Through the years, a few manufacturers have made some strange decisions with regards to the models they chose not to launch in South Africa. If some of these cars were available in this country, the respective manufacturers might have achieved more success than they did with the cars that they opted to introduce here. Here are ten cars that should have been made available here.
1. Austin/Morris 18-22/Princess
In 1975, British Leyland introduced the successor to its long-running Austin and Morris 1800/2200. The 1800 was not a success in South Africa, not even after the Mark 2 was introduced here. Leyland South Africa replaced it in this country with the Marina, which was not popular either. However, the 18-22, later known as the Princess, could have been a major hit because of its stunning looks and its good space utlilisation. Having said that, the Marina filled a gap in Leyland’s South African range.
2. BMW 3-series (1975)
In the early 1970s, BMW established itself in South Africa, especially with the Glas-based 1800/2000 SA and the very successful 5-series. The SA models were replaced with the facelifted and renamed 1804/2004, which were not very successful. In fact, these models were replaced by the 518 late in 1975. Maybe it would have been better to introduce the first-generation 3 Series rather than to extend the 5 Series downwards. The second generation Three was introduced in 1983, and the rest is history. BMW could have made a big impact much earlier if the first generation reached the South African market.
3. Ford Falcon XA
In 1972, Ford South Africa announced big rationalisation plans, which meant that the Fairmont, introduced three years before, would be discontinued. However, the last Farilane to reach South Africa was introduced towards the end of the year. Another newcomer to the Ford range that was introduced at the same time, was the Granada. The gap between these two model ranges was perhaps too wide, and maybe Ford would have done better to retain the Falcon/Fairmont range and discontinue the Fairlane instead. Moreover, muscle car enthusiasts mourned the demise of the Fairmont GT, which might have formed part of the South African XA range as well. The decision to introduce only the XA Ranchero was very strange indeed.
4. Mazda 626 (1978)
In 1976, the Sigma Motor Corpration was established; initially, this newcomer to the local industry would market Chrysler, Mitsubishi and Mazda vehicles in this country. At the time, there was a bit of an overlap in the medium car sector; both the recently-introduced Chrysler Colt and the Mazda Capella formed part of the range. However, a year later, the Colt Galant was introduced, and the Capella was quietly dropped. Because the decision was made to manufacture only one Mazda passenger car range, the first 626 was not introduced, and Sigma concentrated on the very popular 323. However, the front-drive 626 did reach South Africa in 1983.
5. Mitsubishi Galant
In the early 1970s, Chrysler noticed that there was a large gap in their model range. There was no light-medium car with which the company could compete with Datsun/Nissan, Toyota or Mazda. They had the choice to introduce either the Galant or the Hillman Avenger. The latter model was released here, unfortunately the Avenger was saddled with the inappropriate Dodge badge. It was a total failure. The Dodge Colt 1600 GS was available here, but in limited numbers. The Galant was introduced here in 1976, known as the Chrysler Colt, but was only available for a year before being replaced by the Colt Galant. This is a pity; the original Glant would have been a major success.
6. Nissan Stanza
Successive medium-sized Datsuns were available in South Africa; the 1600 was a great success, but the U-series did not prove as popular. The Stanza could be seen as a return to form, and was available as a saloon, a station wagon and a hatchback, the latter known as the Resort. However, to co-incide with the name change to Nissan, the Stanza was discontinued, and replaced by the smaller Langley. At that stage, a front-wheel-drive version of the Stanza had been introduced overseas, but was not introduced here. Why the Langley was not marketed as a variant of the unsuccessful Pulsar, is hard to understand. There was a large gap between the Langley and the Skyline, and the front-drive Stanza would have been the ideal car to fill that gap.
7. Opel Kadett (1973)
In the early 1970’s, General Motors marketed the Opel Kadett and the Vauxhall Viva; later, the Viva was replaced by the Chevrolet Firenza. However, the third-generation Kadett was not considered for South Africa. This was a mistake, because niether the Firenza nor the 1300/1900 that replaced it, were successful. In 1980, the front-wheel-drive Kadett was introduced here, and it was very popular.
8. Renault 6
This car was scheduled for introduction in this country in 1971, and the reason why this did not happen, is a mystery. The Renault range consisted of the 12 and the 16 at that stage, and the 6 might have been a successful entry-level model.
9. Toyota Corolla (1971)
In 1972, Toyota South Africa imported a few Corolla models to South Africa to assess their suitability for the South African market. However, the decision was made not to introduce them before 1975. This meant that Toyota did not have a competitor in the light car category for a long time, and cars like the Ford Escort and the Datsun 1200 became more popular than they might have been if the Corolla was around in the early 1970s.
10. VW Polo (1974)
The early 1970s marked a time of radical change in Volkswagen’s history. The Beetle was losing ground, and four very successful front-wheel-drive models were introduced in two years. The Passat was the first of these to be introduced in South Africa, and the Golf followed four years after its international introduction. The Scirocco was imported to this country in limited numbers. However, the Polo would not be introduced here until several generations have been available in Europe. The problem was that Volkswagen did not want to risk losing sales by replacing the Beetle with a more appropriate car. History has since repeated itself; VW South Africa has maintained a tradition of retaining cars that have long since been obsolete in other countries, and have tried to keep them competitive through frequent re-packaging and aggressive pricing.