Ford revealed the 2002 Thunderbird on Jan. 8, 2001 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The car is rated one of the most overhyped cars of today by Forbes.com.
• Ford Thunderbird
When Ford resurrected the Thunderbird in 2001, it hailed the event in a statement as "the long-awaited rebirth of an American icon." Three years later, the vehicle's retro looks have grown stale. Ford designed the Thunderbird for comfortable touring, not sporty driving, so the car lacks performance chops on which to fall back as Ford continues to debate killing it. It is the worst-selling Ford by far. In 2003, the company only managed to sell 18,100 T-birds, a decline of 5.2% from 2002. Last year, Ford sold more units of the Escort, a model it was phasing out of production.
• Hummer H1
Sales of both the Hummer H1 and its suburbanized protégé, the H2, were down 25% in the U.S. in the first quarter. As popular as the H2 was last year, high inventories and slowed sales for H1 and H2 indicate that the Hummer trend was shorter-lived than General Motors (Hummer's parent) had expected. The H1, a military vehicle made street-legal, caught people's attention but no longer looks very fresh. The Jeep Wrangler, which has a similar history and purpose, is famously uncomfortable too--but it doesn't cost over $100,000.
• Jaguar X-Type
The highest-volume Jaguar is not bad, but it's not great--and it's on the slide. Last year, X-Type sales in the U.S. were down 19% to 26,772. Critics fear that a Jaguar is becoming a really nice sort of Ford, and the X-Type is their chief piece of evidence. Jaguar is a Ford subsidiary, and the X-Type is derived from the Ford Mondeo, a European nameplate whose American analog, the Ford Contour, is out of production. The X-Type is also what critics are describing when they say Jaguar has diluted its exclusivity with higher volumes.
• Pontiac Aztek
Poor Pontiac. It must have known in its heart how ugly the Aztek SUV was, yet genuinely believed that Americans wanted a vehicle on which to affix a tent. The Aztek's optional camping package speaks to the vehicle's overall theme: postapocalyptic survival, surrounded by postapocalyptic styling. Now that the Aztek has as little residual value as a car can have, it is bound for the graveyard. Pontiac sold only 27,354 Azteks last year, which is terrible for a mainstream American SUV. (By comparison, the best-selling SUV, the Ford Explorer, saw 373,118 unit sales in 2003.
• Volkswagen Phaeton
The Phaeton may be the most current example of an overhyped car, but it is actually quite decent. It looks nice and has a wonderful interior, German engineering, and engines that are big and powerful. Too bad nobody asked for a Volkswagen like this. The main problem is that Volkswagen has no reputation for dealing luxury cars. In fact, its American dealer network has a mediocre reputation, and that developed before the company started selling expensive cars. If the company's dealers can't sell and service an $18,000 Jetta to your satisfaction, why would you trust them with a $95,000 car?