Five car brands that failed in Europe

With Genesis and Lynk & Co., two car brands that are about to offer cars in Europe. A look at history shows that it will not be easy.

The European and especially the German new car market are considered to be two of the most demanding in the world. Quite a few manufacturers have failed here. Five recent examples are listed in this article.


The Japanese small car specialists always had a hard time in Europe. Many models such as the Mini-Cabrio Copen, the retro small car Trevis or the edgy Materia were iconic, but too small, underperforming and tinny for the European taste. The strengths of the brand – original, weird design and a very economical use of the traffic area – were less evident in this country than in the narrow Japanese metropolises.

More importantly, the Daihatsu models, despite their cost-sensitive design, could not really keep up with the Western small car competition. The main reason was the long unfavorable yen exchange rate, which ultimately led the company to withdraw completely from Europe at the end of 2013 . Sales have also largely ceased in Africa, South America, Oceania and the Middle East.

Today Daihatsu is owned by Toyota and is mainly active in Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia, where the company sells cheap small cars.


Entry into the premium segment is particularly difficult for foreign manufacturers in Germany and Europe – and at the same time particularly attractive. Because if you can assert yourself against Audi , BMW , Mercedes and Porsche, you not only win in terms of sales, but also in terms of image.

The possible increase in prestige may also have been among the reasons why Nissan threw its luxury brand Infiniti into the European shark tank in 2008. First of all, the brand, which has long been established in the USA, also scored points here: its SUV and limousines impressed with their lively design and interesting technology, the small but fine dealer network relied on VIP service and Formula 1 involvement with Sebastian Vettel’s racing team ensured growing numbers Notoriety.

When Infiniti launched riotous offshoots of Mercedes A-Class and GLA onto the market in 2015, it seemed to many observers that the brand had come to stay. A misjudgment: the European headquarters has been closed since early 2020, and new cars are no longer sold. The sales strategists are now focusing on the United States and China. There the race for the shares in the premium market is even more open than in Western Europe.


The specter of a European offensive by Chinese car manufacturers has been haunted by the industry for ages. So far, however, there has been no massive market entry – probably due to Brilliance’s experience.

Because the brand, founded in 1992, got a bloody nose when it launched Germany in 2007, after the debut model BS6 had been rattled by the ADAC crash test. The mid-size sedan was only able to collect one out of five stars. Critics were confirmed that Chinese technically could not (yet) keep up with Western cars. In the battle for the customer, low prices and solid design no longer helped.

The Chinese initially continued to fight, improved, expanded their range of vehicles and built up a dealer network. But 2007 was the end for Brilliance Motors Germany. In the meantime, the engagement flared up again, and 2010 was finally over in Europe. To date, no Chinese brand has been able to establish itself permanently and with significant market shares in Western Europe.


Cool Ami cars were the exception at Chevrolet Europe. Even if the Camaro was a full-blown muscle car and, at least in terms of form, the classic Corvette sports car is a Chevrolet – basically the General Motors subsidiary in this country was only a remnant of Korean Daewoo and German Opel models. The main selling point: the low price.

Hardly anyone understood the crude mixture of Ami icons, Korean cheap small cars and converted Opels. The fact that the brand lacked the line should not least have to do with the fact that in its European era that lasted from 2004 to 2016, things also went haywire at the parent company in Detroit. In 2013, due to the difficult economic situation, it was decided to withdraw from the old continent.

At least for the most part: Camaro and Corvette are still officially available today.


Not good enough, but also not cheap enough: Lada could never build on Dacia’s success in the low-cost segment in this country. Because while the Romanians were throwing their outdated model range overboard and instead using discarded, but still up-to-date Renault technology, the Awtowas subsidiary held on to sheet metal goods from the cold war for a long time.

In the case of the sturdy, spartan Niva off-road vehicle, this had its charm, but small cars like the Kalina, on the other hand, only appeared dusty. Especially since the prices were cheap, but not at a bargain level. A long time ago, the clientele was recruited mainly from Soviet and GDR nostalgics.

In the meantime Lada has made a modernization push – but too late. AvtoVAZ removed Western Europe from the sales map at the end of 2019; also because the engines do not meet the new Euro 6 limits. However, the brand with the Volga sailboat in the logo has not completely disappeared: the long-standing importer in Buxtehude now brings the cars into the country on his own account and upgrades them on his own.

Author: Nabeel K

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