2012 Mercedes-Benz R ClassEnlarge Photo
Mercedes-Benz R350 BlueTEC
A very large station wagon built on the underpinnings of the vastly more popular ML Series of crossovers, the Mercedes-Benz R Class never found its audience in the States.
Built from 2006 through 2012, the last few years of R Class production for the U.S. market were fitted with the V-6 BlueTEC diesel engine, a popular option among the car services and high-end fleet buyers who purchased the few hundred vehicles sold each month.
Export models of the Mercedes-Benz R Class will stay in production in Alabama for a few more years, but 2012 was its last year on the U.S. market.
It only goes to show that anything that smacks of a station wagon is a doomed proposition in the U.S. market. The R Class could be ordered with all-wheel drive just like a crossover, but because it wasn't jacked up to the ride height of a truck, buyers just weren't interested.
2011 Tesla Roadster Sport. Photo by Joe Nuxoll.Enlarge Photo
Finally, there's the Tesla Roadster, only 2,600 of which were built. A crude, clumsy, and expensive two-seat sports car, the Roadster by itself kickstarted the modern-day electric-car revolution.
No less a personage that GM's Bob Lutz cited the Roadster in getting the Chevy Volt approved.
With its 53-kilowatt-hour battery pack made up of 6,831 lithium-ion "18650 commodity cells" like those used in laptops mobile phones, the Roadster was the first demonstration of the technology that launched Tesla Motors--a venture-funded startup car company in Silicon Valley--and blazed the trail for mass-market cars to come.
Tesla says it's within weeks of delivering its first Model S all-electric luxury sport sedans to paying customers, but we should pause to honor the Roadster's seminal role.
The grumpy middle-aged men of the auto press who uniformly sneered at electric cars often underwent miraculous conversions after wheel time in the Tesla Roadster.
One experience of its grab-you-and-throw-you-silently-at-the-horizon electric acceleration, and many looked at the world a whole new way.
And no one who's driven one is likely to forget that first ride.