• January 25, 2017

Short Lived Asian Automobiles

Short Lived Asian Automobiles

The United States is a tough market to sell cars into. Problem is there are already a lot of fine cars and trucks sold here now. Not only that, they have complete dealer networks and infrastructure up and running. This hasn’t stopped a number of companies from trying, though. In this article, we will look at several Asian manufacturers that gave the US market a good shot but were unable to sustain the effort. Do you remember any of these brands?


Back in 1972, General Motors partnered with the Japanese automaker Isuzu to build and import the LUV pickup truck into the US. The LUV truck wasn’t a huge success but it did introduce the Japanese company to the US market.  Soon the Isuzu name was building steam and they introduced the rugged Isuzu Trooper SUV and the nicely-styled Impulse sports car.  Sales were healthy but the economy softened in the early 1990s and Isuzu began to stumble.  Its final two models, the Vehicross and Axiom were strikingly innovative, but they did little to reverse the fortunes of the brand. Isuzu left the US marketplace in 1998.


For several decades, Daihatsu was one of Japan’s largest carmakers. By the late ’80s, with American demand for Japanese cars building steam, the company felt it was time to jump into the marketplace. In 1987, Daihatsu  released the Charade, a subcompact hatchback, and followed it up with the Rocky, a Suzuki Samurai-ilike subcompact 4×4 in 1988. An impressive effort but relatively high prices and a lack of dealership network and parts availability spelled the end for the brand. By 1992, Daihatsu quietly left the American market.


Remember Daewoo? Metro Kia of Cartersville, a local Kia dealer in Cartersville, GA, explains Daewoo is a large conglomerate in South Korea and their automotive group into the American market in 1986 with the compact Pontiac LeMans.  Available as a three-door hatchback and a four-door sedan, it was sold until 1994. In 1998, Daewoo returned under its own name with a trio of Guigario-designed small cars: the Lanos, Leganza, and Nubira. The roll out of these three models was poorly organized and the brand never got any traction. In 2002, the company was bought by General Motors.


Suzuki had been successful for decades in Europe and Asia and as a motorcycle maker, they were a force to be reckoned with.  Suzuki started to sell cars under its brand name in 1985. By the end of the decade, they were selling the Cultus, Swift and Samurai. Their cars were considered to be well built and extremely thrifty on fuel.  Despite selling over 100,000 cars in 2006 and releasing a legitimately good compact sedan, the Kizashi, the great recession doomed the brand in America. It left the market in 2014.


The British auto industry made some fine automobiles in the 1930s to 1970s. They were known for great styling, fine performance and luxurious leather and burlwood interiors.  By 1980, most of the British brands were in trouble. Sales in the United States fell quickly as buyer switched over to the thrify, reliable Japanese and Korean cars.  Rover had a concept that seemed genius. By partnering up with Honda, they could build a car with great styling, famous British interior appointments and a highly reliable chassis. In 1986, Rover launched the Sterling 800-Series, a luxury sedan based on the Honda Legend. Unfortunately, the Sterling was poorly built and had boatloads of problems.  The brand never gained any traction and Sterling disappeared by 1992 after five years and fewer than 40,000 sales.

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