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We Investigate Why Certain European Cars Aren't Sold In The States


Visitors look at a Toyota Aygo during the press day of the 84th International Motor Show which will showcase novelties of the car industry on March 5, 2014 in Geneva, Switzerland.
Harold Cunningham/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Updated June 07, 2014

I was scrolling through an issue of Car and Driver from earlier this year this morning, and one article featured ten cars that aren't sold in America--cars the magazine wished were actually sold Stateside. Most of the cars in the article are sold in Europe or Australia, and more than a few are made by companies that sell cars in the States, including the Detroit automakers.

So if these cars are so great, why aren't the sold here? After all, the world is a more global place than it has ever been, and wouldn't selling the most cars in the most markets possible make the most sense? The answer is, it's not that simple. Whether it's due to government regulations or cultural differences, there's a variety of reasons why a car that's popular on the Continent may never cross the big pond.

The first reason is government regulations. Whether it's differing crash standards or emissions laws, some cars that are kosher in other parts of the world won't get certified here. Or they could be certified, but only after the automaker goes through an expensive certification process--something OEMs are loathe to do if the car won't sell in sufficient numbers necessary to offset the cost. The American federal government has somewhat different ideas on safety and emissions that the European Union does, and this can be a significant hurdle.

Culture plays a huge role, too. In Europe, where gas is more expensive than it is in America, and where tight streets and a lack of parking encourage the use of smaller cars, small cars have always been more popular than they have been in the States, as have diesel engines. Not to mention, European ride and handling tastes are different than Americans. And there's a perception that not only are Americans carrying more cargo, but our human cargo is larger, too.

Automaker conservatism is another reason certain cars don't cross international waters. Some cars are sized right for the American (some are even simply sportier versions of cars that ARE sold here) and tuned to American tastes, and would pass government certification (especially true of cars that are basically tuned versions of cars that can be bought here). Yet sometimes, automakers hold back. They fear that for whatever reason, a particular car just won't sell in America. So they're hesitant to commit the cash if a business case can't be made, since no business wants to lose money. Just because car enthusiasts and automotive journalists are clamoring for a certain car, it doesn't mean that enough consumers would want to buy it.

There you have it--a look at why certain cars don't come to our shores. This is unfortunate for dealers who might profit off of these models, but for the automakers at the top of the heap, there are very good and valid reasons for them to not put all their cards on the table, as much as we might wish otherwise.

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