10 Cars That Deserved to Fail
Car models come and go. These auto embarrassments couldn't fail fast enough for us.
Car models come and go. And just like the discontinuation of our favorite model of gym shoe, or the rare timepiece we mortally wound and can't replace, their demise often hits us with immeasurable grief and sorrow. But every once in a while, a ride rolls off the assembly line that elicits an immediate "What the . . . ?" from anyone with even an ounce of automotive appreciation. Whether poorly positioned in the market, too much of a brand departure or just plain ugly, they're the vehicles we can't wait to see disappear. Here are 10 embarrassments that couldn't fail fast enough for us.
BMW Z3 (E36/4) (1996–2002)
Pierce Brosnan was far from the best James Bond, and the Z3 he drove in GoldenEye, BMW's first modern mass-market roadster, was anything but the Bavarian carmaker's most memorable agent. Grossly underpowered from the get-go, the 138-hp, 1.9-liter four-cylinder was quickly substituted for a 2.8-liter straight six. Still, its sub-200-horse numbers weren't anything to get excited about, and the car's wallowy handling couldn't match BMW's sharp sedans. Nevertheless, the Z3 sold quite well, and perhaps that's part of the problem — a car first marketed as a spy's ride sold to many drivers too tall or broad to pull off the look. A rare coupe version, known by those at the company as "the shoe," enjoyed a cult-like following because the car's stiffer structure noticeably improved the handling. But it wasn't until the next two generations of Z4 that BMW really left the roadster segment shaken and stirred.
Chevrolet SSR (2003–2006)
An early adopter of today's wildly popular retro-inspired designs, Chevy's "Super Sport Roadster" wasn't necessarily a bad-looking vehicle. Its bulging fenders and squatty stance gave it the appearance of something that could possibly grace a modern-day Beach Boys album. There was just one problem: It was a hardtop convertible pickup truck, with a V8. Void of any practicality (other than perhaps being a midlife crisis car), and bearing a horrendously flexible structure, the $42,000 SSR saw dismal sales in its brief lifetime. Despite GM's addition of the 400-hp LS2 in its final year of production, even mullet-adorned 'Vette owners shook their heads at this automotive oddball.
Mercedes-Benz C230 Hatchback (2000–2007)
There are few aspects of car-making where Mercedes-Benz doesn't shine, and that's partly why hardly anyone would use the word "attainable" to describe the brand. But ringing in at a mere $24,950, the supercharged C230 hatchback was just that. Another addition to the Baby Benz C-Class lineup, the three-door 230 attempted to overcome America's aversion to hatchbacks, but rather unsuccessfully. By no means a poorly made car, it was simply too far off the mark from Benz's established, status-symbol image. If the same model had been introduced as Volkswagen's new Corrado, its fate, no doubt, would have been drastically different.
Ford Pinto (1971–1980)
"Get rear-ended — and catch on fire." That could have been the unfortunate tagline for Ford's early foray into subcompact hatchbacks. With daring, commendable looks for its time (excluding a wagon version), the Pinto — named for the horse, not the bean — was commissioned to compete against the likes of the AMC Gremlin and Chevy Vega. This meant maintaining a rock-bottom price, a focus which reportedly caused rear-end-collision testing to be pushed until after the car's launch. If not for this deliberate oversight, engineers may have spotted the car's ticking-time-bomb nature sooner. Bolts protruding from the rear bumper and differential could easily penetrate the fuel tank in even low-speed accidents, culminating in fiery results, many of which found their way to court. It taught Ford a pricey lesson about why not to cut corners.
Yugo GV (1984–1991)
For all intents and purposes, the Zastava Koral — known stateside simply as the Yugo — had everything going for it. Making its U.S. debut at the 1984 Los Angeles Auto Show, the quirky hatchback offered buyers a 55-hp engine that was capable of 30-mpg fuel ratings and a claimed 110-mph top speed for just $3990. As an added bonus, the GV (great value) Yugo also boasted a 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty. However, few customers took heed of the owner's manual recommendation to change the interference engine's timing belt every 40,000 miles and found themselves stuck with blown motors no dealer would touch. There was also a highly publicized incident, when on a blustery day in Michigan in 1989, a driver, worried that the wind was blowing her '87 Yugo all over the road, stopped on the Mackinac Bridge, only to have a 55-mph gust blow her car over the edge and kill her.
The Yugo was a colossal bomb in every sense of the word, and Zastava's Kragujevac factory (suspected of making weapons and military vehicles) was itself bombed by NATO forces during a Kosovo air-raid, categorically ending its car-manufacturing days.
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As they lifted the curtain, you could hear a collective, "What the hell is that?" from everyone standing there. Lots of "That's the ugliest thing I've ever seen." and "What were they thinking?" comments.
The GM engineers and product folks were there and I felt for them. They were embarrassed.
Someone, with some sense, should have pulled the plug on that project early. What a waste of money. This "car" was indicative of the terminal stupidity from GM at that time.
My family had an Atzec and It lasted them almost 10 years before they traded it in for its suspension issues. That vehicle had amazing leather that aged amazingly and we used it for towing a camper and long drive over 3K a family trip. I thought it was weird looking but who wants a car that looks like everyone else’s. I really thought it was a very versatile vehicle with a lot of PROS. I am curious what some of these people that are making these comments drive. If you only use a car to get from A to B then you belong in a different car category (boring).
1986 i hade my first car from ford it was a PINTO baby blue color it was the ugliest thing i knew. i kept it for three years and it drove very good and i never knew those problems they have looking back i feel I've been lucky when that time i just only know i am poor lucky sometimes is where you never expecting thank you !!! and think again were is are luck
Also, where's the newer Ford Thunderbird? Maybe we need to see some sort of coherent criteria for a failure. In my eyes, a failure is something the manufacturer ultimately lost money and credibility on. The Hyundai Excel is not what I'd call a failure, despite how ugly it is. Sure, they lost some credibility, but they made a fortune that allowed them to build what they have today.
How come the Prius didnt make the list? Should of, burns more carbon credits to build than it saves.