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.
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.
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