Outstanding Sports Cars Nobody Wants To Buy

Car Culture

We checked the sales numbers for some of today's greatest coupes and convertibles, then compared them to crossovers from the same brands. The results are interesting.

Most people love sports cars. They love reading about them. They love dreaming of owning one. Unfortunately, sports car ownership often exists more in our dreams than in reality. Ask any automaker which segment brings in the least money and their answers are universal: coupes and convertibles. In other words, sports cars. It’s a shame, really, because sports cars capture the soul of driving, at least on pavement. Although many executives are true driving enthusiasts, it can be a challenge to green light a vehicle they know won’t sell in high numbers.

Compared to crossovers, for example, sports cars – any sports car – sell for barely a fraction of what those family haulers do in a month or year. Fortunately, some automakers are sticking with their respective coupes and convertibles often because they represent the “soul of the brand,” or something like that. So we picked out nine of the most popular (in our heads) sports cars on sale today and compared their sales figures with those of a more mainstream model from the same brand. The numbers are depressing, so be warned.

Alfa Romeo 4C

The Alfa Romeo 4C Coupe and Spider were instant classics the moment they arrived. The coupe came first, in 2014, followed by the Spider a year later. They represented a revival of the iconic brand for the North American market, despite the fact Alfa Romeo has always been sold in Europe. But if it wanted to survive, North America was vital and the 4C was a brilliant comeback. With its turbocharged straight-four producing 237 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque and paired to a six-speed dual-clutch transmission, the 4C is loved for its lightweight and superb driving feel.

Unfortunately, its sales are dwindling, despite being a limited production model from the get-go. Last year, only 406 examples (Coupe and Spider) were sold in the US, down from 492 units in 2016 and 663 in 2015. So far this year, just 183 have left dealership lots.

To compare, the Stelvio SUV, in its first full model year, sold 2,721 examples in 2017 and is projected to do even better by the end of 2018.

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BMW 2 Series

If you’re a true BMW fan, then the 2 Series is your car. It is the modern-day descendant of icons such as the 2002 and the E30 3 Series. And yes, you can spend big and go for the hardcore M2 and M2 Competition. But if you don’t have that kind of cash, then lower trim 2 Series coupes and convertibles will suit you just fine. The current F22 generation launched for 2014 and we’ve been fans of it ever since. Rear-wheel-drive, six-speed manual, turbocharged inline engine. It’s a simple and to-the-point setup. Sadly, that doesn’t appeal to a majority of BMW buyers.

While annual sales have typically increased since its first model year, 2017’s combined coupe and convertible count came to 29,922 units. Sounds pretty good, right? In the same year, the X5 SUV sold nearly 52,000 examples, and that’s actually a little low compared to 2015 (55,000). Now you see why BMW has a complete lineup of SUVs.

Jaguar F-Type

The Jaguar F-Type comes from greatness. As the spiritual successor to the iconic E-Type, the F-Type represents everything a modern Jaguar ought to be: fast, sexy, brilliant to drive, and capable of wonderful engine noise. Unfortunately, those traits aren’t good enough to carry the brand. No, Jaguar needs more mainstream models in order to make a buck. But what’s changing these days is that instead of relying on sedans like the XE for a steady profit, Jaguar has shifted focus to SUVs like the F-Pace. The sales figures speak for themselves.

Last year, Jaguar sold nearly 19,000 F-Pace SUVs, up from 10,000 in 2016. The F-Type? Just 4,108 (coupe and convertible combined) were sold in 2017. Is that enough to justify its existence? Apparently so because Jaguar is already working on its successor, so that’s something. Meanwhile, the E-Pace and all-new I-Pace will help bring in the big bucks. Even a three-row J-Pace is rumored.

Mazda MX-5 Miata

The Mazda MX-5 Miata is the best-selling sports car of all time. The rear-wheel-drive, lightweight roadster burst on to the scene in 1989 and since then Mazda has produced over 1 million of them. Impressive. Or is it? Let’s compare it to the also very well-regarded Mazda CX-5.

In 2017, over 127,000 new CX-5 crossovers left dealership lots. That same year just over 11,000 MX-5 Miatas were sold. US sales of the MX-5 seem to fluctuate yearly but aren’t anywhere near what they were in the roadster’s early years. In its first model year, for example, 23,000 units were sold. That increased to nearly 36,000 in 1990, an all-time high. It's a steady decline from there. Meanwhile, annual CX-5 sales numbers are only increasing.

Mercedes-AMG GT

Let’s be honest with this one: the Mercedes-AMG GT was never intended to be a big money maker. It is a demonstration of what the German automaker and its high-performance division are capable of doing. Yes, a halo car. However, halo cars are never built in high numbers despite their impressive performance credentials. The AMG GT is no different. A total of 1,609 examples were sold in the US in 2017 and it looks like it’ll be around the same by the time 2018 comes to a close. Those numbers are peanuts compared to the Mercedes GLC SUV crossover.

In 2017 alone, Americans bought over 48,600 GLCs and already we can confirm that figure will be higher this year. Again, we’re not directly comparing these vehicles stats wise because they couldn’t be any more different, other than sharing that Silver Star emblem. But it just goes to show how little automakers rely on halo models to make a buck.

Nissan 370Z and GT-R

There’s no question Nissan knows how to build great sports cars. The 370Z coupe and roadster and GT-R have rightly earned their solid reputations, especially the latter, despite not being ideal daily drivers. However, a majority of car buyers and Nissan customers have zero interest in owning any of them. A total of 4,600 or so 370Z coupes and convertibles were sold in 2017, down from nearly 6,000 in 2016 and 7,400 in 2015. The GT-R? Try not to laugh (or cry): only 578 examples sold in 2017. In fact, Nissan has sold a combined total of 11,676 GT-Rs since it launched for 2008.

Now comes the crossover comparison: Last year alone in the US, 403,465 Rogues were sold, which was an all-time high for the model.

Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman

Tell any Porsche 911 fan that the 718 Boxster and Cayman twins have the better engine setup (mid- vs. rear-engine) and you’re likely to begin a debate that will never end. While mid-engine sports cars have long been hailed for their ideal weight balance, they’re still sports cars at the end of the day in the eyes of the bean counters. The sales numbers do all of the talking. A total of 5,087 718 Boxsters and Caymans (2,287 and 2,800 units, respectively) were sold in 2017. The accountants are probably not impressed, especially when sales of the Macan are taken into account.

Last year, almost 21,500 Macans left US dealer lots, and the same, if not more, are expected to be sold this year. It’s how the auto industry works these days.

Subaru BRZ

Once again, prepare yourselves for another episode of ‘How the Hell Can Sports Cars Be Justified!?’ with the Subaru BRZ and Forester. Needless to say, the BRZ is the only Subaru in the lineup not to have all-wheel drive, but the typical Subaru customer doesn’t care because they’re not in the market for a sports coupe in the first place. No, they want an SUV like the Forester. A total of 177,563 Foresters sold in 2017, slightly down from 178,593 in 2016.

The BRZ? Merely 4,131 sold in 2017 and 4,141 in 2016. Its best year was 2013 with 8,587 units sold. Was the RWD experiment worth it for Subaru? Subaru’s finance department probably doesn’t think so.

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