Scion / Toyota iQ
It’s rare that Toyota produces a flop, but the iQ minicar certainly fits the bill. Introduced in Japan and Europe for 2008, the iQ was brought to the United States under the Scion brand starting in the 2012 model year—right around the same time the American economy was steadying in the post-recession period, fuel prices were dropping, and buyers were clamoring for ever larger crossovers and SUVs. Toyota wanted to sell 100,000 iQs annually across the globe, but in the five years the model was sold in the U.S., Toyota moved just under 16,000 of them. It is difficult to find the appeal in a vehicle with the primary selling point of being more than a foot longer than the contemporary Smart Fortwo. Incredibly, Toyota used that extra size to test its own engineering prowess, somehow finding room for four seats—two more than the Smart had—arranged in a novel three-plus-one layout. What’s the saying? If a vehicle-packaging breakthrough lands in the woods . . . ?
Anyway, the formula was so salesproof that Aston Martin even got in on the action, such as it was. That’s right, we can’t discuss the iQ without mentioning its ultra-rare spinoff, the Aston Martin Cygnet. It was like an iQ, only with an Aston grille, an interior slathered in leather, and a mind-boggling price. In what might be a shock only to anyone with a low IQ, the British marque sold about 300 examples in Europe, far fewer than its 4000-unit target.—Daniel Golson