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The car industry has been littered with awful vehicles that either sunk the companies that made them, or came very close to doing so.

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    General Motors 
The largest of America's "Big Four" (now Big Three) automakers, General Motors, or GM, has had more than a few down moments in its long history.

  • Cadillac: The luxury make has since seen its reputation as Standard of the World restored, but in the early 1980s, a series of marketing and production moves nearly permanently ruined its reputation:
    • The 1982 Cimarron, a car based off the identical Chevrolet Cavalier (and J-car stablemates at Buick, Oldsmobile and Pontiac) meant to cash in on the growing compact-entry level luxury car class. While not a bad car in and of itself, and certainly well appointed, the car's four-cylinder engine, high base price ($12,000, when a loaded Chevrolet Cavalier topped off at over $10,000), humble origins and underwhelming performance when compared to cars in its class badly damaged Cadillac's reputation.
    • The V8-6-4 engine, a variable displacement engine that aimed to shut off cylinders as they were unneeded in highway cruising. The engine was very novel and space age when introduced in 1981, but the technology didn't exist in the early 1980s to make it a reliable enough engine ... and it also kept many buyers away from the brand for years.
      • Even worse, Cadillac followed up the V8-6-4 debacle with the 'High Tech' HT4100. It was an aluminum V8 engine that suffered from oil pump failures, bearing failures, intake manifold gasket failures, head gasket failures due to the head bolts pulling right out of the aluminum block, and oil/coolant leaks literally happening right on showroom floors due to the porosity of the aluminum engine block castings! The kicker? The 'High Tech' V8 produced a whopping 135 horsepower.
  • Chevrolet: While generally immune to the trend, there have been aversions and failures:
    • The 1980 Corvette, particularly those sold in California. Due to toughening emissions standards and to respond to the aftershocks of the 1979 fuel crisis (where gasoline approached (gasp!) an unheard of $2 per gallon in some placesnote , a detuned 305-cid V-8 engine of a mere 180 horsepower was the only model offered. (Cars sold elsewhere had the more powerful 190-horse or optional 230-horse engine.) That, the fact that only automatic transmissions were available on the California cars and other quirks (notably, the 85-mph speedometer) turned off purists ... despite the car's continued success.
    • The 1991 Caprice. The end of the traditional full-sized rear-wheel drive car was partly due to styling that was poorly received, compared to a beached whale and an upside-down bathtub (although it should be noted that the 1992 Ford Crown Victoria was well praised despite very similar styling), but more so due to the growing market share held by sport utility vehicles. By the early 1990s, these were no longer seen purely as utilitarian work/off-road vehicles but, with the right options, trim, and other choices, could also serve as family vehicles, cannibalizing the market for full-size sedans. By the time it was discontinued in 1996, the only people still buying the Caprice were police departments who loved the car's Lightning Bruiser characteristics; indeed, it was so popular as a police cruiser that, for years, there were many garages that specialized in refurbishing old Caprices for police use. (Only in the late '00s, with the rise of the high-performance Dodge Charger sedan as a police interceptor, were many of these aging Caprices finally retired; however, Chevy has brought a new Caprice to market for police use only in recent years {based off the Australian Holden Commodore, known as the Pontiac G8 originally and then the Chevrolet SS}.)
  • Oldsmobile:
    • Throughout The '80s, the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme was one of the best-selling vehicles in the United States and the core model of the Oldsmobile line. However, when the fifth-generation Cutlass Supreme, based off GM's front wheel drive W-platform, debuted in 1988 as part of the company-wide GM-10 program, it was an unmitigated disaster that set in motion the events that lead to the brand's demise in 2004. While it was praised by automotive publications in its time and seen as a good car in its own right, its development was beset by large budget overruns and numerous production delays; while intended to be sold as a coupe, sedan, and wagon, only the coupe and sedan made it into production well behind schedule.

      However, the car's biggest downfall was the dissonance between Oldsmobile's product development and marketing staff over what it was supposed to be. While it was designed to be a technologically advanced family car for upper-middle-class baby boomers, it was marketed as a youthful performance car. When it hit showrooms in spring 1988, Oldsmobile launched it with the disastrous "The New Generation of Oldsmobile" ad campaign, in which the car was pitched by the college-aged children of celebrities with the tagline "This is not your father's Oldsmobile". This example commercial featured images of the car launching into space with William Shatner's daughter Melanie telling her dad, "Some things are just meant for the next generation!" Not only did the car fail to appeal to the Generation X buyers that it wasn't even designed for, but the campaign destroyed the prestigious brand image Oldsmobile built for itself over decades and prevented baby boomers and current customers from even looking at the car. Even worse, the campaign caused Oldsmobile to compete with other GM brands which were marketed to the same or a similar demographic. By the early 1990s, Oldsmobile was in the midst of a crippling identity crisis, and with the help of a painful recession which tanked auto sales across the board, was moving only a small fraction of the volume it moved less than a decade earlier; the loss of volume and large cost overruns of the GM-10 program caused massive financial losses for General Motors and was a major contributing factor in the company lapsing close to bankruptcy in 1992.

      Attempts to rebuild the Oldsmobile brand in The '90s failed, and then-CEO Jack Smith, who was focused on streamlining the company, eventually decided that Oldsmobile was a redundancy that had passed its prime and pulled the plug. Not only did the GM-10 Cutlass Supreme kill the Oldsmobile brand and (with the help of Roger & Me) cement 1980s GM CEO Roger Smith as the ultimate Pointy-Haired Boss of the automotive world for decades to come, it also almost killed General Motors as a whole. Today, GM-10 Cutlass Supremes are undesired and generally valueless (in stark contrast to the model they replaced, which are appreciating in value) and the "The New Generation of Oldsmobile" marketing campaign is regularly taught in business schools as a spectacular failure in brand management.
  • Pontiac:
    • The Aztek was indirectly responsible for the Pontiac brand being shuttered by General Motors in 2010. While those who actually bought it gave it some of the highest satisfaction scores in its class, its... distinctive appearance made it very polarizing, to the point that it was even criticized by GM executives. note  It is generally seen as the "point of no return" where Pontiac lost its credibility as a performance vehicle brand (which had already been slipping since The '80s) and became a parody of itself. While Pontiac would try to Win Back the Crowd later in the '00s with proper performance vehicles such as the GTO and G8 (which were badge-engineered Australian imports), it was too little, too late. Illustrating that styling was the Aztek's biggest problem, the vehicle's more conventionally-styled Buick twin, the Rendezvous, was far more successful. Having a pre-scandal Tiger Woods as its pitchman probably didn't hurt, either.

      The Aztek has, however, been somewhat Vindicated by History thanks to the TV series Breaking Bad. Similar to how Back to the Future turned the DeLorean from a Butt-Monkey flop into one of the most iconic cars of its era, Breaking Bad has ignited a new wave of interest and enthusiasm for the Aztek due to the public's new association of it with the show's anti-hero protagonist, Walter White. Furthermore, while it had flaws that were more than skin-deep (it was too expensive for its Gen-X target market, its poor aerodynamics gave it subpar fuel economy), it was also ahead of its time in several ways, serving as an early example of the compact "crossover utility vehicle" that, less than ten years later, would largely usurp the mammoth SUVs that dominated the market during the years when the Aztek was in production. In fact, one writer has argued that, in the long run, the Aztek saved GM as a whole even while destroying Pontiac, comparing it to the Apple Newton PDA and Macintosh Portable laptop in terms of concepts that were ahead of their time and just needed the kinks worked out first.
    • On top of the Aztek, Pontiac also had the problem of having one of the worst dealership networks in the country towards the end of its life. Pontiac dealers had grown notorious for poor service and pushy sales tactics, to the point where it's been argued that the reason why the aforementioned GTO and G8 flopped in spite of rave reviews partly because Pontiac's dealers tried to force buyers to pay thousands above sticker price for one.
  • Saturn:
    • The ION, which was critically panned and much less popular that the Saturn S-series economy cars that it replaced, is considered to be mainly responsible for the Saturn brand's dissolution in 2010 as well. While subsequent, more "upmarket" vehicles such as the Saturn Aura would be praised, they made the brand redundant, defeating its entire purpose as a "new start" for GM with a wholly separate dealership network and vehicle platforms. Thus, Saturn was an easy casualty during GM's bankruptcy restructuring.
  • Hummer:
    • While the Hummer brand might have survived either the Great Recession or the late '00s energy crisis had either happened on its own, the combination of both dealt it a crippling blow. With gas prices reaching well over $3 (and at times even $4) a gallon and staying there well into the '10s, at a time when the US was going through an economic crisis with sky-high unemployment rates and people losing their homes, people rapidly turned away from the brand whose very name had become a synonym for "flashy, expensive gas-guzzler". During GM's bankruptcy restructuring, Hummer was among the first brands to go; attempts to sell it to a Chinese company in 2009 failed, and it was quietly shut down with Saturn and Pontiac the following year.

    Chrysler Corporation 
The No. 3 automaker has had its series of major failures, and while the company was able to stay afloat in some cases, in one case an entire marque was done away with:

  • The 1962 Dodge and Plymouth full-size cars were born when Chrysler president Bill Newberg heard a rumor about General Motors introducing a smaller Chevrolet for the 1962 model year and immediately assumed they were gonna downsize their full-size cars.note  Consequently, Newberg ordered a crash downsizing of the full-size Dodge and Plymouths. Having already finalized the design of the 1962 models, stylists were forced to hastily adapt them to the smaller dimensions. The resulting cars were oddly styled and overpriced for their size. Unsurprisingly, the new cars ended up being a sales disaster-Plymouth went from fourth to ninth place in sales. Even worse, while Chrysler recovered from the fiasco, it decided the best course of action was to make its full-size cars bigger, which came back to bite them in the 1973-74 oil crisis.
    • The 1962 Chryslers also proved to be a creator killer for longtime Chrysler styling chief Virgil Exner, who was made The Scapegoat and fired.
  • The 1976 Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare had tremendous reliability and recall problems when first introduced — including notorious rustproofing problems — so much to the point that the costs Chrysler faced servicing the vehicles under warranty were a major factor in its near stint with bankruptcy during the late 1970s/early 1980s.
  • The third-generation Chrysler Sebring turned Chrysler into a joke during the late 2000s and all but destroyed the company's reputation, of which it is still trying to recover. While marketed as a luxury sedan with the most loaded models costing close to $40,000, odd styling (One reviewer called the Sebring "an art-deco mess") and how the Sebring's performance, ride, and build and material quality were below that of vehicles that cost half as much made it a universally panned bust. When Chrysler went asking for a government bailout during 2008, many commentators and opponents brought up the Sebring to dispute Chrysler's claims that the global financial crisis was the source of the company's cash crunch. While most of Chrysler's product lineup at the time was uncompetitive, the Sebring was the most prominent due to how spectacularly underwhelming it was considering its price, and given that Chrysler had the far superior full-size 300 in its lineup right next to it. The Sebring is almost universally considered to be one of the worst cars made in recent memory, and even Chrysler enthusiasts will admit that it is a terrible car (though there exists a vocal minority that defends it).

    Chrysler's new owners at Fiat gave the fourth-generation Sebring performance, styling, handling, comfort, and build and material quality upgrades that addressed many of its shortcomings, lowered its price, and renamed it the Chrysler 200. While still not a world beater, the 200 is a reasonably decent car that is much more popular and held in much higher regard than the Sebring and is helping to rebuild the brand image the Sebring destroyed. The Sebring/200 thus hold the interesting distinction of the same car both playing this trope straight and subverting it.

    However, a completely redesigned 200 would repeat the cycle. It earned mediocre reviews (though it didn't come remotely close to being critically savaged in the same way the 2007 Sebring did) and flopped in the market and was discontinued after only two years.

    Ford Motor Co. 
Ford was luckier than most when it came to its failed cars, but several brands weren't immune to the Creator Killer phenomenon:

  • Believe it or not, the Model T almost became this for the Ford Motor Company. As the Model T aged and GM and Chrysler introduced more modern and innovative vehicles, Henry Ford and the company's management refused to break away from the company's original mission of building cheap, utilitarian vehicles, costing Ford a lot of market share. in 1927, Ford would eventually cave and replace the Model T with the Model A, a much more powerful, stylish, and luxurious car that was on par with the competitors that were ravaging the Model T. It would go on to become a best-seller and turn around the company's fortunes.
  • While Ford was able to recover from the Edsel, the car itself became synonymous with failure with products in general and one of the most famous examples of such. Its unique horse-collar grille (or, less charitably, a "toilet-seat" grille) led to a popular joke claiming that it looked like "an Oldsmobile sucking a lemon", and while similar styling would later be used by other automakers to a better reception, the Edsel still became a subject of mockery the moment it was announced. Furthermore, it was an upscale brand launched at the onset of what became the Recession of 1958, to say nothing of the fact that Ford already had an upscale brand (Mercury) that commanded its target market. Finally, it had quality control issues due to both its complex push-button transmission selector and it being built on Ford and Mercury assembly lines, which forced factory workers to constantly change tools and parts bins whenever an Edsel came down the line. While it was ahead of its time in a number of ways, the technology and the market just were not ready for it in the late '50s. Not even The Edsel Show, a well-received 1957 Variety Show special designed to promote the car that helped give Bing Crosby a Career Resurrection in television, could get people to buy it. The only thing Edsel is being used for now is Snark Bait on the Internet.
  • In 1968, Ford vice-president Lee Iacocca, who had engineered the Mustang and several other classic Ford cars in The '60s, recognized that, with growing competition from German and Japanese automakers, Ford would soon need a compact, fuel-efficient car at the bottom of its lineup, and led a team to create a car that weighed less than two thousand pounds and could be sold for less than $2,000. The car in question was the Pinto, and initially, it was hailed as another success story for Ford and Iacocca, who became president of Ford in 1970... until its notorious fuel tank/rear-end collision problems came to light. Iacocca was fired in 1978, one month after Ford recalled 1.5 million Pintos, as he became The Scapegoat for the car's problems — and not unjustifiably, as he had rushed the car into production and cut corners in order to keep the cost down. Fortunately, he quickly made a comeback at Chrysler, where he was hailed for turning that company around in The '80s and saving it from its own near-brush with a Creator Killer (see above).
  • While it's a little early to say if it's going to be the case, Ford's decision in April 2018 to focus production exclusively on SUVs and Trucks is widely viewed as the final nail in the coffin for the company. Sure, SUVs are selling great at the moment, but should another financial or energy crisis come, Ford will be absolutely screwed without a lineup of cheap and affordable compact cars. The 2018 trade war between the United States and China certainly hasn't helped, either, as it ultimately reduced Ford's non-SUV and non-Truck offerings to the Mustang, and even that's not a safe deal if the 2019 discontinuation of the Volkswagen Beetle, another iconic car, is anything to go by.

    American Motors (and its precursors) 
The smallest of the Big Four, American Motors was formed by a merger of smaller automakers trying to stay in business against Ford, GM, and Chrysler. It worked for a time, but by The '80s the company had fallen apart due to the oil crisis, with its pieces absorbed by Chrysler.

  • The 1953-54 Hudson Jet was the car that was responsible for American Motors' creation in the first place. While a good car, the compact cost so much to develop, and sold so poorly as a result of its high price, that Hudson was forced to merge with Nash and form American Motors in order to stave off bankruptcy. The Hudson nameplate disappeared three years later.
  • The 1975 Pacer was the point at which American Motors' fate was sealed. Its subpar fuel economy for a compact car, its... unconventional styling, and a Troubled Production that saw GM canceling the rotary engine project that was to power the car (it had to be hastily redesigned to fit the older, longer AMC Straight-6) all overshadowed its various innovations and doomed it at the marketplace. It's a classic now, but a Cult Classic, remembered as a symbol of '70s kitsch.
  • In The '80s, AMC struck a deal with French automaker Renault to build and sell the Renault 9 subcompact in the US as the Renault Alliance. Unfortunately, in addition to bland styling, the Alliance had dismal performance even by American subcompact standards - the base engine had a puny 64 horsepower, giving a car a blistering 0-60MPH time of 14.3 seconds and a top speed of 89 MPH. Add to that the reliability issues faced by all Renault cars in the 1980s, and you have a recipe for disaster. Sales started off strong, but declined as gas prices fell, which negated the Alliance's one advantage-fuel economy. To make matters worse, AMC had bet their fortunes on the Alliance to the point of stopping production of all of their homegrown models save for the Eagle and the Jeep model line, so when Alliance sales tanked, it took the company with it.
    • Not only that, but the head of Renault, Georges Besse, who had championed their involvement with AMC, was assassinated by a group of anarchists angry over his layoff of Renault workers- once he was gone, support for AMC at Renault evaporated and the company was part of Chrysler by the end of 1987.

    Mitsubishi Motors 
The automotive division of one of the Japanese Mega-Corp, Mitsubishi Motors had decent market share in the old days, but their Unfortunate Implications on Misaimed Marketing during Turn of the Millennium almost ruined their businesses.
  • The Lancer Evolution line enjoyed a pronounced Red Stapler effect in the 1990s and early 2000s due to a heated rivalry with Subaru Impreza WRX STI in World Rally Championship during these times, with Mitsubishi importing it to the US thanks to its appearance in, and popularity from, the Gran Turismo series and other popular racing games. As time went on, however, it lost its appeal among both fans and the general public, leading to struggling sales that almost pronounced the end for Mitsubishi Motors; the fact that the car was never updated after 2007 probably only made things worse. Only by discontinuing the entire Lancer Evolution range in 2016 did they stop the bleeding. The normal Lancer range was also affected, and the company will have to discontinue them as well as it focuses on its SUVs. The Lancer Evolution is now a Cult Classic, remembered as a symbol of 2000s Japanese tuner kitsch.
  • Similar to Oldsmobile listed above, Mitsubishi was slaughtered in the United States by an egregiously bad marketing campaign. In the early 2000's Mitsubishi launched its infamous 0-0-0 campaign, in which one could buy a Mitsubishi car with no down payment, 0% interest and have all of their monthly payments deferred for a year. While it was initially successful in raising sales, it came back to bite them when many buyers defaulted once their first payment was due. Many others tried to get rid of their cars at the end of the grace period by committing insurance fraud. Either way, Mitsubishi was now stuck with thousands of repossessed cars which they had received no money for and were worth thousands less than what they cost to manufacture. Mitsubishi was forced to write off a $454 million loss in 2003 as a result of the program - a major financial hit for a company of their size. With the subsequent cash crunch, Mitsubishi was forced to drastically scale back future product development and marketing - right when resurgent Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia launched a major expansion push aimed directly at Mitsubishi's core market. Sales tanked precipitously and by 2009, in the depths of the Great Recession, Mitsubishi as a whole sold a paltry 39,000 cars in the US for the year. Since then, industry observers have been in unanimous agreement that Mitsubishi pulling out of the US market is not a matter of if, but a matter of when.
  • Mitsubishi Australia had been struggling in the Australian car market for years and pinned its last-ditch hopes on the 380 model (a recently-discontinued Galant model) introduced in 2005. Instead, sales fell short of expectations, and Mitsubishi ended up closing down all of its Australian factories for good.
  • In April 2016, it was revealed that Mitsubishi had lied about the fuel economy of several kei cars in its model range. As a result, they were forced to compensate customers 100,000 yen per customer.

    Other automakers 
  • The Rootes Group, a major British car maker, came unstuck with the Hillman Imp. It single-handedly led to the company's takeover by Chrysler and subsequent long-term decline.
  • The DeLorean Car Company. See Real Life section of The Alleged Car for more information.
  • At its height, luxury brand Packard was more prestigious than Cadillac but entered a period of slow decline in the 1950s. The 1957-58 "Packardbakers," thinly-disguised Studebakers which came nowhere close to meeting established Packard standards, killed the nameplate off for good.
  • The edgy, polarizing styling of the 1937 "Spirit of Motion" sedan—more commonly referred to as the "Sharknose"—led to devastating financial losses for the Graham-Paige Motors Corporation.
  • Audi suffered a huge loss in the United States after reports of sudden unintentional acceleration in the Audi 5000, where faults in the engine idle system — plus some extremely close pedals, making misapplication easy — would cause the car to surge forward. USA Audi sales plummeted from 74k in 1985 to 12k in 1990, resale values went through the floor, and extended warranties were offered in desperation to avoid lawsuits. The car was even rebranded to the Audi "100" to avoid the connotations with the 5000. The brand didn't recover for a decade.
  • Facel Vega was a famous French automaker known for strikingly beautiful sports cars owned by a lot of celebrities during The '50s and The '60s; kind of like a Gallic Aston Martin. When they try to go downmarket with the Facellia, it seemed like a harmless idea to make a smaller, more accessible sports car based on their lineup. Unfortunately, the car gained a notorious reputation as an Alleged Car when it turned out that the engine can easily break down and become a financial drain to fix. While the company managed to rectify the problem with a better engine, it was already too late; oversaturation of the market and the poor sales of this specific model would ensure Facel Vega would close its doors less than a decade after the brand's launch.
  • Maserati remains a prestigious brand known for its high power luxury cars, but in The '80s that prestige was threatened with the launch of the Biturbo, which was a downmarket vehicle that aimed for higher affordability among North American consumers. Going through several evolutions, it was sold as a coupe and later as a four-door sedan, but became notorious for its lack of speed and high repair costs. The car was seen as a radical departure from the Maserati brand, and its power and styling came under intense scrutiny from both critics and buyers alike. The Biturbo's unflattering reputation meant that Maserati would not see a return to the mainstream North American market until The New '10s when they finally staged a comeback.
  • Mazda's entire Wankel engine lineup became obsolete with the 70's oil crisis. While Wankel engine cars had been popular before the crisis due to their low production costs, the crisis made unusable as daily drivers due to their high oil consumption and emissions. Since most of Mazda's lineup was composed of Wankel engine cars at the time, the company very nearly went bankrupt, but was able to survive thanks to the few piston engine cars they still had in their lineup. After the crisis, Wankel engine would be excursively used in their RX lineup of sports cars until 2011, when Wankel engines weren't able to fulfill the tightened emissions regulations anymore. Mazda still is researching the engine though and is planning to use it in their hybrid cars in the future.
  • The 1930 Bentley 8 Litre was a mechanically competent car for the time but one that had a price tag of 1850 pounds. Like the Edsel and Hummer later it it hit the market at the wrong time as by 1930 The Great Depression hit Europe. Rolls-Royce bought out Bentley a year later and only 100 were built.


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