PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- In the post-recession United States, aesthetics are just about the last thing anyone is looking for in an automobile.
According to Polk, the average U.S. car has been on the road for more than a decade as drivers conserve cash, but even new-car buyers aren't being swayed by good looks. The share of new cars being bought by Americans between 18 and 34 is down 30% in the past five years, according to auto pricing site Edmunds.com, while the Pew Research Center study notes that people under 35 bought 12% fewer cars than they did in 2010.
With the Department of Transportation noting that just 28% of 16-year-olds and 45% of 17-year-olds have drivers licenses – down from 50% and 66% respectively in 1978 – car dealers are lucky if kids are giving their vehicles a look at all. Their parents, meanwhile, just want something that can help them keep the job they're feeling awfully lucky to have.
Even then, they're spending less time in their car than ever. The DOT notes that U.S. drivers, who had been racking up a steadily increasing number of miles since the 1970s, started cutting back in 2008 and never returned to that peak. Meanwhile, traffic information service Inrix notes that as average gas prices started spiking in 2010, average commute times during peak hours dropped from more than four hours to less than two.
A study done this spring by the Frontier Group and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund found that the average U.S. driver actually started cutting back well before the recession, peaking around 2004 but dropping 6% by 2011. While the total miles driven in the U.S. rose 3.8% from 1948 to 2004, they've been flat since. A 4% drop in vehicle ownership since 2006 and a 4 percentage-point drop in licensed drivers since 1992 aren't helping.
If ever there was a time to sneak an ugly car past an unsuspecting U.S. public, it's now. Our Ted Reed has taken great pains to rehash our nation's sordid history of ugly vehicles, but even his lengthy lists of unfortunate vehicles don't do justice to the horrors of the modern auto marketplace.
There have been vehicles released within the past year that are every bit the detriment to design that the 2001 Pontiac Aztek, 1977 Lincoln Versailles and 1985 Cadillac DeVille were. The following are just 10 examples:
10. 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage
No hybrid engine, no plug: Just a light little econobox that makes the most of its fuel.
Emphasis on “little” and “econobox.” The only 2014 model to make Reed's list of terrible cars this year, the Mirage is about 12 feet long and little more than 5 feet wide. It doesn't even provide the illusion of space.
Made in Thailand and built with a pokey 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine, the Mirage has all the power of a stiff breeze. It's built in the grand tradition of the Geo Metro, Hyundai Excel and the other tiny, fuel-efficient hatchbacks of the late '80s and early '90s, but with all of the stripped-down qualities that soured U.S. drivers on those cars in the first place. Not only are Mirage drivers investing in an unfortunate-looking toy, but they're not getting a whole lot more than mileage out of their investment.