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5 Forgotten SUVs and Why They Failed

Not every SUV ever made has been an instant success, although you’d be forgiven for thinking that every high-riding 4-wheel drive (4WD) followed in the all-terrain tire tracks of the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ford Explorer.

For most automakers, SUVs and crossovers are the ticket to success. Their towering seating positions, versatile cargo bays and rugged images make them appealing to consumers, and they tend to command higher profit margins than similarly sized sedans and hatchbacks. For automakers and most buyers, SUVs are a win-win proposition.

Well, not quite all. Here’s a look at five SUVs that didn’t make the cut and are rare sights today.

Pontiac Torrent

Pontiac Torrent

Pontiac’s first SUV, the Aztek, has all the makings of an instant classic set to be driven by the kind of people who relish taking the road less traveled. Its second act, the Torrent? Not so much. Good luck even finding one.

The Torrent hit the road in 2006 as a rebadged version of the Chevrolet Equinox with little to differentiate it from its slightly less expensive sibling than a fake-BMW twin-kidney grille with the automaker’s red shield badge. A sporty Torrent GXP (here’s a nice one) brought a 264-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 to the party along with a stiffer suspension in 2008, just a year before General Motors would go into a heavily structured bankruptcy and discontinue the Pontiac brand. Find a Pontiac Torrent for sale

Kia Borrego

Kia was just hitting its stride toward the end of the first decade of the 21st century with conservative, well-built cars that helped shed its low-quality image. For Kia, the Borrego that arrived in late 2008 was its boldest move yet. The SUV was almost a caricature of the successful third-generation Ford Explorer, with a choice of V6 and V8 power, a separate frame and decent off-road ability.

It also arrived just as the economy tanked, gas prices skyrocketed, and consumers stopped buying any car that wasn’t a fuel economy special edition. The timing couldn’t have been worse for the Borrego, which was dropped from Kia’s American showrooms after just two model years. Amazingly, the Borrego is still built (as the Kia Mohave) in Korea for many global markets, and a refreshed model was just unveiled a few months ago. Find a Kia Borrego for sale

Mazda Navajo

The Ford Explorer annihilated just about every car, minivan and SUV in its path when it hit dealers for the 1991 model year. Sure, the Jeep Cherokee is arguably the first modern family-oriented SUV, but the Explorer was so ubiquitous that at least one of your neighbors between 1991 and 2001 owned one. Maybe three.

And then there was the Mazda Navajo, which Motor Trend named its Truck of the Year in 1991. Ford owned a stake in Mazda until recently, and it granted the Japanese automaker’s dealers a version of the Explorer. The problem? The Navajo was only offered as a 3-door, not as the far more popular 5-door configuration. The 3-door Explorer Sport was such a flop that Ford by 1993 was literally giving away optional equipment such as power windows and air conditioning just to get them off of lots at the same time some dealers were still marking up 5-door Explorers. The Navajo bit the dust by the end of 1994. Find a Mazda Navajo for sale

Isuzu Axiom

Isuzu Axiom

Isuzu was in big trouble in the U.S. by the dawn of the 21st century. Sales of its SUVs plummeted after Consumer Reports in 1995 said that the Trooper was unusually prone to rolling over. Short on cash, Isuzu sliced the Trooper from its lineup and reworked its smaller Rodeo with a futuristic body. The Axiom was its new flagship, and while it looked like a crossover, its vintage 1990s Rodeo underpinnings meant that it rode like, well, a vintage 1990s Rodeo.

The oddball Axiom never sold well, which made it easy for Subaru to kick Isuzu out of its joint-venture assembly plant in Indiana (Subaru literally bought Isuzu out of the facility for $1.00) in order to build the … Find a Isuzu Axiom for sale

Subaru Tribeca

Subaru Tribeca

When was the last time Subaru had a flop, you ask? Well, here it is. Unless you live in the Pacific Northwest or the Rocky Mountains or have gone for a ride in this wild limo, you may have never seen the oddball Subaru Tribeca, which was originally and very curiously named the B9 Tribeca. Somehow this ungainly 3-row, Legacy-based crossover lasted until the 2014 model year.

The first few years featured Porsche Cayenne-like headlights floating above narrow mustache grilles that flanked a central intake shaped like a gumdrop candy. A face-lifted version bowed for 2008, but sales continued to slide. Subaru sold fewer than 77,000 Tribecas between the 2006 and 2014 model years. Find a Subaru Tribeca for sale

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Andrew Ganz
Andrew Ganz
Andrew Ganz is an author specializing in helping in-market consumers get the most bang for their buck -- and the best car, while they're at it. When not virtually shopping for new and used cars, Andrew can probably be found under the hood of a vintage classic that's rapidly losing fluids.

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