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2012 Nissan Cube (Nissan)
2012 Nissan Cube (Nissan)

Trans-Canada Highway

What happens to ugly cars when nobody buys them Add to ...

Douglas MacArthur, the famous U.S. general, once said, “Old soldiers don’t die; they just fade away.” The same can be said of cars.

Old, failed cars like the Nissan Cube just fade away without the fanfare, excited press releases or any of the massive hype that marked their launch. The Cube in Canada slipped away for 2014 without mention from Nissan Canada and now it’s going to disappear from Nissan’s lineup in the United States – in 2015.

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Few tears will be shed. In 2013, the last full year of Cube sales in Canada, sales crashed to just 183, down from a disappointing high of 2,846 in 2010. Automotive News reports that Nissan in the U.S. sold just 2,294 Cubes through the first six months of this year and sales peaked at 22,968 in 2010.

No one need ask why, but it’s fun to talk about this anyway. Almost no one wanted the Cube because it was an ugly box whose only redeeming quality was incredible headroom. It was also underpowered and the engine was mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that helped deliver terrific fuel economy, but robbed the car of any emotional connection with the driver.

But then the Cube was never meant to be a “driver’s” car. Nope. It was in fact the anti-driver’s car, a Japanese response to not just declining interest in cars in the home market, but actual antipathy to racy rides. Proof? So-called “eco-cars” like the Toyota Prius and Aqua (the Prius c here) have topped the best-seller list in Japan for years. The masses in Japan find fuel efficiency and low emissions for more exciting than speed.

When long-time industry observers see car companies introduce something like the Cube or the Pontiac Aztek, we look at each other, scratch our heads and wonder why. The usual refrain goes like this: “What were they thinking?” That’s followed by, “How did that ever get past the design review.”

Alas, common sense sometimes takes a back seat to whatever gets these sorts of cars approved.

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