What Are They Thinking? Automakers Are Foolish Not to Sell These Cars in the U.S.


By Joseph Capparella, Car and Driver

It’s an all too easy trap for American car enthusiasts to fall into, the clichĂ© of waxing poetic about automotive forbidden fruit sold only in other countries. We’re talking about tropes such as manual-transmission diesel station wagons, unbearably tiny Japanese kei cars, car-based “ute” pickups, and did we already mention wagons? But such vehicles aren’t ever going to catch on in any big way here in the land of Big Macs and blatancy—and why would they? Automakers would be lucky to sell dozens of copies to a few fevered fanatics. But that isn’t to say there aren’t cars sold abroad that would be natural fits for the American market. We did some armchair product planning (and forced all irrational station-wagon dreams from our minds) and came up with a group of foreign-market vehicles that surely would garner decent sales numbers stateside—and we expect credit for any of these ideas that automakers end up using in the near future. Click through to see the cars you could be missing out on:

Acura CDX

For years, Acura has sold more crossovers than cars in the United States, and that’s with only two distinct SUV models in the current lineup: the compact RDX and the three-row MDX. There must be a plan in the works to introduce a subcompact crossover smaller than the RDX, but Acura could fast-track the idea by bringing the China-market CDX here. A mishmash of Honda corporate parts—including the Honda HR-V’s underpinnings, the Civic’s 1.5-liter turbo inline-four, and the Acura ILX’s eight-speed dual-clutch automatic (a hybrid CDX also is available)—the CDX would be a natural contender for Acura dealers to foist on Americans flocking to small luxury crossovers such as the BMW X1 and the Mercedes-Benz GLA-class.

Audi Q2

The Q3 is the smallest crossover that Audi currently sells in the U.S. It is an uninspired and aging entry that came in last place in our most recent comparison test among tiny luxo utes. Elsewhere, the newer and (we think) more stylish Q2 sits alongside the Q3 at the bottom of Audi’s SUV lineup, and it seems to us like it might be cool and funky enough to gain its own following on our shores. Based on the Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform, the Q2 is nearly eight inches shorter in length than the Q3 and has a distinctive, squared-off look all its own. With the same 2.0-liter turbo four and Quattro all-wheel drive as its bigger sibling, the top-spec Q2 seems an enticing proposition, and we’re not quite sure why Audi doesn’t see fit to bring it here.

BMW 1-series sedan

For now, BMW seems perfectly content moving 3-series sedans out the door with heavily discounted leases on 320i models. But when the new 3er arrives, presumably with a higher price, the carmaker might need a new entry-level competitor to draw in buyers. Mercedes-Benz and Audi already do it with the CLA-class and A3 sedans, while BMW’s similarly sized 2-series is available only as a two-door coupe or convertible. We think BMW stands to gain a fair number of sales by importing its China-market 1-series sedan here. The four-door is built on the same front-wheel-drive architecture used in the X1 and many Mini models, and although that might seem heretical to BMW purists who think that all Bimmers should have rear-wheel drive and a six-cylinder engine, they can still buy a 3-series. For everyone else and those wanting a roundel badge on a budget, the 125i with its 228-hp turbo four could bring a new sort of appeal to BMW showrooms.

Ford Everest 

Ford already has plans to re-enter the body-on-frame, off-road SUV game (if you haven’t heard, the Bronco is coming back!), but we’re left scratching our heads as to why the Blue Oval hasn’t already been selling the Everest here while we wait around for the Bronco to arrive. The Everest is a four-door sport-ute based on the global Ranger pickup, and it seems like it could make a killing among truck-hungry Americans, who have clearly demonstrated through sales numbers that they still love old-school SUVs like the Toyota 4Runner.

Kia Stonic

The Kia Soul is a bona fide hit in America, and we’ve given it our 10Best Trucks and SUVs award for Best Subcompact SUV two years running - yes, despite the fact that it doesn’t offer all-wheel drive. But the Soul’s funky, boxy shape surely isn’t for everyone, which makes us think that Kia could stand to gain plenty of sales by offering a more conventional-looking subcompact crossover here. Luckily, it has such a vehicle on sale elsewhere already, the attractive Stonic, that fills the gap perfectly. Kia hasn’t said whether the Stonic will ever make an appearance here, but we wouldn’t be shocked if it reaches America at some point in the near future.

Mazda CX-4

Who says the coupe-SUV trend should be reserved only for luxury brands? Based on the conventional CX-5, Mazda’s CX-4 is a more rakish crossover that seems like it would fit in great in America. We love its curves and its low, athletic stance, and it’s bound to drive well if it’s anything like the rest of the Mazda lineup. Alas, it’s only for China currently, and Mazda hasn’t said anything about bringing it here any time soon.

Mercedes-Benz E-class All Terrain

Okay, we know we promised not to gush over a station wagon, but Mercedes-Benz has one of the most well-established wagon traditions of any car company. And it has weirdly been hesitant to join the trend of lifted-suspension longroofs in the same vein as Audi’s Allroads, Volvo’s Cross Countries, and Subaru’s Outback that automakers seem to think appeal more to Americans than traditional wagons. Benz recently introduced its own SUV-wannabe version of the E-class wagon in Europe called the All Terrain, but we can’t quite work out why the company won’t bring this simultaneously rugged and rich-looking vehicle here despite offering the conventional E400 wagon and the insane 603-hp E63 AMG version in the United States.

Mitsubishi Delica

Adventurous types who wander America’s West Coast in camper vans used to favor the Volkswagen Microbus, but with that box’s turn from bohemian transport toward valuable classic, many vagabonds have been forced to find a new option. That, curiously enough, seems to be the Mitsubishi Delica. Due to importation regulations, only older Delicas from the 1980s and early 1990s are legal to have in the States right now, but they’re quite popular and we figure that Mitsubishi could lean into this market by bringing the latest Japan-market Delica here for real, federalized and with a proper warranty. The van has appropriately blocky looks that may lure a few SUV intenders, and it comes with all-wheel drive. At 186.2 inches long, it’s a nice size, smaller than today’s hardly mini minivans but with plenty of space inside for activities, sleeping, or whatever it is that listless youths do in California and Oregon.

Mitsubishi L200

Just a few decades ago, Mitsubishi was a major player in the compact-pickup segment here in the U.S.—it even supplied some of its little Mighty Max trucklets to Chrysler to be sold as Dodge Rams. What better time than the present to re-enter this market? Mid-size pickups are all the rage, and Mitsubishi sells the L200 globally; surely it can’t be too far off from being ready for the U.S. market. And even if that truck isn’t cut out for U.S. duty, it’s possible that Mitsubishi could leverage its recent partnership with Nissan and sell a Mitsu-badged version of the next-gen Nissan Frontier.

Nissan Pulsar

Nissan’s Sentra hasn’t been a truly competitive compact car for a while now, offering little of the driving fun or the aesthetic appeal of rivals such as the Mazda 3, Volkswagen Golf, and Honda Civic. Nor does Nissan offer Americans a hatchback version of its compact with an extra measure of practicality, as do those competitors listed above. The automaker really should bring over the Europe-market Pulsar and badge it as a Sentra hatch. Or, heck, keep the Pulsar name, because it’s sort of cool. (Toyota, by the way, plucks its Corolla hatchback from Europe, where it is named the Auris.) The Pulsar is a lot better-looking than the Sentra sedan, and while we haven’t driven one, we can’t help but wonder if it’s a bit more fun from behind the wheel, too.

Nissan Terra

Toyota sells plenty of 4Runners in the U.S. despite the SUV’s age and its many shortcomings, so why is Nissan not re-entering the body-on-frame SUV game with the Terra it sells in several other markets? Hell, it’s just an X away from having plenty of name recognition on our shores, too, reviving the Xterra name applied to a since-discontinued compact 4x4 that was sold here until recently. The Terra is built on the same chassis as Nissan’s global pickup, the Navara, and it seems an old-school proposition in a world dominated by more modern unibody crossovers. But with the popularity of the Jeep Wrangler stronger than ever, and the impending Ford Bronco sure to bring more attention to this segment, we think there might be room within this niche for a legitimately rugged Nissan 4x4 such as this.

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Autos - U.S. Daily News: What Are They Thinking? Automakers Are Foolish Not to Sell These Cars in the U.S.
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