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by Jez Spinks

The Smart Fortwo lost Mercedes $5 billion and the Bugatti Veyron lost the VW Group $6.7 million per car, according to new research on Europe’s biggest loss-making vehicles.

Automotive analyst Sanford C Bernstein has released a compilation of the top 10 vehicles since 1997 that have been multi-billion-dollar disasters.

Ambitious technological advances are a common denominator for a number of the cars listed.

Bugatti Veyron rear cornering

The Smart Fortwo (main picture), which tops the list, was Mercedes-Benz’s grand plan to transfer its automotive know-how to the world of micro-sized city cars but involved the likes of unique platforms and three-cylinder engines.

It was a similar story with the original A-Class (pictured below), which was expensive to develop with its innovative ‘sandwich’ platform and costly to build and cost the German car maker $2.5b, says the Berstein research.

It’s a key reason why Mercedes turned to a more conventional hatchback for the latest-generation A-Class, which also uses a platform utilised for multiple models.

Mercedes Benz A-Class 1999

The aluminium-intensive Audi A2, which was sold between 2000 and 2005 and regarded as a car ahead of its time but struggled for sales due to pricing, was ninth in the list with a project loss of about $1.9b and $11,000 loss per car.

Two other Volkswagen Group models included, however, were designed as image builders not expected to make profits.

The Bugatti Veyron (centre image) was the company’s technological tour de force quad-turbo supercar, while the Volkswagen Phaeton – third overall with an estimated $2.9b loss – was designed as a technical flagship for the rest of the brand.

The Bugatti supercar cost the VW Group a staggering $6.7m per Veyron, according to Bernstein.

Other models in the top 10 include Fiat’s rival for the Golf, the Stilo, Peugeot’s 1007 mini MPV, a couple of Renaults (Laguna and Vel Satis), and the Jaguar X-Type that was priced to attract younger luxury car buyers but missed its target market with its design.

 

Europe’s Top 10 Loss-making Vehicles: Total losses

Model                        Years                      Estimated Total Loss

Smart Fortwo             1997-2006                $5.0b

Fiat Stilo                     2001-2009                $3.0b

VW Phaeton               2001-2012                $2.9b

Peugeot 1007             2004-2009                $2.8b

Mercedes A-Class     1997-2004                $2.5b

Bugatti Veyron           2005-2013                $2.5b

Jaguar X-Type           2001-2009                $2.5b

Renault Laguna         2006-2012                $2.2b

Audi A2                      2000-2005                $1.9b

Renault Vel Satis       2001-2009                $1.7b

 

Europe’s Top 10 Loss-making Vehicles: Losses Per Vehicle

Model                       Years                       Estimated Loss Per Vehicle (rounded up/down)

Bugatti Veyron           2005-2013                $6,700,500

VW Phaeton               2001-2012                $40,800

Renault Vel Satis       2001-2009                $27,200

Peugeot 1007            2004-2009                $22,300

Audi A2                      2000-2005                $11,000

Jaguar X-Type           2001-2009                $6800

Smart Fortwo             1997-2006                $6500

Renault Laguna         2006-2012                $5150

Fiat Stilo                     2001-2009                $4000

Mercedes A-Class    1997-2004                $2100

 




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