List of commercial failures

From Academic Kids

This article covers commercial failures.

A commercial failure is a product that does not reach expectations of success, failing to come even close. A major flop goes one step further and is recognized for its almost complete lack of success.

Most of the items listed below are ones that had high expectations, large amounts of money or widespread publicity, but fell far short of success. Obviously, due to the subjective nature of "success" and "meeting expectations", there can be disagreement about what constitutes a "major flop".


Commercial failures in aviation

These are aircraft which failed in the marketplace, but may have been technically sound. For aircraft which failed to work at all, see 'List of famous failures in science and engineering'.

Airbus A318 and A340-200
Sales were lower than what Airbus expected.
Boeing flops
The Boeing 717, 737-600, 747SP, and 757-300 failed to receive the orders that Boeing originally expected. The 737-600 is still for sale, however, and as the development cost was shared with other 737 models, it might not be considered a flop in the traditional sense. The Boeing 767-400ER, while receiving only a few orders, wasn't a flop because it was intended to be a niche aircraft for Delta Air Lines and Continental Airlines to replace their L-1011 and DC-10 fleets.
Bristol Brabazon
A giant airliner that was too expensive, too large for the time, and carried too few passengers in great luxury rather than many passengers in less space.
Convair CV-880 and CV-990
Both were commercial disasters as they only offered five-abreast seating, and were easily out-competed on price by the Boeing 720 which was based on an existing aircraft type.
Dassault Aviation Mercure
This aircraft had an extremely limited range and as a result only ten were put in service, by the French domestic airline Air Inter
Douglas Super DC-3
An attempt to improve the famous Douglas DC-3. However, only three were sold as large numbers of war surplus C-47s were available for about $8,000 each. The Super DC-3 cost $200,000.
Another small, short-range jet, notable for its unique over-wing engine installation. Only 16 were built.
McDonnell Douglas (now part of Boeing) MD-87 and MD-90
Both failed to receive orders as compared with the Boeing 737 family and Airbus A320 family, both of which had high-bypass turbofan engines which burned less fuel than the low-bypass engines of the MD-87 and MD-90.
Northrop F-20 Tigershark
This fighter aircraft was designed as a private venture for export, but failed utterly as foreign air forces wanted the more prestigious F-16 Fighting Falcon used by the USAF, despite the F-20's lower cost.
Spruce Goose
Built of wood by Howard Hughes's Hughes Aircraft. Only one was built and it had the largest wingspan of any plane ever built.
Supersonic transports
Boeing 2707, Lockheed L-2000, Tupolev Tu-144, arguably Concorde
Early hydrogen-filled zeppelins
Although initially a commercial success, the explosion of the Hindenburg killed the market.

Automotive flops

Bricklin SV-1
This safety/sports car from Canada suffered from quality concerns. Just 2,857 were sold in 3 years.
Cadillac V-8-6-4 variable cylinder engine
Poor reliability and dubious benefit doomed the variable displacement concept for a decade.
Chevrolet Corvair
A case study in Ralph Nader's Unsafe At Any Speed claimed the Corvair had a tendency to roll over, causing the car's eventual downfall.
Chrysler Airflow
Advanced aerodynamic design made the mistake of being far ahead of its mid-1930s era; in the depths of the Great Depression, the few who could afford a new car were looking for slight improvements on the tried-and-true, not a radically new concept.
This Korean marque flopped badly in many markets, especially the United States. When Daewoo made its U.S. debut for the 1999 model year, it sold cars through independent contractors on college campuses rather than at conventional dealerships. U.S. sales ended in 2002 when Daewoo Motor America went bankrupt. New owner General Motors has dropped the Daewoo name outside Asia.
De Lorean
Roughly 9,000 were built before John De Lorean's arrest on charges of cocaine-smuggling (which he was later acquitted for) closed the factory two years after its launch.
Buckminster Fuller's 1933 Dymaxion car
Original and innovative, but a fatal crash and safety issues with rear-wheel steering aborted investor interest and further development. A total of three were built.
One of the most successful new car line launches in history quickly became a legendary flop. Just over 100,000 were built in four years. In 1960, the Edsel's final model year, only a few thousand were built.
Ford Pinto
This car's downfall was brought about in safety tests that revealed that, due to the location of the car's fuel tank, it tended to explode during mild rear-end collisions.
Leyland P76
Infamous in Australia as a commercial flop.
Lincoln Blackwood luxury pickup truck
A velvet-lined bed, low towing capability, and a single exterior color led to the cancellation of this model after 15 months with 3,356 sold.
This U.S. marque, which consisted of two rebadged European Ford models, lasted only four years.
Oldsmobile 5.7 liter diesel engine
Also marketed as the Olds 350 Diesel, it was offered in General Motors automobiles between 1978 and 1985. A modified gasoline engine rather than a proper diesel design, the unit had a tendency to tear itself apart. So poor was this engine's reliability record that small diesel engines were shunned by U.S. consumers for a generation.
Pontiac Aztek
Controversial styling resulted in just over 27,000 sales per year instead of an expected 50,000 to 70,000. Discontinued in 2005.
Sinclair C5
A battery-assisted tricycle designed by Sir Clive Sinclair
This U.S. version of the British Rover 800 suffered from poor build quality, feeble performance and a lack of brand recognition. Sales dropped from 15,000 in 1988 to fewer than 2,000 in 1991.
Suzuki X-90
This round 2-place sporty mini-SUV was not welcomed in the market. Just 7,205 sold in 3 years, making it among the slowest-selling full-production vehicles in history.
Tucker automobile
Preston Tucker's streamlined automobile with a rear engine and then-innovative safety features. Tucker's attempt to launch a major automobile company failed, either due to conspiracy by the major manufacturers, shady financial maneuvers by Tucker or both. A total of 51 were built.
Vauxhall Firenza HPF
Just 204 built instead of the projected 30,000+. Killed by the fuel crisis, its rarity has at least assured it classic status in modern times.
Volkswagen 412
Volkswagen's last rear-engine, air-cooled car. Although it had interesting and novel technologies at the time (MacPherson struts in front, independent rear suspension; fuel injection; a supplemental heater powered by gasoline), the car was only produced from 1969 until July 1974. The VW Golf (Rabbit in the U.S.) caused a revolution for VW.

Computing flops

Hardware flops

Personal computers

Amiga CDTV
This early multimedia computer was overpriced and suffered from using the obsolete AmigaOS 1.3, when version 2.0 was already available.
Apple Computer flops
The Apple III, Apple Lisa, and arguably the Apple Newton are notable flops. Many of the Lisa's features were later incorporated into the far more successful Apple Macintosh.
Atari Falcon030
The Falcon came right at the time when the PC "Wintel" and the Macintosh computers had eluded the competition of smaller products, such as the Atari ST, the Amiga, or the Amstrad CPC. Virtually no software was written for the Falcon030.
Be, Inc.
Mid-90's personal computer maker/OS vendor founded by former Apple Computer executive Jean-Louis Gassée. Hopes of an acquisition by Apple Computer in order to develop a successor to the Mac OS waned after Apple chose instead to acquire NeXT. After the failed introduction of the BeBox and Apple's decision to acquire NeXT, BeOS was unsuccessfully marketed as a replacement for the then-ubiquitous Microsoft Windows. Ultimately, Palm acquired what remained of the company.
Coleco Adam
A home computer created by toy company Coleco that nearly bankrupted the company.
Commodore Plus/4
In the 1980s, Commodore International became the first company to sell a million home computers. Hoping to repeat the success of its multi-million-selling VIC-20 and C-64 computers, it released the Commodore Plus/4 in 1984. It flopped. Commodore went on to achieve success with the Commodore Amiga, but went backrupt in 1994.
Enterprise 128
Announced in September 1983, but failed to be produced until May 1985 when its features were not so impressive anymore. It also suffered several name changes: First it was called Enterprise Elan, then Flan, then Samurai and finally just Enterprise.
Go (pen computing corporation)
Cited by Jim Louderback as one of the "eight biggest tech flops ever".
IBM PS/2 and IBM PCjr
After the rise of PC clones and compatibles, IBM struggled in the PC market.
NeXT Computer
Steve Jobs founded NeXT after his 1985 ouster from Apple Computer. The product and company were media darlings, but sold in small numbers. NeXT was ultimately bought out by Apple, and after Steve Jobs took charge of the company, NeXT technology became the foundation of Mac OS X.
Sinclair QL
A somewhat unsuccessful attempt by Sinclair Research to make a 16 bit computer in the mid 1980s.
WebTV (now MSN TV)
Internet delivery via television set and set-top box. Cited by Jim Louderback as one of the "eight biggest tech flops ever".


Advanced Scientific Computer supercomputer by TI
Convex C3 mini-supercomputer
Cray-3 gallium arsenide supercomputer
IBM 7030
Also known as "Stretch", the 7030 was IBM's first attempt at building a supercomputer. Its actual performance was less than one third of its original specification. This resulted in IBM drastically dropping the price and losing money on every machine sold.
ILLIAC IV array processor supercomputer

Devices and technology

Bubble memory
Heralded as the next big thing, it was widely expected to all-but-replace every other form of storage. The technology and engineering were sound, and numerous products were actually brought to market, but it was never able to gain any significant cost edge over the rapidly improving technologies it was supposed to displace.
:CueCat barcode scanner
Designed to allow magazine readers to read magazines while seated at their computers, and navigate effortlessly to advertisers' websites by passing the CueCat over barcodes printed in ads that caught their fancy. Thousands were given away free at Radio Shack stores. What killed it was people's utter lack of interest in its functionality.
Compact Floppy 3 Inch floppy disk
With 360k or 720k DD, used mainly in exotic systems like Osborne Computers, Einstien, MSX and famously Amstrad CPC/PCW range. Before being outclassed by the now standard Sony 3.5".
Data Play CD replacement disk technology
Cited by Jim Louderback as one of the "eight biggest tech flops ever".
IBM's Micro Channel Architecture PC bus (MCA)
Solved the problems IBM had itself created with its predecessor, the PC-AT bus. IBM and many industry analysts assumed that the need to be "IBM-compatible" would force other vendors to adopt the MCA, for which IBM charged high licensing fees. In fact customers did not care, and the industry largely ignored the bus. This flop was significant because it was widely interpreted as indicating that IBM no longer controlled the PC architecture and had lost its leadership position.
Iomega Clik! drive
Cited by Jim Louderback as one of the "eight biggest tech flops ever".
INMOS Transputer
This attempt at a different way of computing is now largely forgotten.
IBM's 4" floppy disk drive
Introduced at about the same time as Seagate's 3" floppy, Hitachi's 3.25" floppy, and Sony's 3.5" floppy. (All but Sony's floppy flopped).
IBM 2.88Mb floppy disk
Supported only by IBM; appeared just before the huge explosion in hard disk sizes which effectively rendered floppy disks obsolete.
Intel iAPX 432 microprocessor
Introduced in 1981 as the next great computer architecture after Intel's x86 line. Considered one of the most complicated microprocessors ever built, it delivered low performance and went nowhere in the market.
Intel expected the Itanium (referred to by detractors as "the Itanic") to revolutionize the microprocessor industry, but after 7 years of development and billions of dollars spent, the first Itanium chip proved an utter technical and commercial failure. However, the project still goes on, and Itanium 2 is an improvement. (Furthermore, the Itanium had the valuable (to Intel) side effect of killing competition; its development caused several competing chips, such as the Alpha and advanced version of the SPARC, to be abandoned by timid management).
Rambus's RDRAM
RDRAM can arguably be considered a flop. Competitors feared that Intel was trying to control the memory market through Rambus, so they joined together to develop DDR SDRAM. DDR SDRAM offered comparable performance to RDRAM and was much less expensive. This forced Intel to abandon exclusive support for RDRAM. As of 2004, Intel has abandoned RDRAM with all new products using DDR SDRAM or DDR2 SDRAM. (RDRAM's successor XDR DRAM is used by the IBM/Sony/Toshiba "Cell" processor.)
Sony HiFD
Intended to replace the 3.5 inch floppy drive, but was prevented from doing so due to an early recall, compatibility problems, and the rise of cheap recordable CDs.

Software flops

Adobe LiveMotion
Adobe's failed animated vector graphics program to compete with Macromedia's Flash
IBM's OS/2
Originally developed as a replacement for DOS, in partnership with Microsoft. Consistently mismanaged by IBM, who failed to market it properly in the mid-1990s against the Microsoft Windows juggernaut, it nevertheless still retains a small number of loyal users.
Magic Cap
This early PDA OS which failed to take off, and was eventually made irrelevant by the success of the Palm Pilot.
Microsoft Bob
This "user-friendly" replacement for the Windows 3.1 interface was one of the biggest flops to ever come out of Microsoft.
Office Assistant
From Office 97, Microsoft introduced an animated personality to help users with Microsoft Office. The most notorious and irritating feature in the software, Microsoft's marketing strategy for later Office versions prominently featured that the Assistant was, by default, disabled.
IBM and Apple Computer collaborated in the 1990s to build a next generation object-oriented operating system.
An unstable, resource-hungry version of Nullsoft's media player. Winamp3 has been replaced by Winamp 5, which uses Winamp 2's code with the features of Winamp3.

Internet Dot-Com flops

There are thousands of failed companies from the dot-com tech bubble of the late 1990s. Here are a few of the largest and most famous.
Sold clothing and accessories. After blowing through hundreds of millions of dollars of venture capital on a poorly-planned business model, it became the poster-child for mismanaged dot-coms.
Exodus Communications
Off-site computer server hosting
Online currency and gift certificates; endorsed by Whoopi Goldberg
Internet Capital Group
Internet incubator company
This "girl site" in the vein of chickclick and gURL was staffed by people who didn't understand their target market
Bike messenger delivery service for individuals
An online high-end furniture store [1] (
An online pet food store that focused more on its brand name than profitability.
Online buy-all site that advertised on television as well as through Internet ads
This grocery delivery service spent far too much on infrastucture before it had even turned a profit.

Retail flops

Marks & Spencer
In the late 1990s, the Prada-inspired "gray range" turned Marks & Spencer from darling of the British retail scene to an embarrassment.
Iceland, an otherwise successful British supermarket chain, attempted to go up-market by stocking only organic own-labels, a plan that backfired after its core market of low-incomers couldn't afford it.
Ralphs/The GIANT
Ralphs, a Southern California supermarket chain, launched a warehouse club brand in August 1986, but was unable to compete with more established clubs while confusing patrons of their traditional grocery stores.
Old Chicago
A bold concept of a shopping mall and indoor amusement park, Old Chicago opened in suburban Chicago, Illinois in 1975. Plagued by structural faults left over from its hurried construction, fires, and a lack of big-name department stores, the complex shut down only six years later, and was demolished after 11 years.
Port Plaza Mall
An urban, downtown shopping mall, an attempt to make the city of Green Bay, Wisconsin compete with its suburbs in 1977.

Other commercial flops

7-Up Gold
Test marketed but never a wide success.
Introduced by Colgate-Palmolive in 1975, this snack consisting of roasted and flavored whole soybeans cost US $750,000 to develop and market. The product was withdrawn with under 25,000 cases sold, as it rapidly gained a reputation for causing excessive flatulence. A jury later awarded a half million dollars to the roasting contractor after Colgate's withdrawal.
Betamax VCR system
After some initial success, it was soundly beaten in the marketplace by VHS.
Crystal Pepsi
Despite a huge marketing campaign, Crystal Pepsi lasted only one year in the U.S.. Like many discontinued products, Crystal Pepsi maintains a small but dedicated following on the Internet.
Coca-Cola's brand of bottled water was a flop in the UK after it emerged. It was essentially just tap water from Sidcup, England, treated to make it more pure but in fact containing high levels of bromate.
Digital Compact Cassette
A format introduced by Philips, which lost out to Minidisc and CD-R
DIVX was a take-off on DVD that required users to pay per viewing. DIVX backer Circuit City, a retail electronics giant, lost about $200 million over the fiasco. (Not to be confused with DivX, the video codec.)
eBook devices
Between 1999 and 2002, a number of companies, notably Gemstar, jockeyed for control of this supposedly vast, lucrative market, believing that consumers would pay hardcover prices for a severely limited number of book titles in DRM-encrypted formats that tied each electronic copy to a unique serialized hardware device. In 2002 the "eBooks are dead" meme became widespread. In 2003, Gemstar pulled the plug on its servers and Barnes and Noble ceased offering eBook content of any kind.
Elcaset audio format
Sony's attempt at a higher-quality replacement for the compact cassette.
In the mid-1990s, MTV and most major record labels hailed a electronica as the "next big thing", similar to the scale and scope of the previous grunge trend. This did not take off (rave culture and music did increase markedly, but this was primarily music from independent labels).
Faygo Candy Apple soda
Despite its unique taste, it had low sales.
Flexplay and ez-D
Flexplay and ez-D are "self-destructing" DVD-compatible discs, which turn black and become unplayable 48 hours after the package's seal is broken. Disney's Buena Vista announced the product in 2003 with much ballyhoo and test-marketed it in Texas. But even top-tier Disney titles such as "Pirates of the Caribbean" "didn't turn out to be an item that our customers were looking for", according to an chain of groceries in Austin, Texas that dropped the product shortly after introduction. Priced at about $7, the value proposition, compared to a DVD—0.01% of the lifetime at 50% of the cost—was apparently not compelling to consumers.
A system of 66 satellites set up for global mobile phone service, Iridium proved to be too expensive for wide use.
Kodak disc cameras (1982–1990)
Although advanced in technology and automated-processing-friendly, its aspheric lenses could not overcome the limitations of the tiny 8x10mm negative, smaller even than the Minox. It was introduced at the same time as easy-to-use, inexpensive 35mm cameras were becoming available. People liked the cameras but hated the pictures, whose graininess was obvious.
Lymeswold cheese (UK)
McDonald's' Arch Deluxe
The Arch Deluxe was an attempt to market burgers to the adult fast-food consumer. Consumers were turned off by the unconventional ads and the high price; consumer groups were put off by the higher caloric content of the new burger.
McDonalds' 1989 and 1994 attempts to serve pizza
The Millennium Dome
A commercial and public relations disaster, it now lies empty in Greenwich in London.
Miller Beer
Introduced in 1996, Miller Beer, "in the Red Label", was to be sold alongside sister beers Miller Lite and Miller Genuine Draft.
New Coke
The Coca-Cola company changed the formula and taste of its flagship product, a universally successful drink whose name was almost synonymous with soft drinks. Introduced April 23, 1985, it was a marketing and public relations debacle, and the company had to backtrack and return to the older formula. However, when they went back to the original formula, demand for the classic taste grew to a greater extent than before New Coke, propelling Coca-Cola to a market lead over rival Pepsi – making the situation an unintentional success for Coca-Cola. However, many maintain that the flub was intentional and that the heads of Coca-Cola planned the whole thing. [2] (
OK Soda
Manufactured and marketed by The Coca-Cola Company, OK Soda was specifically targeted at Generation X with subtle and ironic advertising messages. The product was only released in select test markets, where it did not do well.
Penn Central Railroad
This product of the 1968 merger of the New York Central Railroad and the Pennsylvania Railroad became bankrupt in 1970 and merged to become Conrail on April 1, 1976.
Pepsi Blue
Like Crystal Pepsi, sales were low despite heavy advertising.
Pepsi Edge
A half-calorie/half-sugar version of Pepsi. Introduced in June 2004 and axed in May 2005 due to poor sales.
Persil Power
This laundry detergent catalyst was intended to help remove tough stains from clothes. In addition to not being particularly successful in terms of sales, it proved to have corrosive effects which could easily render clothes unwearable after a few washes.
The Segway scooter was released among unprecendented hype as being a product that would revolutionize transportation. Investors expected hundreds of thousands of units to be sold, generating billions of dollars in sales in the first year. In reality, the Segway sold around only 10,000 units in its first few years and is still trying to overcome an identity crisis.
Tanganyika groundnut scheme
A plan by Clement Attlee's British government, financed by British tax-payers, to cultivate tracts of what is now Tanzania with peanuts.
Bill Gates was a major investor in this proposed network of hundreds of satellites to provide Internet access.
Merger and aquisitions of telecom companies throughout the 90s boom brought short term success. When the tech stock markets went down with the accumulation of debt the real value and of the company became apparent. It restating its financial statements for 2001 with several billion less revenue, in turn suffering multiple downgrades of its credit rating and stock value. Was sued by investors and regulators for fraud and eventually gone bankrupt and filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy.

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