What should have automobile brands already delivered us?
Cars That Probably Shouldn’t have been built
We all know companies that have made some awful mistakes with their products. It happens for a lot of reasons and when analyzed after the fact, most companies are stunned that it happened to them. In some cases, making a doozey of a mistake can be quickly mitigated before anyone finds out by stopping production or shipping. Unfortunately, in the car business a lot of mistakes make it out the door and due to the auto industry’s high visibility, they tend to be more spectacular than other industries.
In the article we worked with Performance Dodge of Woodbury, NJ, a dealer and compiled a collection of several of the most high-profile offenders. Although these cars may have seemed right at the time, the motoring public felt otherwise and was plenty vocal about it.
In the mid-1970s, tiny Wisconsin-based American Motors designed an innovative car called the Pacer. It was advanced for the time and had many features that others didn’t, things like rack-and-pinion steering, an elongated passenger door (for rear seat access), an integrated rollbar, and an interior designed for safety. And a very odd looking fishbowl-like body design. It’s hard to believe that AMC made the pacer for 5 years because it did not sell very well. In fact, in 2007 Hagerty Insurance issued a poll asking for the public to name the worst car design of all time and the Pacer won.
Cadillac Fleetwood V8-6-4
For several decades General Motors powered all its larger models with V8 engines. This was the natural choice because your standard GM V8 has plenty enough power for even the largest of automobiles. The problem is that V8s aren’t particularly thrifty on gas. In order to make their cars a little less thirsty, Cadillac came up with its V8-6-4 system. What the V8-6-4 system does is quite clever; when you need power, such as when passing a car, the engine operates like a V8. When you are cruising, the V8-6-4 control system deactivates 2 or 4 cylinders for maximum fuel economy. The problem was it didn’t work well. It had a complex electro-mechanical cylinder deactivation system and it made jerky transitions, bizarre engine noises and caused the engine to stall at times. Naturally, the owners of $16,000 (around $45k today) Cadillacs weren’t pleased.
The Pinto was supposed to be Ford’s car of the ’70s. Ford made them from 1971 until 1980 and the car nearly destroyed the company. Here’s what happened: To save $11 in manufacturing costs of every Pinto, Ford decided to place the Pinto’s gas tank in a place where it could be punctured by the rear differential in the event of an accident. And that’s exactly what happened -thousands of Pintos went up in flames when rear collisions occurred. The result was that over 900 people died as a result of this defect. In 1978, Ford finally recalled over 1.5 million of their Pintos, and began years of slogging through civil suits that would push the company to the brink of bankruptcy.
1982-’88 Cadillac Cimarron
During the ’80s, the BMW 3-Series was making huge inroads in the U.S. market thanks to its combination of luxury and style. The executives didn’t understand and responded with what it thought was a BMW-killer: The Cimarron. The problem was that the public saw through it quickly. The Cimarron was essentially front-wheel drive Chevy Cavalier with fancy styling and a nice leather interior. Not helping was the fact that Cimarron sold for $15,000 price tag when the Chevy sold for $6,400. By 1988, it had disappeared in a cloud of ignominy.
No list of automotive blunders would be complete without a mention of the Ford Edsel. Meant to slot just below their flagship Lincoln line, Ford sunk $400 million (over $4 billion today) into developing the Edsel from scratch. The problem was that despite all the experts and researchers they hired, no one actually polled the public about what it wanted. When the Edsel started shipping, the car was rejected quickly because of its upright grill (known as the “horse collar”) and its overall garish styling. Today the Edsel is a basic case study of how not to launch a new brand.
Around the mid-nineties, the folks at Plymouth needed to inject a little juice back into the Plymouth brand. The way they attempted that was by making a factory-rendition of the standard 1930s hotrod. The styling was great. It had open wheel design, wedge-shaped fuselage, sloping arches and wild colors. The problem was that the car was powered by Chrysler’s 3.5-liter V6 and all of its 250 horsepower. This turned off a majority of potential buyers who simply expected the car to have a potent V8. The $38,300 ($56k today) base price didn’t help matters either. The Plymouth Prowler was built for just three years.
Some called the Yugo the pinnacle of automotive imperfection. The Yuko was built in Serbia and it was the cheapest car in America: $3,995 ($8,500 today). Technically it was a clone of the Fiat 124 yet was even more unreliable. For example, the engine had a tendency of not working, bits of the car would fall off while driving, and the electrical system would ignite at random times. The Yugo GV (for “Great Value!”) quietly left our shores in 1992 after 6 years of sales.
In an effort to appeal to a younger crowd, Pontiac took the crossover concept and cosmetically botched it so badly that its outward appearance literally scared off buyers as soon as they saw it. Take a good look at a Aztek and I’m sure you will agree. It looks like a car co-designed by people who didn’t speak the same language. Interestingly, the poor Aztek has received a major image boost thanks to it playing a major role in the AMC network series Breaking Bad.