plug. the FJ Cruiser for the North American market in 2014.

6/10 Suzuki XL-7

Blue Suzuki XL-7 in a garage
By YouTube

The XL-7 entered the market in 1998 and sits just above the Grand Vitara in the Suzuki lineup. When it hit the US market, the XL-7 was the most affordable SUV offering three-row seating with a five-speed manual transmission.

White Suzuki XL-7 on the road
By: Bing

For a seven-passenger SUV, the XL-7 was surprisingly more compact and lighter than many large truck-based SUVs available at the time. Although it has good reflexes and a car-like ride, the XL-7 isn’t quite as refined as the Toyota Highlander. So while Toyota sold over 100,000 Highlanders a year, the XL-7 could only sell 27,295 units at best.

5/10 Lexus HS250h

Silver 2010 Lexus HS 250h on the driveway
Via the Lexus USA Press Room

Arriving on American shores in August 2009 as a 2010 model, the HS 250h marked Lexus’ entry into the luxury hybrid segment. Size-wise, the Lexus HS sits somewhere between the intermediate IS and ES. When it debuted, the HS 250h was one of America’s most fuel-efficient luxury vehicles.

Silver 2011 Lexus HS 250h on the driveway
Via the Lexus USA Press Room

For the interior, Lexus uses “eco-plastic” (bioplastic) materials of vegetable origin. Toyota’s luxury division claims that 85% of the vehicle was fully recyclable. Despite these innovations, the HS 250h was only able to survive in the US market for three years, with sales down more than 57% from initial projections.

4/10 Honda CR-Z

Blue Honda CR-Z on the road
through Honda

When the Honda CR-Z landed in the United States in 2010, it attracted a lot of attention, appearing in the music video for Jason Derulo’s song. ride solo. Honda’s ability to balance hybrid ingenuity with traditional sports car elements has made the small hatch a household name.

Blue Honda CR-Z on the road
through Honda

The CR-Z was one of the least polluting vehicles, earning an AT-PZEV (Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle) badge. However, these impressive attributes failed to convince American buyers to turn to the CR-Z, which only sold 2,338 units in its final year of production.

Related: Why The Honda CR-Z Is An Underrated Hybrid

3/10 Suzuki X-90

Black Suzuki X-90 on the driveway
via: Bring A Trailer

The X-90 is Suzuki’s failed attempt to create a new segment. This strange vehicle is a two-seater SUV with removable T-top, designed to replace the Samurai on the American market. Suzuki actually tried to mix a mini off-roader and a sports car, and it would have been revolutionary if it hadn’t turned out to be a disaster.

Black Suzuki X-90 parked
via: Bring A Trailer

The X-90 is powered by a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine with an output of only 95 hp. Surviving from 1995 to 1997, the X-90 is best known for appearing in a Red Bull commercial as a can hauler. About 7,000 units of the X-90 were sold in the United States before leaving the market.

2/10 Mitsubishi Endeavor

Silver Mitsubishi Endeavour, parked
via conceptcarz.com

Unveiled as the first vehicle designed under the Mitsubishi Project America platform, which aims to facilitate the construction of vehicles from Japanese automakers specifically for the North American market, the Endeavor is a midsize crossover SUV.

silver Mitsubishi Endeavor parked
By: Bing

When launched, it was powered by a 3.8-liter 6G75 V6 mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission to produce 215 hp. Mitsubishi hoped to sell over 80,000 units of the Endeavor each year in the United States, but could only sell 39,181 units at best.

1/10 Mazda RX-8

Red 2004 Mazda RX-8 in the parking lot
Via: Bring a Trailer

Replacing the highly successful RX-7, which spanned three generations, the RX-8 was released in 2003 with high expectations. Unlike big names like the Honda S2000 and Nissan 350Z, the RX-8 had a rear-wheel-drive setup with an option of automatic or manual transmission.

2010 Mazda RX-8 parked in front of a garage
By: Pinterest

The Mazda RX-8 is the last we see of a Wankel (rotary) engine in a sports car, so if only it could have lasted longer. Due to declining sales and its inability to meet the strict emissions standards of the time, Mazda had to end the iconic lineup after just one generation in 2012.

Next: 9 Times American Automakers Built Great Cars That Fell Dramatically

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