Automakers always have their reasons for selling certain cars in some markets and not others. Sometimes it’s something as simple as emissions laws. Other times it’s merely because they don’t think the car will be a success in foreign markets. It’s easy to see why not many full-sized pickups are sold in Europe or why we don’t get a whole lot of superminis in the U.S., but there are some cars we’re deprived of that don’t make much sense. Interestingly, some of these are cars already have a fan base in the US, and would at least garner a dedicated niche market.
The following is a wish list of cars we’d love to get our hands on, but that are sadly only available in markets outside the United States.
Volkswagen, as well as its subsidiaries, is one of the worst offenders when it comes to withholding models from the U.S. market, and the Scirocco is the VW we want the most. It’s a model that was actually sold here before, in the 1970s and 1980s. But when the nameplate was revived in 2008, Volkswagen didn’t even let its North American division weigh in, with the decision being made in Germany that it would not make it across the pond. The attractive Golf-based coupe is offered with a long list of different engines, ranging from a highly efficient BlueMotion diesel to a 261-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged mill in the Scirocco R. The Scirocco would be the most attractive VW sold in US, were it to be introduced here, and this seems likely the reason why we don’t have it. Volkswagen thought it would take too many sales away from the GTI. Of course, it’s likely the smart, stylish, and speedy Scirocco would take some sales away from cars built by competing brands, so should VW like to reconsider its position, we would be in favor.
Citroen DS3 Racing
With Ford set to debut the Fiesta ST for the 2014 model year, the car will be the only model sold in the US that has a connection to one currently racking up top-tier WRC rally victories. The John Cooper Works Mini has some racing pedigree in this area as well, but the Citroen DS3 Racing is the only other street vehicle that seriously rivals the Fiesta in rallying. It would obviously be unfair for the Fiesta ST to have its niche all to itself, and it is in the spirit of good-natured market competition that we advocate the importation of the DS3 Racing. Now, French cars tend not to sell very well in the US, even rally cars, and this is one of the less likely cars on this list to come over. But it is very orange, so at least there’s that. The engine is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder capable of producing 204 horsepower, which quite a lot in a car this small, and slightly more than the Fiesta makes. It is not, it must be said, a very subtle car, but there is something kind of charming about this much weirdness on a small hatchback right from the factory.
Of all of the cars we don’t have in the US, this one hurts the most. The Maloo is built by Holden, GM’s Australian subsidiary, and the body style is a familiar one to Americans as well, itself an evolution of the old Chevy El Camino. The 425-horsepower V8 engine even comes from the Corvette, so it seems like a car that would be perfectly at home here. The only distinctly Australian part of the car is the name, which comes from the Aboriginal word for thunder, but if Pagani can sell a car named Huayra, then Maloo wouldn’t really be that exotic. Of course, the name could be changed, and there is some evidence that this might happen. Chevrolet recently renewed their trademark on the name El Camino, and it’s suspected that the model will be reintroduced and based heavily on the Holden Commodore Ute, which the Maloo is also based on. Bringing the Maloo over as well and simply naming it the El Camino SS would be an easy thing to do, and this is what we would encourage GM to do. We can’t say this about all the cars here, but the Maloo could be one wish on this list that actually comes true.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta
We actually sort of have this in the US already, as the new Dodge Dart is built on the Giulietta’s platform. But as attractive as the Dart is, it does not come close to being as pretty as the Alfa version. The Giulietta is probably about as attractive as mainstream cars get, and all of the fun driving dynamics with which the Dart is blessed have been inherited from the Giulietta. The wide variety of engines the Alfa is offered in is also quite attractive. There is a 2.0-liter diesel engine that nets a combined 52 mpg, and although European mileage ratings tend to be a bit more enthusiastic than the EPA’s, this is still a very fuel-efficient option. Those wanting a bit more power, as is a frequent complaint with the Dart, can opt for the “Quadrifoglio Verde” or “Cloverleaf” performance version of the car, which comes complete with a 1.75-liter turbocharged engine that produces 232 horsepower. The car has had all manner of awards heaped on it in Europe, and it even has a Euro NCAP five-star safety rating. Uma Thurman is the car’s spokesperson in Europe, and we’re willing to bet that she can help sell a few cars in her home country as well.
Yes, there is a second VW on this list, but this time it isn’t a European car. The Kombi, as you can probably tell by looking at it, is essentially the old Microbus. A car long ago discontinued in the United States. But Volkswagen has a huge presence in Brazil, which has essentially become the automaker’s headquarters in South America. Enough VW cars are built in Brazil, and enough of these are built only in Brazil, that VW is considered a domestic brand there. One such vehicle is the Kombi, which only switched to using a liquid-cooled version of the flat-four engine in the last decade. The classic vehicle still has quite a following here in the U.S., and there are bound to be people who would prefer buying a new one, rather than invest time and money into restoring an old one. Interestingly, the Kombi is actually imported to North America already, and though it’s only Mexico that gets it, that is more than we can say for the other cars on this wish list. The downside is that the Kombi won’t be around too much longer, as new Brazilian safety regulations will soon be killing it off. That is, unless they find a way to bring it back to the U.S. market.