Even though the United States has over 250 million cars on the road, this isn’t an easy country to break into with a new car brand. The problem is that there are so many great car brands here now with complete dealer networks and infrastructures 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?
Suzuki had been successful for decades as a motorcycle manufacturer. In 1985, they leveraged their excellent brand name and started selling Suzuki automobiles in several countries around the world. The United States was one of them. By the end of the decade, they were selling large numbers of their Cultus, Swift and Samurai models here. All three of these models were considered to be well built and extremely thrifty on fuel. Despite selling over 100,000 cars in 2006 and releasing a new compact sedan, the Kizashi, the great recession doomed the brand in America. According to Lustine Toyota of Woodbridge, a local Toyota dealer in Woodbridge, VA, Suzuki exited the American market in 2014.
Back in 1972, General Motors partnered with the Japanese automaker Isuzu to build and import the oddly-named LUV pickup truck into the US. Their reasoning was sound; the big three automakers were all selling boatloads of large pickup trucks, but a certain section of the market wanted a smaller model. General Motors quickly partnered up with Isuzu and soon had the LUV truck on the market. The LUV truck wasn’t a huge success but it did introduce Isuzu to the US market. Soon the brand was building steam and they introduced the rugged Isuzu Trooper and the attractive Impulse sports car to the US market. Sales were strong but the economy slowed down in the early 1990s and Isuzu began to stumble. Its final two models, the Vehicross and Axiom were innovative, but they were too late. 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 was building steam and Daihatsu entered the US marketplace. In 1987, Daihatsu released the Charade, a subcompact hatchback, followed in 1988 by the Rocky, a Suzuki Samurai-like subcompact. An impressive effort but a lack of dealership network and brand recognition spelled the end for the brand in 1992.
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 came into the American market in 1986. Their first model was the compact Pontiac LeMans which was created in a partnership with General Motors. Available as a three-door hatchback and a four-door sedan, it was sold until 1994. In 1998, Daewoo released a trio of small cars: the Lanos, Leganza, and Nubira under the Daewoo brand name. The roll out of these three models was poorly organized and in 2002, the company was bought by General Motors.
The British auto industry was known for making fine looking and handling automobiles from the 1930s to 1970s.They especially excelled in their interiors which offered luxurious leather and exotic burlwood dashes. They weren’t known for their quality and reliability, though, and by 1980, most of the British brands were in trouble. The reason? Buyers in the United States switched over to the thrifty, reliable Japanese and Korean cars.
The British Rover Company came up with a genius concept. 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, 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.