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Vehicles Feature
Best- And Worst-Selling Cars 2007
Dan Lienert, 01.29.07, 12:01 AM ET

Every mainstream automaker wants to sell as many cars as it can for as much money as possible.

Each also knows it can't do that.

So it designs different models for different price points and calculates production to match anticipated demand. Automakers love it when cars, especially higher-priced ones, sell out, and hate it when cars are left languishing on showroom floors, burning holes in the companies' and the dealers' pockets.

In Pictures: Best- And Worst-Selling Cars 2007

In some ways, the title above is a misnomer, because for many manufacturers the "worst" sellers are simply the cars with the lowest sales volumes and often the highest prices.

For example, Mercedes-Benz’s lowest-selling car in 2006, the limited-production SLR McLaren coupe, was also, at $453,000, far and away its most expensive. The same can be said for Dodge's $82,000 Viper sports car and Land Rover’s $77,000 Range Rover SUV. Exotic, one-of-a-kind flagships are about exclusivity, not high sales.

Of course, plenty of cars--even top-of-the-line models--are true sales disappointments. These include Acura’s flagship RL sedan, the sales of which declined 35% to 12,000 units in 2006. Acura’s lowest-selling vehicle, the RL had sales in 2006 that matched only 37% of the sales of Mercedes’ flagship sedan, the S-Class.

Our reporting here features a special set of ground rules that makes our list more than something one could find by reading individual automakers' sales reports. For example, in determining the lowest-selling cars, we did not count cars that were discontinued last year or are in the process of being killed, such as Acura’s entry-level RSX coupe.

A car's sales plummet when it is phased out of production, but sales also tend to decline when an automaker overhauls a nameplate, either because customers forego the old model and await the new one, or because the automaker ends the old model's production before building the new one.

So in compiling our list, we also excluded from consideration cars that are being replaced and cars that were replaced by overhauled vehicles (i.e. not just "facelifted" models--lightly revised ones) in 2006.

The purpose of surveying the automotive playing field this way is to give readers an idea of what has so far worked for the carmakers, and, in some cases, what has not worked. For example, if a particular mid-price coupe or sedan is languishing on the showroom floor, is it a car worth buying?

Conversely, some potential buyers may see such laggards as ripe for discounts because they know the dealerships want to get rid of them. Knowing what the successes are is equally helpful because they usually indicate what the company does best--or at least knows how to sell best.

Sports cars, such as Nissan Motor's (nasdaq: NSANY - news - people ) 350Z two-door, are fairly low-volume, and therefore, low sellers. But this does not mean they are failures. After all, the world’s most desirable cars--Ferraris, Bentleys, Rolls-Royce's (other-otc: RYCEY - news - people ), etc.--are low-volume models.

In forming our list, we excluded from consideration such blue-blooded cars as Rolls-Royces, because those kinds of cars sell in low numbers. And some such brands do not disclose sales by model line. In general, this piece is about mainstream automakers.

In determining each manufacturer's lowest-selling car, we only considered nameplates that were on the U.S. market for each month of 2006, because calling a vehicle that just came out "low-selling" hardly seems to afford the new model a chance.

Some you’ll see are automakers' bread-and-butter vehicles; others are cars that are either acquired tastes, rare treats or ones for which the public has little apparent appetite.

Note: The sources for sales figures were automakers' media Web sites and Automotive News, which tracks sales by manufacturer. At press time, the following manufacturers had not responded to requests for confirmation of data in the slide show: Hyundai, Kia, Scion, Subaru and Toyota.

In Pictures: Best- And Worst-Selling Cars 2007

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