When developing a new vehicle, automakers spend millions of dollars on R&D, but sometimes they end up with a lemon. It was more common in the early days until the early 2000s. Many drivers bought supposedly game-changing cars and were initially highly rated and received positive reviews. While these models sold like hotcakes because they were packed with cutting-edge technology, all-new systems, and tons of innovative features, new issues kept creeping up like a Pandora’s Box over time.
Due to shoddy workmanship, many began to rust quickly, while many mechanical problems would plague them over their lifetime. Others were branded money losers, with their resale value dropping to almost zero because no one wanted them. But the worst of them classics are those who have had life-threatening problems. The result would be negative press and consumer feedback that severely damaged the reputations of their respective manufacturers for decades.
The following is a list of the top ten automobiles that had huge success in sales but ultimately damaged the reputation of the brand.
ten Ford Pinto
You’d be hard-pressed to find the Pinto on a list of attractive American cars. Still, more than 3 million units of this American subcompact have been sold. Buyers were attracted by its low price ($2,000) and good gas mileage. The Pinto suffered from issues such as terrible suspension and poor drum brakes. Still, that’s not why it became a PR nightmare for Ford – it was a death trap.
The rear-mounted fuel tank lacked protection and the car would burst into flames in a rollover or rear-end collision. Ford discovered the engineering flaw early on but kept production going anyway. According to the infamous “Pinto Memo”, the automaker deemed the recall costs too high in relation to the potential compensation for the victims. Ouch!
9 Chevrolet Vega
Introduced around the same time, the Vega seemed the better subcompact of the Pinto. It was praised for its precise handling and received high marks for fuel economy. Many also found it more aesthetically pleasing – it came in a wider variety of body configurations choosing design cues from the Camaro.
But every element of its chassis seemed built about as flimsy as possible. The throttle was uncooperative, the axles failed, and it was extremely unreliable. It had a self-destructing engine and frequently caught fire due to engine backfiring, oil leaks, and gasoline spills. In addition, it was made with a body that rusts quickly. It’s no surprise that the Vega is counted among the models that Chevrolet deeply regrets making.
8 Renault Alliance
AMC lacked funds for further programming in the 1980s. The American automaker approached French automaker Renault to sell the Alliance in the United States. While the Alliance handled and drove well for its time, it moved slowly with a base 1.4-litre mill producing just 60bhp. But his ultimate shit came out over time and resale values dropped to near zero.
The worst thing was that it was a bucket of rust and the engine often broke down. Also, the 1985 models had drop doors that often did not close. AMC nearly went bankrupt after producing 623,573 of these duds throughout brief production. So terrible, the first thing Chrysler did after acquiring AMC in 1987 was scrap the model.
seven Chevrolet quote
The Citation was one of GM’s first front-wheel-drive compact X cars. These cars were the North American answer to the Honda Accord. He was recognized with great honor and received Motor Trend’s 1980 COTY Award. Chevy sold over 800,000 units in the first year alone and over 1.6 million in total. You might be wondering, “What was wrong with the Chevy Citation?” The most pertinent question is, “What wasn’t?”
If assembled incorrectly, the parts will vibrate and the trim will come off. The transmissions frequently failed and the steering developed a dead center center. Plus, it was notoriously rusty and many had poorly bolted suspension systems that only got worse over time. The quote butchered GM’s reputation for an entire generation.
6 Chrysler PT Cruiser
Considered Chrysler’s worst small car offering, the PT Cruiser was surprisingly a sales success. Chrysler sold over 144,000 units in the first year (2001) and over one million found buyers worldwide. Today, the PT Cruiser is often ridiculed for its bizarre and downright ugly appearance.
Critics criticized it for its sloppy handling and unexciting ride. Inside, not only is it terribly drab, but it also feels unsafe and comfort is non-existent. Its novelty helped it outsell its features or build quality. Chrysler definitely regrets doing it.
5 1978 – 1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Diesel
GM wanted to market a series of diesel engines in the late 1970s because they were not subject to the exact emissions requirements of gasoline engines. Entrusting the design work to Oldsmobile, the first 5.7-liter and 4.3-liter engines were installed in the Cutlass Supreme. It was the best-selling car in the United States from 1978 to 1981.
Unfortunately for buyers, Oldsmobile diesel engines were still terrible. They would typically suffer seal failures, severe damage, or hydraulic blockage. They were also notoriously leaky, and omitting a water separator in the fuel system would also cause rust adding more disease. After this failure, GM did not try again with a diesel engine until 2014.
4 Austin Allegro
Built by British Leyland, the Allegro was a popular car with drivers in the 1970s. By the end of the decade, the Allegro had become Britain’s fifth best-selling car, with 642,350 Allegros sold. Although it came with gimmicks such as a square steering wheel, it was priced higher than its main rivals and worse.
It sported a drab and generic design, was not spacious inside, and featured poor build quality. Worse, he had excessive body flexion and frequently broke down. Fortunately, 1983 was its last year of production. 25 years later (2008), the Austin Allegro was voted Britain’s worst car.
3 AMC Gremlin
Many publications often include the Gremlin in all sorts of “worst cars ever” lists. Ugly, out of proportion and named after a mythical creature that is said to cause mechanical problems, it’s the kind of car anyone could accept hating. However, it gained traction fairly quickly in the ’70s thanks to AMC’s clever marketing aimed at young drivers looking for unique vehicles.
American buyers still accustomed to large sedans found it odd and regarded it as a teenager’s car. It was described as having jerky handling and horrible to drive. Designed to save money and time, it was also incredibly private, with vacuum wipers and no trunk lid. Very inexpensive, approximately 675,000 units were produced, making it the second best-selling vehicle in AMC history.
2 Pontiac Fiero
The Pontiac Fiero was America’s first two-seat mid-engined sports car. First sold as a 1984 model, 370,000 units were produced until 1988 when it was discontinued. Sales were initially strong, but when customers discovered it was prone to oil leaks, overheating and burning, they stopped buying it. According to reports, one in every 508 Fieros sold would explode.
Having a horribly overweight and underpowered V6 engine and subpar performance didn’t help the situation either. Dismal reliability and high maintenance costs led to bad press and negative consumer feedback, which ultimately doomed it. In addition to damaging GM’s reputation, the Fiero cost GM nearly $2,000 per vehicle.
1 Yougo GV
The Yugo still tops the “lemon car” lists; it was waste that should never have left the factory. This subcompact sedan, based on an older Fiat 127, was manufactured in Soviet bloc Yugoslavia by Zastava automobiles. Brought to the United States, it became the best-selling first-year European import. The manufacturer sold more than 800,000 between 1985 and 1992 before reaching a historic low.
As its low price implied, it was abysmal. Although it passed safety inspections, it performed poorly in actual crashes, and gas mileage was terrible for a vehicle of its size. Engines would stop even before 25,000 miles, electrical systems would melt, and many other components would start to fall off. It wouldn’t take long for owners to despise the Yugo and the company that made it.