It’s no secret that American cars have historically been confined to North American markets, making them desirable in other countries. There are many people from the rest of the world who've yearned for Ford Mustangs and Chevy Camaros for half a century and are only now able to enjoy these forbidden fruits. Likewise, Americans have long pined after cars that they can’t have either, such as the Nissan Skyline GT-R. However, sometimes, there are cars that are American but were never sold to the American public for whatever reason.
Yes, as much as American gearheads have complained about certain cars being unavailable to them, sometimes, it’s their own brands that exclude Americans from particular cars. Often, these are cars designed to cater to an audience that simply doesn’t exist in America. Other times, the cars would be unable to pass America’s strict emissions and safety tests. (But then again, you probably wouldn’t want a car like that anyway.) There are even cars that are sold in the US but are offered with certain options or trims that apparently appeal to foreign buyers more than US customers. These cars may look familiar to you, but they aren’t the same as what you’ll find on any American dealerships. Some of these cars will have you wishing that they were sold in America, while others will have you wishing nobody had to deal with them.
20 Ram 700
American manufacturers used to sell car-based pickups for many years, such as the Chevy El Camino and the Ford Ranchero. Unfortunately, this market segment proved to be unpopular by the ‘80s, leading to all of these car-trucks being completely discontinued. Despite being largely unknown today, Dodge did sell an alternative to the El Camino in the ‘80s called the "Rampage," although, given the name, you might not expect the Rampage to be a small front-wheel drive car with a pickup bed. Today, however, the Rampage has a spiritual successor in the form of the Ram 700. Powered by a small four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission, the Ram 700 is a small pickup for those who want to save money both at the pump and at the dealership. In an age where every pickup is huge, America deserves a tiny, practical truck.
19 Buick Park Avenue
While Buick has desperately been trying to get away from the grandpa car stereotype, Buicks are hugely popular in China. In fact, these cars are so popular over there, the Chinese market actually saved the brand from extinction during the 2008 financial crisis. If there’s a single American brand that's had a large following outside the US, it would be Buick.
In America, the Park Avenue was an outdated boat of a car that was available for many years until its discontinuation in 2005.
In China, however, the name lived on in 2007, now heavily dependent on the Holden Caprice platform. Unlike the American model, this car was more modern and was rear-wheel drive. However, it wasn’t fast, only offering a series of small V6 motors.
18 Cadillac BLS
Before it released the ATS, Cadillac lacked a small sedan. While the CTS was the right size for Americans, it was simply too big for Europe. To address this issue, Cadillac sold the BLS as a European-only model. However, unlike the future ATS, this Cadillac wasn’t a BMW-fighting, rear-wheel-drive sports sedan. Based heavily on the Saab 9-3, the BLS featured Cadillac’s Art and Science styling, but its proportions weren’t quite right.
Its front-wheel-drive powertrain and maximum of only 250 horsepower meant that this car likely didn’t improve European’s opinion of the Cadillac brand.
The BLS is a confusing model, as this fairly bland Cadillac would likely have sold fine in America but was instead limited to a market that may have never accepted it. The BLS does have one claim to fame, however, as it’s the first official Cadillac wagon, beating the CTS to the punch.
17 Chrysler Charger
The Charger needs no introduction. It’s one of the coolest muscle cars ever created. While some may believe that it was only a North American model, Chrysler did release a version of the Charger for Australia, just not the way Americans know it. For starters, the Australian model was sold as a Chrysler due to the lack of a Dodge brand in the country. Similar to the American version, this Charger was a spruced-up version of a normal sedan from the time: the Chrysler Valiant, not to be confused with the American Plymouth Valiant.
Not only does this car look nothing like the American model, it was never available with the legendary 426 Hemi.
Instead, the only Hemi that would power this Charger was a six-cylinder Hemi, or, alternatively, an assortment of small-block V8s. Maybe everything really is upside down in Australia.
16 Dodge Charger
Australia wasn’t the only country to get its own Charger, as Brazil got its own version of the model as well. Brazil has a unique automotive industry, which results in Brazil-specific models from many well-known brands. Unlike the American and Australian models, the Brazilian car didn’t have any type of Hemi motor available whatsoever. Instead, it offered a small-block V8 with a four-speed manual transmission, which made for a sporty offering in the Brazilian market. Similar to the American Charger, this one was based on a normal car; however, the A-body Dart was used as a base instead of the larger B-body Coronet. While this wasn’t as exciting as the American Charger, it did make for a handsome Dart due to its hidden headlights and sleek, pillarless coupe body.
15 Chevrolet Caprice
Traditional full-size rear-wheel-drive American sedans have been falling out of favor in the US for decades now, with only a handful of examples soldiering on. However, such sedans have had staying power in the Middle East, as cars like the Crown Victoria and the Dodge Charger proved popular for some time. However, there was a Chevy alternative that wasn’t sold stateside.
Americans lost the Chevy Caprice in 1996 when General Motors decided to put more focus on SUV production. However, due to its popularity in the Middle East, the Caprice lived on as a rebadged Holden from 1999 onward.
This large, V8-powered executive car was a compelling alternative to the Dodge Charger due to its more sophisticated design and LS-derived motor. Americans did eventually see this car in the form of a stripped-out police-only model from 2011 to 2017 that was never sold to the American public.
14 Buick GL8
While minivans aren’t very popular in the US, they do see frequent use in Asian markets. As a result, it only made sense for Buick to sell one in China. Even though the brand did sell a minivan in America for a while, called the "Terraza," it was hardly successful, possibly due to its strange styling. Sharing the same platform as the Terraza, the China-only GL8 was introduced in 1999 and continues to be in production to this day. While this minivan may look modern and surprisingly stylish for what it is, the GL8 is unfortunately still based on the same outdated platform 19 years later. Buick even sold the old version alongside the newer model between 2011 and 2017 until the old car was finally discontinued. Regardless, this van has apparently resonated with the Chinese market.
13 Ford F1000
The idea of Ford selling the F-150 outside the US isn’t too unusual, but selling an extremely outdated version of the truck in Brazil is a little strange.
While the F1000 wasn’t too out of date when it was released in 1979, seven years after the American model was redesigned, the F1000 was sold until 1998.
The F1000 is quite a bizarre beast, as it went through many changes in an attempt to keep it looking up to date. These attempts including grafting modern headlights and bumpers that completely clashed with the truck’s ancient body lines. However, the strangest part of this pickup was its many different variations. These variants included a van-style cab, a ‘Turbo’ model that may or may not have featured an actual turbocharger and a sedan version that had a huge trunk in place of a bed.
12 Ford Falcon
The Ford Falcon was a basic sedan offered to the American public in the ‘60s. That car’s only real claim to fame was that it was used as a base for the original Mustang. However, unlike the American model that was discontinued decades ago, Ford of Australia kept making the Falcon for years after the American one stopped. While the most recent version of the car looks like a Fusion, the Falcon has no relation to that car. The Falcon was rear-wheel drive and offered a V8 option for those who wanted it. You could even get a pickup version—a modern Ranchero if you will. Unfortunately, the Falcon was discontinued in 2016 when Ford stopped manufacturing cars in Australia. For a proper send-off, Ford offered a Sprint model with either a 435-horsepower turbocharged straight six or a 462-horsepower supercharged V8.
11 Chrysler 300 SRT
The Chrysler 300 is easily the best modern car from the Chrysler brand. When the model saw an underwhelming refresh in 2011, the SRT variant was left as the only handsome version of the car. However, when the full-size Mopars were refreshed again in 2015, Chrysler decided that its new, better-looking 300 didn’t need an SRT variant anymore. At least, they decided that Americans didn’t need one.
In Australia and the Middle East, Chrysler still sells an SRT model with the upgrades that the other full-size Mopars benefit from.
It’s perplexing why this model wasn’t sold in the US, as it features improved looks and performance over the previous models. Instead, the US only gets the less powerful 300S. However, the 300 SRT did partially fill the void that was left by the Holden Commodore and the Ford Falcon when those models disappeared from the Australian market with no replacement.
10 Chevrolet Cavalier
Chevrolet sold a car called the "Cavalier" to Americans from 1982 to 2005. It was a small, cheap sedan or coupe designed as a cheaper alternative to the Honda Civic and the Toyota Corolla. However, the Cavalier was an awful car that nobody deserved to drive, even if it was the supercharged Z24 variant. Unfortunately, some markets now offer a new Cavalier to unsuspecting buyers. If you view the Chevy Cruze as a miserable cheap car, then you should be glad that the Cavalier isn’t available in your country, as it’s meant to be a cheap alternative to the Cruze. That doesn’t make for a ringing endorsement. This position is also questionable, as there already exist cheaper alternatives, such as the Chevy Beat and the Aveo. While this car is likely not as terrible as the original model, it’s still probably not a particularly interesting car.
9 Dodge Neon
Chrysler has sold a number of cheap economy cars throughout the years that were either acceptable or really bad. While the most recent cheap Mopar sold in the US, the Dart, was a miserable failure, its predecessor, the Neon, was a success, despite being flawed in many ways. The Neon was discontinued in 2005 when it was replaced with the dreadful Caliber. However, a new Neon has been created to fill the void of the Dart, just not for the US.
Instead, this new Fiat-based Neon is only sold in Mexico. It has sharper styling than its blobby predecessor.
While Fiat Chrysler claimed that the Neon would eventually be offered in the US and Canada, it appears that’s not the case anymore, likely due to the poor sales of the Dart.
8 Chevrolet Montana
Chevrolet is well known for the El Camino, a car-based pickup. It was basically a muscle car with a bed that was offered with the same brawny V8s as the Chevelle SS. Americans who want a modern-day El Camino most likely don’t know that Chevy does actually make a car-based pickup these days. However, it’s probably not what they would expect.
The Chevrolet Montana isn’t a V8-powered, rear-wheel-drive muscle truck. Instead, it’s a front-wheel-drive, four-cylinder econobox with a bed on the back.
While this is no El Camino, it would be nice to see a tiny, practical pickup on the American market. Perhaps there will eventually be a performance version of the Montana that will be a powerful, economic hauler worthy of the SS badging. One can only hope.
7 Dodge Ramcharger
The Dodge Ramcharger was a two-door SUV based on the Ram. It was introduced in 1974 and was designed to compete with the Chevy Blazer. It featured a removable roof and big-block motors to create an impressive off-road vehicle. However, after years of production, the Ramcharger was discontinued in the early ‘90s due to waning interest in two-door SUVs. In Mexico, however, the Ramcharger soldiered on until 2002, with a newer model that was based on the Durango instead of the Ram pickup. While most SUV manufacturers had completely dropped this type of SUV, Dodge decided that there were enough interested buyers in Mexico to keep the Ramcharger going. As a side note, this final Ramcharger could be optioned as an eight-passenger vehicle with front and rear bench seats and a two-person jump seat in the back—not bad for a two-door vehicle.
6 Chevrolet S10
If you want to buy a pickup in America, you must be ready to buy a large pickup. The standard full-size pickups are becoming more and more enormous with every generation. Even smaller alternatives such as the Toyota Tacoma and the Honda Pilot still tower over older full-size trucks. Chevrolet has helped those searching for small pickups by offering a brand-new Colorado. However, even this model is still quite large for a ‘small’ pickup. In foreign markets, however, Chevy does offer a second small and cheap alternative to the big pickups called the "S10." This pickup is powered solely by a four-cylinder motor, where the Colorado has a V6 option for more power. While the S10 does make for another simple alternative to large trucks, it’s hard to see what this particular model offers over the Colorado besides a lower price tag.
5 Dodge Attitude
In Mexico, Dodge sells the Neon as a cheap choice for a family sedan. However, if the Neon is still too posh for you, Dodge sells the Attitude for even less. This model has gone through two generations, with the earlier model being based on the Hyundai Accent and the current one derived from the Mitsubishi Mirage. The Attitude saw little variation from the cars it was based on, with most of the changes being the badges. These cars really are meant to be the absolute cheapest option for transportation, apart from walking. Similar to many Dodges from the 2000s, the Attitude is a boring car that was given an exciting name in an attempt to make it seem more interesting than it really is. Being powered by a three-cylinder motor, this car’s attitude probably isn’t as impressive as Dodge would like you to believe.
4 Armored Jeep Grand Cherokee
That isn’t a typo. In some parts of the world, such as Mexico, you can buy an armored Grand Cherokee directly from Jeep. It features ballistic steel, bulletproof glass, and reinforced suspension, presumably so the car remains drivable after sustained fire.
While it’s not unheard of for car companies to sell bulletproof vehicles, such models are usually sold exclusively as fleet cars.
These types of vehicles are usually reserved for the purpose of moving politicians and valuable VIPs, not for chauffeuring children to school. However, Jeep of Mexico advertises the armored Grand Cherokee alongside the standard model on the front of their website with an MSRP of just over $90,000 USD. Now, Jeep customers just need to decide whether to spend that money on an armored Grand Cherokee or a Trackhawk. Tough call.
3 Ford Mondeo Wagon
This car probably looks familiar to the average American buyer. While the Ford Mondeo was previously sold in the US as the Contour years ago, it's since become a rebadged Fusion. However, despite these two models fusing into the same vehicle, the Fusion still lacks certain options that the Mondeo offers, with the biggest difference being a wagon model.
American car companies seem to be averse to selling wagons to the American people—and not without good reason.
Every time a wagon goes on sale, it almost always flops in comparison to the sedan variant. However, perhaps this wagon phobia among Americans is slowly fading away, as they keep looking for more practical vehicles over sedans, such as crossovers. Maybe, eventually, we’ll get some cool wagons back on the American market.
2 Cadillac ATS-L
While long-wheelbase cars aren’t too unusual in the luxury car market, China takes it to another level. Many brands offer China-specific long-wheelbase models due to the Chinese market favoring rear leg room. The ATS-L, the "L" signifying its long-wheelbase status, is a strange choice for such an alteration. If there’s a Cadillac designed for handling and spirited driving over comfort, it would be the ATS. So why would Cadillac make a longer, heavier version of this car? In the past, Cadillac sold long-wheelbase versions of the larger STS sedan, called the "SLS," which made more sense given that car’s more yacht-like presence. What makes this all even more confusing is that the four-cylinder ATS-L is the only version of the ATS available in the Chinese market. This means that Chinese buyers couldn’t experience the car’s true abilities if they wanted to.
1 Chevrolet Orlando
What's a Chevy Orlando? An SUV? A hatchback? A wagon? A minivan with normal doors? This strange beast is both bizarre and boring with its seven-passenger capacity. With styling this bland and that name, you might expect the Orlando to be used entirely by rental car companies in the city the car is named after. Fortunately, the Orlando was never sold in the US, but it was sold to its northern neighbors. There are many cars that aren’t sold in America due to its strict safety and emissions standards, but that was likely not the case with the Orlando, as it was sold in Canada, Europe, and South Korea. It really makes you wonder what Canada did to deserve this punishment of a car. Mercifully, Chevy pulled the car from Canada in 2015.
Sources: Jeep, Dodge, Cadillac, Buick, Chevrolet, Car and Driver
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