The 90s brought with them a change in American attitude. Gone were the peace-loving 60s. The hangover of 80s excess was still with us as we marched boldly into the 1990s with a new theme song. Alternative rock and grunge were taking over the space left by cookie-cutter pop music, and the country was ready for a change. The automobile industry scrambled to design new cars for a new world, and some true classics come from this period. However, there were many more that disappeared from our lives without leaving a trace. True, some were complete failures of technology. But others simply couldn't find their place in the industry and are now all but forgotten.
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Originally introduced in 1961, the Pontiac LeMans was revived in 1988. This subcompact offered a three-door hatchback and four-door sedan. The LeMans replaced the Pontiac 1000, and Pontiac marketed the third generation of its LeMans model through the 1993 model year. The company then replaced it with the Bonneville.
To appeal to a consumer base that wanted fuel efficiency and room for the whole family and their stuff, Plymouth developed the mid-size Breeze. It delivered well on both points and was available at an economical price. However, it lacked the acceleration power the public wanted from a car. From 1996 to 2000, Plymouth produced the Breeze. But the end hadn't come just for the Breeze. By the year 2000, the entire Plymouth brand was no more.
From 1989 to 1996, Eagle manufactured the Summit, a subcompact car. It was introduced as a production of the twin Plymouth Horizon, and Dodge Omni models was fading out. The Summit was identical to the Japanese-made Mitsubishi Mirage. Marketed by Jeep-Eagle, the sedan saw some sales success. In 1992, the Summit Wagon entered the family, a mirror of the Mitsubishi RVR. Despite annual upgrades, the Summit entered its last production year in 1996.
The Buick Riviera was General Motors first step into the luxury car category. Its debut in 1963 was met with high praise. Early models held true to the basic form of the original, but as the decades passed, tremendous changes would be made to keep the Riviera relevant in an ever-changing industry. The Riviera continued to provide style and comfort for its owners until 1999 when Buick ended its stellar lifespan.
Hyundai Motor Company debuted the Excel in 1985. It was the South Korean manufacturer's first front-wheel drive automobile, and it replaced the company's rear-wheel drive Pony. It was available in three- or five-door hatchback and four-door sedan and held steady ground in sales. However, it didn't do well on crash tests, especially for front-end impact, and by 2000 it was completely abandoned.
Based on its sibling, the Sentra, the body of the Pulsar NX offered a sportier ride, complete with T-top or hardtop. With front-wheel drive, svelte design, limited-slip differential, and being lightweight, the Nissan Pulsar NX2000 was among the best-handling cars of its time. Nissan produced the Pulsar NX from 1990 to 1996.
The Acclaim was a mid-size sedan produced by Plymouth from 1989 to 1995. Part of the evolution of the K-car, the Acclaim was one of the last of the Chrysler K-cars. Offering four doors and three trim levels, the Acclaim just didn't make an impact of its own on a lasting scale, and Plymouth replaced it with the Breeze.
Subaru produced this two-door coupe from 1985 to 1991. Unlike the typical Subaru, the XT was not designed to handle the kind of heavy loads that would make it a practical work choice. It was intended to spread the Subaru name to an entirely new consumer base, the commuter. However, since Subaru had made a name for itself in load capacity, the XT was largely overlooked by the public. It was replaced in 1992 by the Subaru SVX.
This subcompact was introduced by Mercury in 1988 and replaced the Lynx. In its second and third generations, the Tracer was marketed as a compact car,l, and during its lifetime it was offered as a three-door and five-door hatchbacks and wagon. Mercury ended production of the Tracer in 1999, replacing both it and the Ford Escort with the Ford Focus.
When it was time to replace the Festiva, Ford chose the Aspire to take its position in their line-up. It quickly garnered attention by being the first car in its class to have dual airbags standard and optional anti-lock brakes. Ford marketed the Aspire in North America from 1993 to 1997.
Originally imported to the United States in 1989, the Nissan Axxess was classified by the company as a station wagon. One look at the body style of the Axxess told you it was not a traditional station wagon, however. Its minivan shape and roomy interior made it a great vehicle for hauling passengers or cargo. Though it looks like the perfect family vehicle, the Axxess never captured its own corner of the market. Against stiff competition, Nissan only sold around 18,000 units. While this is more than some of the other autos on this list, it was still not enough to save the Axxess from oblivion.
In 1983, Isuzu debuted the Impulse, which sported a non-traditional look. It was originally debuted in Japan in 1980 as the Piazza, and Isuzu believed they had a huge hit. But in the late 80s, the car-buying public turned its attention to the front-wheel-drive competition, essentially burying the spunky Isuzu. The unique design of the Impulse, which created a larger passenger area than a typical sedan, was apparently just not something the public could learn to love in the model's short lifetime, which is a shame since it was built to last.
The Mercury division of the Ford Motor Company produced the Capri from 1970 to 1994. During its long life, the fastback coupe took on three distinct forms. In its existence, it was a two-door coupe, two-door hatchback, and two-door roadster. Convertible or hardtop, the Mercury Capri was a watered-down Mustang which saw its last production year at the halfway point of the 1990s.
The Corrado was a popular choice when it was introduced in 1989. This four-seat, front-wheel-drive car was one of the most, if not the most, elegant offerings from Volkswagen. When it debuted, it was touted as the company's fastest vehicle, also, sporting a VR6 engine that could produce up to 150 miles per hour.
In 1993, Oldsmobile released a strong Cutlass model that performed well and looked appealing. Its only failing seemed to be in standing out from the mass of new cars being produced. While it was reported to be fun to drive, it never found a crowd following, and was quickly forgotten.
Dodge introduced the Neon in 1995. It was developed to compete with the popular compact cars from Japan, like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. The Neon's four-cylinder engine produced a respectable 132 horsepower, which was plenty for its diminutive size. The first generation offered a two-door and four-door model, with a 5-speed manual transmission or 3-speed automatic. In 2000, the Neon underwent numerous changes, including saying goodbye to the two-door version. After an impressive eleven years on the market, Dodge replaced the Neon with the Caliber.
While this compact was produced by Mitsubishi from 1969 to 2012, the Galant was intended to take on heavy competition from the Toyota Corona, Nissan Bluebird, and Honda Accord. A fastback coupe was designed and named the Galant GTO, with the look of American muscle cars. The compact was transformed into a mid-size model as time passed. Finally, after marketing nine generations of the Galant, Mitsubishi finally laid the name to rest.
Made to replace the troubled Pinto, the Ford Escort came to North America for the 1981 model year. It was the first front-wheel drive model made in the United States and quickly made a name for itself. However, it was soon overshadowed by an insurgence of similar models, such as the Honda Civic and Volkswagen Rabbit, and just couldn't make enough impact on its own. It was replaced in 2003 by the Ford Focus.
Designed to take the place of the Celebrity station wagon, the Lumina APV offered ample room for passengers or cargo with a whole new body shape. Chevrolet produced this minivan from the 1990 to 1996 model years. In 1995, the APV was dropped from the name, and it became known simply as the Lumina. It featured three doors and a three-speed automatic transmission or four-speed manual and was fairly successful on the market. Even with its modest sales record, the Lumina just didn't offer anything that was very different from what the other manufacturers had, and was replaced by the Venture.