As each model year brings a new crop of cars, automakers hedge their bets on the next big thing. Some models are over-hyped and disappear after a few unsuccessful years. Others seem to be designed with outright contempt for the car-buying public, offering something that no one is looking for. But every year, inspired or otherwise, there will always be new class models designed with young buyers in mind.
This urge to appeal to next-generation car buyers has been an obsession of nearly every automaker since the 1960s. Offering a combination of affordability, performance, and technology, these cars are designed to attract young buyers and turn them into lifelong brand loyalists. Still, there’s no set recipe for success. The original Ford Mustang was a runaway success as a sporty, affordable two-door coupe with a host of options that allowed buyers to personalize their cars. In contrast, the AMC Marlin, introduced just a months after the Mustang, offered similar features but became one of the biggest sales flops of the 1960s.
For each successful youth-oriented car, there have been scores of spectacular failures. Those cars may not have been a successes, but decades later, they offer a glimpse into the tastes of their era. Here are eight hits and misses throughout history designed to hook young car shoppers.