There's a prevailing opinion held among other countries that US cars are inferior. These opinions don't speak on behalf of entire countries; instead, they come from outspoken individuals. They do, however, reflect a widely held viewpoint by many outside the US about its cars.
The US and its car owners have thick skin. What does the opinion of a few other countries matter when it comes to cars? The average US citizen, secure in the fact that the Red, White, and Blue have a dominant position in the global car industry, points to manufacturers in the top 5 today like GM and Ford. Meanwhile, US car enthusiasts, thinking that others are jealous, scoff at what those outside the US think and say about cars in the States.
Some people in other major car-making countries today—including Britain, Germany, Japan, and South Korea—think US cars are lacking. There's a belief that US automakers haven't moved on from older designs they've relied on for years. While a few of the other countries have elevated their car game, the US looks to be behind in some areas. In reality, the US automakers are just sticking to their trusted business models that have garnered them success. Meanwhile, the world criticizes US automobiles for being less than what they could be.
Regardless of what the answers are to this complex debate, what's palpable is the immense disdain people outside the US have towards certain cars. These US cars were the targets of vitriol from critics outside the country who feel the Land of Opportunity could've stepped it up more.
Many people don't care for Jeremy Clarkson or his opinions. They might think that he's just one person in Britain, so how does that represent the opinions of other British people? Clarkson has his fans, especially over in Britain across the pond. Chances are that he has a lot of fans and that people listen to what he says because they agree with him. So, there's a strong chance that when Clarkson said the Chrysler 300c SRT was "manure," it also reflected a stance a lot of Brits share, too, as per a clip uploaded on YouTube.
Some British owners don't like US cars because they're inferior—in their eyes—to the version they got in Britain. Jalopnik reports that the Ford Escort—which launched in the UK before it did in the States—not only pleased the eye but could hold its own on the racetrack as well. By 1980, when the Escort arrived in the US, Jalopnik reports that its weak motor suggested it was a shadow of its former self. With that being the case, it's not far-fetched for British drivers familiar with the Escort from the late '60s to criticize the US's lesser third-generation version they received in 1980.
In some cases, another person outside the country might loathe a US car because of a lack of understanding. That appears to be the case here regarding the Pontiac Tempest and British Magazine Autocar. Although one should take this with a grain of salt, Car and Driver reports that in the late '90s, Autocar suggested the Pontiac Tempest actually employed ropes under the hood. Car and Driver adds that they didn't hesitate to raise up the profile of British cars in the meantime. There may have been something of a mixup considering an innovative steel shaft—dubbed the "rope drive," according to MidsizeBowties—was used in Tempests, confusing some into thinking Pontiac used actual ropes.
Just because it wasn't available to US buyers doesn't mean it's not a US car. The Chevrolet Epica was one such vehicle. Made by Chevy and sold in Canada, it came out in 2004, reports Popular Mechanics. There's always going to be a significant increase in price, however, often for more than the car is worth. The sales figures speak for themselves when it comes to the Epica. The Canadian car market opted for other more affordable sedans, as Popular Mechanics notes, leaving the Epica in the lurch. As a result, after only two meager years, Chevy threw in the towel on the Epica.
Even if other parts of the world may deride the cars on this list, most US car buyers make a great case to the contrary. Saturn cars, however, are an exception.
Few US car enthusiasts are willing to defend the now-defunct car manufacturer under GM.
That makes it easy to sympathize with Japanese car buyers who never latched on to Saturn back in the '90s. According to The Daily Drive, Saturn shipped cars to Japan for four years before calling it quits. On top of the country going through an economic downturn at the time that negatively hurt US car sales, the Saturn also failed to capture any interest in Japan.
Jeremy Clarkson never hesitates to express his opinion about US cars. Spoiler warning—it isn't pretty. The reality is, there are plenty of people—British and non-British alike—who agree with Clarkson. It also helps that he has a strong affinity for European cars like BMW, which is sure to attract fans supporting what he says.
Of the Chrysler Sebring Cabriolet 2.7 V6, Clarkson went so far as to call it "almost certainly the worst car in the entire world" in a 2008 review posted by The Times.
It's possible Clarkson just woke up on the wrong side of the bed on the day he drove it, though history suggests he just hates US cars.
In another comparison of automobile models between the US and the UK, the Ford Granada fits in as a case of "What Could've Been." According to Jalopnik, the US version launched with a less-than-stellar engine that could deliver 94 horsepower.
Although the chassis was ostensibly handed down from better Ford siblings, it's a car that history hasn't looked on too fondly.
Even more, Jalopnik details the British version, which looked better, could fare better steering out of a precarious situation and offered quality options, although one caveat worth mentioning is that Ford of Germany made the Europe versions.
A car brand like Tesla has managed to win over fans from around the globe. Their cars are cutting edge, beautiful, and made with care. That didn't stop then Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson from lambasting the beloved automaker's Roadster. In a move that forced Tesla's hand in suing the BBC for Top Gear's claims—a lawsuit Wired reports was ultimately dismissed in the British channel's favor—Clarkson claimed the Roadster snuffs out after 55 miles. Tesla, however, had advertised that the car's charge lasts beyond 200 miles, almost four times what Clarkson asserted. According to Car Throttle, Clarkson was right—but only because they pushed the Roadster to the brink by driving it nonstop. In the end, all Top Gear proved was that they didn't like Tesla's darling Roadster.
Another beloved muscle car comes from another country with unflattering views about it. There was a time when Japan wasn't known for making the best quality cars. That all took a turn for the better, though, in the 1980s, as The Truth About Cars reports, when they upped their game to become a leader in automotive standards. It would seem that US cars haven't caught on as much, though, in Japan, with a paltry 0.3% of the car market there dedicated to what the US offers. Among those is the Dodge Charger, which, in spite of its high cost in Japan, might've broken through if the public there had truly loved the car.
Every car has some marketing angle that automakers want to exploit. Luxury cars—like the ones Cadillac offers—are for a select brand of consumers. They want their driving experience to have a level of cachet that comes with it, and many Cadillacs out there satisfy that appetite.
Although Cadillac is celebrating after a noteworthy sales year in 2017—as Cadillac's website boasts a healthy 15.5% boost YOY—there's something rotten in the state of Germany.
According to Handelsblatt Global, there are only a handful of Cadillacs registered annually in Germany. Cadillacs, compared with Audi and BMW, must appear as something of a joke in Germany.
Hummers just might be the epitome of US cars—or at least that’s what outsiders perceive. A Hummer is big and doesn't care about the environment, guzzling gas like there's no tomorrow. In earlier days, back when GM still sold tens of thousands of Hummers a year—according to Quirk's Media—former British host of Top Gear Jeremy Clarkson had some strong opinions about the brawny vehicle. He compared Hummers to "nothing but a GMC Tahoe in a Power Ranger suit” in a statement pulled from Top Gear's official site. Clarkson didn't hold back in his disdain for this US product.
It can't be emphasized enough—what one stat indicates about a country's car market doesn't sum up the views of its entire populace. It does, however, lend some indication about the reception of a car.
For example, as Handelsblatt Global reports, the Dodge Challenger is available and sells in Germany—although the numbers aren't anything impressive. Handelsblatt Global cites a dealer named Andreas Hix who brings the Dodge Challenger into Germany but brings in only a limited number.
Only a small number of clients want the car since its demand isn't very large. In a country like Germany that already offers so many great car brands like BMW and Audi, the Challenger might appear as something of a novelty over there.
South Korea has their own automaker, Hyundai, and it's one of the biggest in the world. That might be a reason why Ford isn't able to prosper as well over there. According to Forbes, the Ford Focus is the least-expensive model available in South Korea. The cost comes out to about $28,000, which is a lot. What makes the US car even less appealing to Korean buyers is other offerings from Hyundai, like the Accent, which Forbes reports is less than half the cost of a Focus. There's a reason Korean car buyers aren't forking over their hard-earned cash for a Focus when its price, compared to what they're getting, must appear laughable.
This next one is partly a cheat. Who's to say the Chinese market doesn't love Ford Raptors? At the same time, they're not easy to come by. According to Jalopnik, the 2017 base model sells for over $72K, which is sinfully overpriced.
Chinese car buyers may love it or hate it, but one thing they can agree on: the price tag is insane.
That's part of what comes with the territory of buying cars imported from the US. As a result, it could lead many car enthusiasts living in China to resent the Raptor for being outside their reach.
The US has a rich history of legendary cars. For a country that's pulled itself up by its own bootstraps, they have cars with grit, heart, and style. Cars like the Ford Mustang, the Dodge Charger, and the Chevy Corvette are just some of the classic cars in a long lineage. Despite being a staple US car, the British show Top Gear at the time didn't hesitate to rebuke one of the best cars in its history. Car Throttle reports that former Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond looked down on the Corvette’s suspensions, citing leaf springs as the reason for their lack of quality.
For those who aren't aware, cars in Japan drive on the left side. This, however, was a fact that GM decided to ignore when they released the Cavalier with the help of Toyota. According to Mother Jones, GM hoped to break into Japan's untapped market at the time; the Cavalier didn't change that narrative. Despite a huge ad campaign behind it, the Cavalier failed. One reason may have been due to the fact that there was no left-hand-drive version available. Although it arrived in 1995 as Autoweek reports, Japanese consumers showed disinterest over the next few years, leading to the end of the Cavalier in Japan by 2000.
US car buyers have been behind Tesla and are on board for what the company has in store next. Although the budding car brand has sold well in European countries like Norway and the Netherlands, according to Bloomberg, Germany is a whole different story. One could argue the car market there is just different. While there may very well exist a disdain towards the Tesla S—which Bloomberg reports only sold a meager 958 units from January to August of 2015—the reasons could run much deeper. Germany is a tough market for any outside car manufacturers to make a splash in.
Being that the US is big on capitalism, it makes sense that profits are a major component to automakers. To say that they make cars simply for the thrill of driving and the love of pushing machines to the limit is, sadly, not the way business works.
When Chevrolet made the Chevette, they had the bottom line in mind. According to Jalopnik, the equivalent version available in the UK called the "Vauxhall Chevette" offered more options, including an HSR model that did RWD.
British car enthusiasts who believe the Vauxhall Chevette is superior to the US one have reason to put down Chevrolet's attempt in the US.
There are a lot of challenges up against US car makers importing their vehicles into other countries. An adequate knowledge of the market and what drivers in that country prefer are only some of the considerations in order to launch a successful car. The Ford Figo, as The Huffington Post reports, arrived as a smaller car that fits India’s car market's preferences. However, a series of tasteless ads that Ford and an advertising firm were working on—though didn't officially release, as The Huffington Post notes—may turn off customers in India. It featured three women in the back of a Ford Figo against their will; it's a lot worse than that, but readers get the gist.
Similar to the Saturn, US car enthusiasts won't have much to say that's positive about the PT Cruiser. Lots of people don't like the look of PT Cruisers or the targeted customers they're aimed at. A large number of German consumers are included in that opinion, as Automotive News Europe details. While unveiling the car at a Frankfurt auto show in September 1999, almost 30% of them couldn't figure out what the PT Cruiser ought to be classified as, leaving many perplexed. An exec for Chrysler in Germany even admitted that people either "love it or hate it." Although plenty of German consumers bought PT Cruisers, the majority were turned off by the car.
Sources: Top Gear, Car and Driver, Jalopnik, Car Throttle