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by Adam Lynton
Boutique sports car and race car companies had a tough time last year. Here are five that we waved goodbye to.
Not every carmaker can stick around forever, especially if it's not part of a major auto group. While the automotive industry crisis of 2008-2010 saw some of the world's leading carmakers file for bankruptcy it appears that 2012 was also a tough year, especially for lesser known automakers. In fact there were at least half a dozen companies that closed their doors last year, and for the sake of prosperity we have documented five of these. Let's hope 2013 brings better fortune to those in the industry.
In July niche German carmaker Artega filed for bankruptcy. The startup struggled financially since launching in 2006, and when investment from an Asian conglomerate fell through at the last minute, it had nowhere to turn. Artega is best known for the Henrik Fisker-designed Artega GT - an attractive little sportscar that looks something like a cross between a Porsche and an Aston Martin. Powered by a VW-sourced 3.6-liter V6 tuned to 295 hp, the GT was quoted at a sub-4-second sprint to sixty and a 167 mph top speed. The bankruptcy protection may help the company secure new funding, and with a shape like the GT's, there must be someone out there willing to chip in. We can only hope.
Just days after Artega filed, De Tomaso officially declared bankruptcy. For those unfamiliar, De Tomaso was a sportscar company started, like today's Pagani, by an Argentinian in Italy. Founded in the late 1950s, it briefly owned Maserati but was best known for mid-engined exotics like the 1966 Mangusta and 1971 Pantera. Having fallen into obscurity, the name was acquired by former Fiat group executive Gian Mario Rossignolo, who relaunched the company with the Deauville. The crossover concept flopped and when a Chinese investment group pulled out of the deal, Rossignolo was left without the funds to finance its development - never mind the new Pantera supercar his company was developing.
It wasn't only sports car manufacturers that bit the dust in 2012. Racecar builders Lola Cars, a British outfit that specializes in racecar chassis, officially entered bankruptcy proceedings in May while officials attempted to find a new buyer. With none emerging, the British company looks poised to close its doors and sell off its assets. Over the years Lola built cars for a variety of Formula One teams, as well as numerous F2, F3, AutoGP and IndyCar squads. Most recently it built Le Mans prototypes for Lotus and the SP/300.R for Caterham.
In August, Melkus filed for bankruptcy due to a lack of cash. Originally founded in Dresden, East Germany in 1959 by a guy named Heinz Melkus, also a race car driver, Melkus built both road and racing cars, the latter of which competed in Formula 3, Formula Junior and Formula E. There was just one road car built, called the RS 1000, but the company closed its doors in 1986. In 2006, they were reopened again by Peter Melkus, the grandson of Heinz. With the goal of restarting production of an all-new RS 2000. If the RS 2000 looks familiar to you, then you're not alone; it's based on the Lotus Elise. Along with gullwing doors, the reborn Melkus looked to be a winner, but the reality was something quite different.
Dwindling sales due to lackluster products took their toll on the small Suzuki's success in North America, leaving its US division to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. American Suzuki Motor Corporation will end all sales of cars and trucks once current supplies are sold off dealership lots. However, Suzuki's popular lineup of motorcycles, ATVs and watercraft will not be affected by the bankruptcy. The automaker still enjoys solid sales and popularity in Asia and other markets. In an increasingly conglomorating industry, the lack of a large corporate partner unfortunately deprives Suzuki of the funds it would need to compete in a market as competitive as the US.