All of those crappy cars that appear in fiction have to come from somewhere, and there's no shortage of Real Life Alleged Cars to provide inspiration. From all over the world, from the industrial powerhouses to up-and-coming nations, people have encountered cars like this. They constantly break down, they're made of substandard materials and fall apart, they're ridiculously underpowered, and they might even be so unsafe that they can't legally be sold in certain countries. Outside the wiki, you might see such cars referred to as "lemons".
There's also a subset of Alleged Cars that aren't actually truly horrible and non-functional, but they have this reputation because they're cheap, foreign, underpowered, ugly, and often horrendously mismarketed. If these cars function poorly, it's mostly because nobody bothers to maintain them, and any car can become a rickety deathtrap if it's sufficiently neglected. Examples on this page should be genuinely terrible cars, or at least have this reputation in the media and be totally unable to shake it. We're not here to just catalogue crappy cars that people have found; there's got to be something inherently wrong with it.
- The 1975 Bricklin SV1, the only car ever made in Saint John, New Brunswick, was a concept for a safer sports car, but all the safety features weighed it down to the point that it couldn't outrun a school bus.
- One of the alleged safety features was the lack of a cigarette lighter or ashtray, as the car's creator Malcolm Bricklin wanted to discourage smoking and driving. (He proved to be ahead of his time on this one, though for safety reasons not associated with the act of driving itself.)
- Despite the claims of safety, one glaring problem made the car downright dangerous: The gull-wing doors were electrically operated and too heavy to open by hand if the motors failed, so a dead battery meant the only way to get out of the car was to climb out through the rear hatch.
- The company's production process was so inefficient that the cost of building a Bricklin was over three times the price it sold for. (They probably expected to make it up on volume.)
- Asuna was GM's plan for a Canadian brand, in keeping with the company's tendency to sell the same car in different countries with different brand names. However, it wasn't exactly the same car, and the Canadian re-engineered version wasn't as good as what you would find elsewhere. Europeans got the Opel Kadett E, which became the Daewoo LeMans in South Korea, which became the Pontiac LeMans in the U.S., which became the Asuna SE and GT in Canada — and after so many iterations, each less reliable than the last, Canada got the short end of the stick. When Canadians realized that their cars were getting 96hp and the European equivalent was getting 116hp, they starting importing Opels rather than buying local Asunas. Asuna tried the same thing with the Sunrunner, which was a rebranded Suzuki Vitara, and the Sunfire, which was a rebranded Isuzu Piazza (see below), both of which had more or less the same thing happen to them.
- The Ford Model T, despite being the very car that put the world on wheels in the 1910s and early 1920s, had become a primitive, funny-looking Alleged Car by the late 1920s, especially once technological advances made it obsolete. In fact, its early success was because of its primitiveness; other cars were fancier and more efficient, but the Model T had fewer things that could go wrong and was thus easier to maintain if you knew what you were doing. By the 1930s, Model Ts were commonly used as stunt cars in comedies because of their cheapness, disposability, and idiosyncratic controls, making it ideal for depicting comedic fools like Buster Keaton or Laurel and Hardy.
- The Edsel's gotten a Shout-Out in everything from Garfield to Destroy All Humans! as one of the worst cars ever made. It wasn't that bad mechanically (it was about as reliable as other American cars of its day), but it was marketed wrong, priced wrong, named wrong, and most of all, just plain ugly. Ford thought up the Edsel pretty darn quickly, launching it in 1957, and it sold so poorly that it lasted only two and a half years before Ford cut its substantial losses and shut the whole thing down. It's seen now as being a little ahead of its time, introducing features such as dashboard warning lights and automatic lubrication. But if you want to know what people thought of it in the 1950s:
- Most of the ugliness came from the "impact ring", a huge, bulbous, vertical chromed grille on the front fascia. Some said it looked like a horse collar. Others less charitably compared it to "an Oldsmobile sucking on a lemon", or even a toilet seat. But perhaps most damningly, as comedians have pointed out, when most cars of the era were thinly-disguised phallic symbols, the Edsel had a prominent, enormous, chrome-plated vaginanote . The designers toned down this feature significantly for the post-debut 1959 models, but this facelift did little to boost its sales, as the car had a few other problems.
- Its transmission was operated by push-buttons, this being all the rage at the time. But instead of putting the buttons on the dashboard, they were all grouped together in the middle of the steering wheel, where the horn button typically is. It was not very easy to reach them while driving, and drivers trying to honk their horns would accidentally switch gears instead.
- The Edsel was a Ford brand, and Ford didn't spend a lot of time figuring out where to fit it in the company's brand lineup. They tried to squeeze it between the low-end Ford brand and the mid-range Mercury brand, but there was no space whatsoever pricing-wise between the two lines, which led to a fully equipped Edsel Ranger ($2,643) costing less than a fully equipped Ford Fairlaine 500 ($3,138) and a base model Edsel Pacer ($2,700) or Corsair ($3,311) costing more than a base model of their Mercury counterparts Monterey ($2,652) or Montclair ($3,236). This confused potential customers who weren't sure if Edsel was supposed to be a step above or below Mercury, and forced Edsel to compete against other Ford products.
- Ford also didn't think about how to manufacture the Edsel, and they introduced the car without any dedicated factories to produce it, cramming Edsels onto existing production lines for Lincoln and Mercury cars. This caused confusion both in the supply chain and on the assembly line, leading to many manufacturing defects like doors that wouldn't open, trunks that wouldn't shut, and push-buttons that wouldn't do anything. Some Edsels arrived at car lots incomplete, missing things like the exhaust system or bits of trim, and dealers were forced to install those themselves before they could sell the car.
- It hit the market at the wrong time, right at the onset of the 1958 recession. Americans were just starting to sour on huge, over-the-top land yachts. It wasn't until model year 1960 that Ford introduced the sensible compact Falcon and saw that it was an immediate success; its fancier sibling Comet was a Mercury, but was originally considered for the Edsel lineup.
- Probably the only good thing about it was how it was promoted. The Edsel Show was a TV special aired on CBS on October 13, 1957, that featured a plethora of the era's biggest stars, including Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra appearing together on TV for the first time. It was a hit among the public, but it couldn't save the car. (It's also historically significant for being the earliest TV broadcast preserved on videotape, used to time-delay the broadcast on the West Coast.)
- American automakers have been known to have an unfortunate tendency to discover defects and choose not to fix them because it's cheaper to settle class action lawsuits and wrongful death claims than to tweak every single car on the production line:
- The Ford Pinto came out in the early 1970s when the oil crisis forced American manufacturers to make small cars just to survive. Although it was fairly popular, it was discovered to have had a defect where a rear-end collision could rupture the poorly-placed gas tank. The result was a hysteria that gave the car its reputation and named a trope for cars catching fire and exploding easily. It wasn't as unsafe as you might think — only 27 deaths were traced to accidents like that between 1971-77 out of over 2 million cars sold, and the government didn't think it needed recalling in 1974. What caused the panic was the "Pinto memo", as revealed in the Grimshaw v. Ford case, in which Ford allegedly claimed that there was a cheap fix that would solve the problem, but it was even cheaper not to fix it and settle future injury and wrongful death claims. That pissed off the public and directly led to the court in Grimshaw slapping Ford with $6 million in total damages. (The memo itself wasn't actually about the Pinto specifically.) The Pinto is hated by muscle car enthusiasts for entirely different reasons, being the basis for the unusually compact 1974-78 Mustang II.
- Ford got hit with a repeat of the Pinto fiasco with the PowerShift transmission debacle. In short, Ford saddled that generation's Fiesta and Focus (otherwise well-regarded cars) with a poorly designed dual-clutch transmission which would often cause shuddering and rough shifts, and which would sometimes outright refuse to respond when acceleration is required. Ford did exactly the same thing they did with the Pinto — in this case, they knew the issue before these cars even hit production, and they decided it was cheaper to pay settlements than issue a recall. The backlash was such that both the Fiesta and Focus were killed off in North America, even as they remain popular cars elsewhere.
- As famously documented by Ralph Nader in Unsafe at Any Speed, the first-generation Chevy Corvair was basically GM's version of the Pinto in the sense that it would become better known for its safety issues than for its merits as an automobile. Although popular, it quickly gained notoriety for its rear-engine layout and swing-axle suspension — common in Europe, but unusual in North America. This configuration requires some expert handling — in Europe, drivers were expected to be able to do it (e.g. the Porsche 911) or the car itself wasn't powerful enough for it to matter (e.g. the Volkswagen Beetle). In North America, drivers expecting the Corvair to behave like any other everyday mid-market car were in for a nasty surprise, and this led to many driver casualties, the most famous of which was Ernie Kovacs. GM did the same thing Ford did with the Pinto and initially chose to settle rather than fix the problem until the car's reputation killed not only the Corvair but the rear-engine automobile in North America in general.
- The Chevrolet Cobalt was never a very well-received car; most enthusiasts thought it mediocre at best, and people only bought it because it was cheap. Then (after it was discontinued and replaced with the far superior Cruze) it was discovered to have an issue where by simply bumping the ignition key ring, the whole car could be sent into a powerless state where it will still drive, but without power steering or brakes. This led to a recall in 2014 that applied to 60% of the Cobalts still on the road. GM knew about it but didn't fix it, although this time their excuse was that it was 2009 and the entire auto industry was at risk of financial collapse (which is why they had asked for a government bailout).
- The Cobalt's GM Delta platform relative, the Saturn ION, took everything wrong with the former and cranked it Up to Eleven, and on top of that, it featured some truly bizarre design choices such as the gauges being placed above the center panel rather than on the dashboard. It's widely credited with killing off the once-successful brand, which was discontinued in 2010.
- The Chevy Vega had a strong debut, winning Motor Trend Car of the Year in 1971 and being the first car offered (and won) on the 1972 debut of The New Price Is Right. Unfortunately, the aluminum-block engine (including a cast-iron cylinder head that actually weighed more than the engine block) was susceptible to vibration and overheating, which often resulted in oil leaking into the cylinders from cracked valve stem seals. On top of that, the body was very rust-prone. While GM was able to fix some of the problems later in the car's lifespan, it was too late, and the Vega was dropped after the 1977 model year.
- American automakers also had an unfortunate trend of trying to compete with the rest of the world by consolidating their entire lineup into a single car, onto which they would put different bodies so that they could market them as entirely different cars. Not only was it more difficult to differentiate between each automaker's different badges, but if the base car had a flaw, all of its derivatives suffered.
- Chrysler was the first with its "K-car", which actually worked out okay at first, but it wasn't very versatile. They tried making a limousine out of it, only to make something that looked like a slightly longer K-car that still had a four-cylinder engine. They also partnered with Italian luxury automaker Maserati to make the Chrysler TC out of the K-car, and while they were aiming for a "budget Maserati", it utterly failed to distinguish itself from any other Chrysler you could get (aside from being more expensive).
- GM tried the same thing and put even less effort than Chrysler did, basically just changing the badges, headlamps, and taillights and trying to claim they were different cars. The platform (starting with the 1980 Chevy Citation) itself was extremely flawed, including overenthusiastic rear brakes that would lock up and cause an "atomic death-skid", a persistent and quick-onset rust problem, notoriously unreliable head gaskets, and atrocious build quality.note GM tried again with the "J-car", based on the Chevrolet Cavalier, only to nearly kill the Cadillac brand with the derivative The Cadillac Cimarron, which was basically the same carnote but with a Cadillac badge and pricetag — and nobody saw the point in buying it if they could get a Cavalier with all available options for $3000 less. Cadillac survived, but their executives still keep a picture of the Cimarron in their offices with the caption "Lest We Forget".
- The Cadillac Catera was an attempt to do this with a foreign car, the Opel Omega. By then, Opel had been bought by GM, and GM figured it could turn a German car into a sporty American car that could rival European sedans like the BMW 5 series or the Mercedes E-class. Except Opel is not a German luxury brand and didn't compete with those brands in Europe, and the Catera stripped away what advantages the Omega had, with a derated engine, softer suspension, automatic gearbox only, and bland interior design. The Catera also had problems with the oil cooler and timing belt, as well as a bizarre advertising campaign featuring an anthropomorphic cartoon spokes-duck.note No wonder it was described by Regular Car Reviews as Cadillac's Chris Gaines album.
- The 1957 "Forward Look" Chryslers were a smash hit thanks to their bold styling. Unfortunately, owners soon discovered a litany of issues due to Chrysler rushing the products out the door, such as premature rusting, leaking windshield frames, and parts occasionally falling off. The resulting negative publicity, combined with the 1957-58 economic recession, seriously harmed Chrysler's sales. DeSoto was hit the worst-in addition to the above, they were affected by internal competition from the Chrysler marque caused by the latter moving downmarket to accomodate the Imperial line. Their sales would continue to plummet year after year until Chrysler management decided they were a lost cause and retired the DeSoto marque after a brief run of 1961 models.
- During the 1960s-'70s, Chrysler foolishly took control of the Rootes Group in Britain, which supplied them with cars smaller than what Chrysler Corporation proper wanted to build, with generally poor results. The nadir was the 1971-73 Plymouth Cricket (a.k.a. the Hillman Avenger), which had poor workmanship and tended to rust like crazy. To add insult to injury to the Chrysler-Plymouth dealers, the Dodge sales channel got the far better Mitsubishi-sourced Colt.
- The Dodge Neon earned large amounts of critical acclaim upon its launch in 1994 and was a huge success in both the showroom and on the track, as well as being a very influential design and concept that influenced all of today's compact cars to some extent. However, the quality and reliability problems that plagued early models (its tendency for head gasket failure being the most notable), its "cute" design, and the fact that many were turned into Rice Burners during the street racing fad of the mid-2000s led to the Neon being a common Alleged Car today.
- The Smith Flyer, introduced in 1915, barely qualified as an automobile, being once described as "a motorized park bench on bicycle wheels" — it didn't even have a roof! It was powered by a fifth wheel on which a small gasoline engine was mounted, and there were no brakes or speed controls — the only way to adjust the speed was to lower the fifth wheel to stop and raise it to start. But it sold for as little as $125 in 1922 (about $2000 today), making it the cheapest car of all time. The manufacturing rights were sold to Briggs and Stratton in 1922 and the car was renamed the Briggs and Stratton Flyer; the company sold the rights to another company in 1925, but they adapted the motor that powered the fifth wheel to other applications, thus beginning the Briggs and Stratton small motor empire.
- The DeLorean DMC-12 is most famous for its appearance as a tricked-out Time Machine in Back to the Future, but despite its cool design and gullwing doors, it's notoriously unreliable and suffered from serious production issues.
- John DeLorean couldn't find a place to set up a factory; he went all over Europe and was turned down. Finally, he got an offer from the British government to set up a factory in the Belfast suburb of Dunmurry, in Northern Ireland. It was right on a religious fault line, and the British were so desperate to get the locals to do something other than take potshots at each other that they were willing to underwrite a big chunk of the costs. It was rumored that the factory had separate entrances for Catholics and Protestants. Many of the workers had also never had a job of any kind in their lives. As such, build quality suffered. The cars often had to undergo refurbishment at point of distribution to fix defects before even the dealers could get their hands on them.
- Each car had a 12-month, 20,000 km warranty, but even that wasn't enough to convince dealerships to carry out any work on them; they were notoriously unreliable.
- Continuing financial issues at DMC meant plenty of people in the sales and service networks weren't being reimbursed, leading to a drop off in enthusiasm for the car. Eventually, John DeLorean would go to trial over accusations he had taken up drug smuggling to pay the bills. Though acquitted, the scandal put an end on anyone willing to loan more capital and anxious investors who wanted their money back sped up the company's collapse.
- As for the car's performance, let's put it this way: if you can actually get this baby up to 88 mph, you really are seeing some serious shit. Its performance was quite lacklustre, especially for an intended supercar, because it was watered down to save costs. It was originally designed for a rear-mounted rotary engine, but due to fuel concerns it got a mid-mounted 2.8-litre V6 instead; this not only caused weight distribution issues but also meant the very expensive DeLorean made only 145 HP (125 in the U.S. due to further emissions controls).
- Back to the Future is the only thing keeping it alive now, especially when people realize that using it as a time machine was proof that Doc Brown didn't have all his screws in tight enough (and now you understand why Marty is so incredulous that he made a time machine out of a DeLorean). A new company was formed in 2013 to remake the DMC-12 in several much more modern and reliable versions (including an electric one!).
- AMC cars, in particular the Gremlin and Pacer, have this reputation. They were underpowered, rust-prone, and homely-looking. They weren't as bad as people think, though, and they've since developed a kind of cult following. They're often credited for killing AMC as a company, but what really killed them was the AMC/Renault Alliance, a.k.a. "the Appliance". Both companies were well-known for making... interestingly-styled cars, and when combined, the Alliance had the Gallic eccentricity of a Renault and the attractiveness of... well, a Gremlin. The Alliance could be outrun by a loaded Isuzu diesel pickup truck. AMC wound up being bought by Chrysler, and Renault would pull out of the U.S. market for good.
- The Pontiac Aztek is considered an Alleged SUV if there ever was one. It was notoriously ugly, earning the derisive nickname "Ass-Tek". It was full of weird angles designed to make it look "futuristic". Its awkward shape caused aerodynamic problems that worsened the car's performance, and it was also very good at collecting snow rather than shedding it. Its performance wasn't terrible for an SUV, and its interior space was surprisingly well-apportioned, but that just added to the joke — the best place for an Aztek driver is in the driver's seat, so you don't have to look at it. Its reputation as an ugly, crappy SUV with no resale value is why Walter White drives one in Breaking Bad, which gets put through hell and is eventually sold for just $50. (The car did pick up a cult following and almost became a character in itself, but only because of the irony of it being an Alleged Car.)
- GM rather infamously claimed this of its EV1, a revolutionary electric car built in the 1990s. The people who drove it liked it, and it did more to advance electric car technology than any other vehicle. But GM was losing money making it; they first had to compromise weight and range by using mass-produced heavy lead-acid batteries, then they priced it pretty high for a two-seater compact car, and then they claimed they couldn't develop the technology to make it profitable. But GM didn't just end production; they cancelled every lease, recalled every car they could, and crushed them. Only 40 examples are known to survive, and most are in museums on the condition that they never be driven again. On top of that, only one is in operational conditionthe specimen at the Smithsonian Institution, which has a strict policy of accepting only fully intact specimens. Many people who liked the car called bullshit on the "Alleged Car" designation and suspected that the oil companies had convinced GM to squash it.
- The Chrysler PT Cruiser was originally a novelty thanks to its "retro" design, but the novelty wore off quickly. Its anemic performance didn't endear it to younger drivers. Early models were built like anvils, and the overstressed running gear quickly gained a reputation for frequent and expensive mechanical failures (particularly the head gaskets, suspension bushings, and transmission). Later versions were made lighter by "de-contenting" them; in fact, the back seats can be removed without tools, leaving you with a small van. People who drove the "PT Loser" either couldn't afford anything better or were hopelessly and inexplicably in love with the aesthetic. Its reputation is so awful that dealers won't bid on them at private auctions.
- The third-generation Chrysler Sebring turned Chrysler into a joke during the late 2000s and all but destroyed the company's reputation. While marketed as a luxury sedan with the most loaded models costing close to $40,000, you could get a car with superior performance, ride, and build for half that much. That and its odd styling made it a universally-panned bust. When Chrysler asked for a government bailout in 2008, they claimed it was because of the global financial crisis, but commentators quickly pointed to the Sebring as evidence that the company brought its financial woes upon itself. Even most Chrysler enthusiasts will admit that it's a terrible car.
- The Ford Explorer has had its ups and downs over the years, but its Dork Age was between 2000 and 2002. These models were involved in a controversy over defective Bridgestone tires that caused a number of fatal accidents and led to the resignation of Ford CEO Jacques Nasser. The 2002 model had several fatal transmission issues and so many reliability complaints about the rest of the car that it has the dishonor of being the worst vehicle on "Car Complaints". Some wags have dubbed it the "Ford Exploder".
- Chrysler's LH engine could turn any car into an Alleged Car. Its oil passages were too narrow and tended to build up with sludge quickly, easily clogging and killing the motor in short order. It also had leaky water pump gaskets that allowed oil and coolant to mix (which would also turn into engine-killing sludge).
- The Oldsmobile diesel engine was introduced in 1978 to give customers the option of a large car with good fuel economy during the '70s gas crisis. Unfortunately, while it did get better fuel economy than a comparable gas V8, the engine performed poorly (the biggest 5.7-liter variant had only 105 hp) and had no tolerance for water-contaminated diesel fuel due to not having a water-fuel separator. They also failed to provide a properly winterized fuel system; the cars would either fail to start or die somewhere along the road in freezing temperatures. Finally, the fact the block (based on the venerable 350 cu. in. GM V8) wasn't quite strengthened enough to handle the higher compression of diesel ignition meant warped heads and coolant leaks that would destroy the engine as soon as 20,000 miles in. It is frequently listed as one of the reasons why many Americans still distrust diesel cars.
- In 1975, the United States was the first nation to mandate installing catalytic converters in cars. Unfortunately, the technology was not sufficiently mature and had a few shortcomings:
- The converters restricted the exhaust and required carburetion changes that reduced performance and worsened fuel economy.
- They could not stand continuous highway driving under heavy loads and might require stops every few hours to cool down.
- Heat shielding was often insufficient. Toasted carpeting and melted floormats were not unheard of, and if you parked on tall grass (or worse, dry leaves) the heat from the catalytic converter could set the grass on fire.
- The CitiCar was a 1970s electric car that looked like a cheese wedge. Made during the oil crisis, it was made of plastic car and literally bolted together. It effectively had only three speeds, as the engine could only run at four modes (reverse, 25 volts through a resister, 25 volts without the resister, and 48 volts). At most, it could just manage 35 mph. The only way to make the windows go down was to remove the windows entirely. It also lacked air conditioning, a heater, or even a radio. It also lacked a defroster even though there was a "Defroster" switch on the dash. Its battery would be dead after just 40 miles.
- The Nissan Tsuru, better known as the third-generation Sentra in the U.S. and Canada, remained virtually unchanged during its 25-year production run in Mexico; it was popular with Mexican taxi cab operators because it was cheap (under US$10,000) and reliable, which led to nearly 2 million sales in its lifetime. What puts the Tsuru into Alleged Car territory is modern safety standards: the Tsuru lacked certain safety features often taken for granted in modern cars such as airbags and anti-lock brakes. In a head-on crash test conducted by the IIHS against its modern counterpart, the 2016 Nissan Versa, the Versa's front clip absorbed the impact and the cabin remained intact, protecting the dummy, while the Tsuru's cabin collapsed with the dummy suffering life-threatening, if not outright fatal, injuries. The result of that test, 4,000-plus fatalities involving the car between 2007-12, and the Mexican government tightening safety regulations finally led to the Tsuru's discontinuation in 2017. It also didn't help that the Middle East/African export version of the Tsuru had a number of corners cut to make it even cheaper, for one lacking a catalytic converter, which effectively made it illegal for sale in Mexico and other countries with stricter emissions laws.
- The Xiali TJ7100, based on the third-generation Daihatsu Charade, was one of the first Chinese cars to enter the market. It wasn't reliable at all, and remained in production for two decades without any major changes.
- The Jiangnan TT, based on the second-generation Suzuki Alto, is another early Chinese car. It is so bad that people have joked that the car was built for driving on sidewalks.
- The Shanghuan CEO is a Chinese Hummer Dinger ripped off of the BMW X5. German auto magazine Auto Bild was so appalled, they blew it up.
- The Chang Jiuang CJ750 is an Alleged Motorcycle. It's a Chinese copy of a Russian copy of a pre-WWII BMW. It was built using tooling the Russians considered worn and obsolete.
- Indian urbanites think this of the Hindustan Ambassador, which is designed for rural India. It is spacious (comfortably seating up to eight people), hardy, and responsive to Percussive Maintenance. It's also old-school, being a licensed reproduction of the Morris Oxford (which was first produced in 1953). But it's very inefficient and impractical for a crowded Indian city, and it's seen as hopelessly rustic. It did lead to a viral ad for a Peugeot 206 where a young Indian man is shown abusing an Ambassador (including getting an elephant to sit on it) for the purpose of sculpting it into a 206 (even funnier when you realize that Peugeot bought Ambassador in 2017).
- The Reva G-Wiz is nominally a very tiny electric car. Legally, it's technically a "heavy quadbike", which allows it to avoid regulations for real cars; to get there, it had to be ridiculously underpowered. It has extremely poor acceleration and top speed, limiting its use to the city exclusively. It has a very short battery life, which gets even shorter if you use electronics such as the radio. And worst of all, it has the collision durability of a wet cardboard box, which led to at least one British owner being killed in a collision that she would have walked away from if the car had conformed to normal regulations. Top Gear was so disgusted with it that the presenters decided to make their own electric car, the clearly awful "Hammerhead Eagle i-Thrust" (as described in the Live-Action TV section).
- The Tata Nano is designed to be the world's cheapest car, and boy is it ever. It has a tiny, cramped interior, a two-cylinder engine, no airbags, no power steering, and no air conditioning — which, in India's climate, is a real problem. The rear hatch doesn't open; you can only access the engine or the trunk from inside the car. It did succeed at one of its initial goals, which is to transport six people more safely than a motorbike.
- The Subaru 360 is one of the earliest kei cars, but it was so light and underpowered that it could more accurately be considered a heavy motorcycle — and indeed, that's how it was imported (with the help of the above-mentioned Malcolm Bricklin, who apparently never found a car he didn't think he could sell). It had a laughable 16 horsepower engine, which made it more likely than not to stall while trying to climb a hill. It was so unsafe in a collision that the U.S. banned it from import. Given that the 360 was based off on the original Fiat 500 (see below), this isn't surprising.
- The Isuzu Piazza, despite its sleek Italian design, left much to be desired. In particular, it rode on a chassis copied from the humble Gemini economy car, and it had the handling to match. Later models with Lotus tuning couldn't save the production run. (The Australian Holden Piazza and the Canadian Asuna Sunfire had the same issues.)
- The Datsun B-210, a 1970s tiny car, sold well given that it always started and used less fuel — crucial during the oil crisis. But it was ugly, fragile, and slow. Dave Grohl told about how he rode in Kurt Cobain's B-210 from Seattle to Los Angeles (to record Nirvana's Nevermind) — or tried to, because the car's engine overheated so much that they had to give up at the Oregon border. They rented a van to complete the trip, but not before stoning the car in anger.
- Mazda has a history of turning otherwise serviceable cars into Alleged Cars through bad applications of rotary engines. Its obsession with the things nearly killed the company in the 1970s.
- The FD-series third-generation RX-7 is an otherwise Cool Car whose reliability is ruined by its rotary engine. Mazda developed a sequential turbo setup to improve engine response, but it came at the expense of frequent overheating. Many owners have swapped out the turbo setup or even the entire engine (the Chevrolet Small-Block V8 is the most common replacement). The car also had an odd quirk that changing the fuel filter required disassembling the rear suspension.
- The Roadpacer was a full-size Holden Premier sedan with a Mazda rotary engine, meant to bypass Japan's laws at the time on cars with larger engines. This left the engine severely lacking in power and torque for such a big car, leading to awful acceleration and worse fuel efficiency than a big-block version of the same car.
- The U.S.-only Rotary Pickup was a pickup truck with a rotary engine, which meant that its low torque output completely wrecked the use case for a heavy-duty pickup.
- The Parkway Rotary 26 was a rotary-powered bus, and again the engine just couldn't deliver the torque to power such a huge vehicle. It was particularly bad at driving up hills, and in the particularly mountainous Japan, that really didn't help.
- Nissan has a reputation for ruining otherwise serviceable cars with shoddy continuously variable transmissions, which not only make the car less driveable but also have a tendency for failing prematurely and being impossible to repair (you need to replace or rebuild them, which can cost upwards of $5000). They had to up their warranty on those cars to 120,000 miles. Nissan has always had the reputation of being the "cheaper" of the big Japanese brands, but they usually at least came with a modicum of reliability, and this more or less wrecked its reputation, especially as their late 2010s models (especially the Sentranote ) have been seen as very cheaply made and difficult to handle. It gets weirder if you blame the cost-cutting on ruthless ex-CEO Carlos Ghosn, brought in from outside Japan to cut through Japanese corporate culture and turn Nissan into a model of efficiency, and then smuggling himself out of Japan to escape charges of embezzlement from the company.
- The Isuzu DMAX V6 diesel engine, used by Opel, Renault, and Saab between 2002-07, is notorious for its inefficient cooling which will probably require a total rebuild somewhere between 100,000 and 130,000 miles. It also has problems with expensive fuel injector failures.
- Honda's black eye is the GS-R and Type-R models of the Integra. Both were designed with sophisticated, powerful, efficient, and durable 1.8L naturally-aspirated inline-fours that redlined with mean piston speeds comparable to an F1 engine. Both were also prone to leaky main seals and ate oil.
- Proton and Perodua cars have gained a not-so-glowing reputation for their questionable build quality on their earlier cars, using thinner-gauge steel and lacking basic safety features such as airbags and ABS. This led them to be branded as "Milo tins", a term often used for shoddy workmanship done by unscrupulous body shops in Malaysia (based on thin tin cans of Milo, a popular chocolate malt drink). And while local automobile marques have since made it a point to make their cars safer and more competitive, the stigma still persists.
- North Korea gave us the Pyeonghwa Hwiparam, the best its pathetic automotive industry could muster. It's a rebadged Fiat Siena, which was a sub-par car to start with. Then it was made in North Korea with worn-out tools, outdated manufacturing processes, cheap materials, poorly-trained workers, and almost no quality control. Its sole purpose was to have Kim Jong-un have something to wave in the faces of the filthy capitalists across the border who make nice Hyundais.
Russia / Soviet Union
- The classic Lada 1200 was not a bad car when it was introduced in 1970, being essentially a modified Fiat 124. But it quickly gained this reputation because (a) it was still based on a Fiat, (b) it had horrible fuel economy and handling, (c) Soviet production lines lacked any real quality control, and (d) thanks to production quotas and such, it received practically no updates or redesigns until the fall of the Soviet Union (and beyond, as production continued until 2012). Most export versions were considered disposable Communist cars, and it was treated as such — except in Finland, where they were impressed with its ability to start even in the coldest weather. And like a BMW, it came with a complete toolkit — which unlike a BMW, could be used without invalidating the warranty.
- While Lada is often fondly remembered in Russia and Finland, Moskvitch is not. Moskvitch was simply a badly-designed and shoddily-built jalopy prone to break when least expected, and it was awful to drive. A common initialism joke stated Manages Only Seventy Kilometres, Vehicle Is Then Completely Halted.
- Early Hyundais had a terrible reputation. The Hyundai Excel in particular quickly gained a reputation as a shitbox that was cheap but would fall apart at the slightest provocation. This gave Korean cars in general a bad reputation, and even later, better cars had trouble with this because owners treated them like Alleged Cars. Later Hyundais were better — except the 2011 Sonata, whose legendarily defective engine would seize regularly and without warning, leading to a class-action lawsuit in 2015.
- The first-generation SsangYong Rodius, despite using some Mercedes internals thanks to a tech-sharing partnership, had serious quality issues and poor handling. This would have been enough to make it an Alleged Car were it not for its ugly and truly bizarre appearance. Designer Ken Greenley was aiming to evoke the aesthetics of a luxury yacht, which may be why Top Gear decided to convert one into an actual boat called the "Ssangyacht". The company relented and opted for a more conventional look with the second generation.
- The Goggomobil Dart. "If you needed a sudden burst of acceleration, it was best to jump out and run." The only decent version was made by a certified lunatic in Germany, who fitted one with a 9-cylinder, 10-liter radial aircraft engine. It out-accelerates Porsches.
- The Holden Camira was based on GM's above-mentioned "J-car", but had a litany of unique problems, such as smoking engines, insufficient drainage holes in the doors, poor paint quality, and lack of adequate fan cooling (in bloody hot Australia). Its reputation was so bad in Australia that in New Zealand, the "Camira" was an Isuzu Aska rather than the Australian version.
- The Lightburn Zeta is a bizarre attempt at a Mini (which wound up quickly getting the boot once the actual Mini hit the market). Its maker was best known for whitegoods and designed the car accordingly, which is why it had "the kind of bug eyes you'd normally find in some dark corner of the fish market." Despite being shaped roughly like a wagon, it had no cargo bay door, so you could only load it by opening the side door and removing the seats (which was amazing touted as a feature rather than a bug). Like most micro-cars of the era, it was woefully underpowered. It could not be reversed without cutting the engine and restarting the car backwards. Its variant the Sports was even worse, being more akin to a quadbike; it had no doors, weighed 400kg, and had 15.5kW of power, which could allegedly get you up to 120km/h (not that you'd want to try it). Both cars would be illegal to bring to market today (and the Sports' headlamps were too low to even satisfy some states' laws at the time).
- The Leyland P76 was too big, poorly made, draughty, had a design flaw in the exhaust system that tended to make the carpet smoulder, and had a choice of engines between one that just wasn't powerful enough and one that was but tended to cook itself. It also had the misfortune of coming out just as motorists were switching to smaller cars in the wake of the OPEC oil embargo. But you could stow a whole 44-gallon drum in the boot!
- The Holden HDT Director was the brainchild of racing legend Peter Brock, who wanted to market a new special-edition Holden Commodore. He went to the Holden Dealer Team, which handled special editions, but they were reluctant to agree. This was because he had found some charlatan who sold him on a wire-and-crystal device known as an "Energy Polarizer", which was intended to increase the car's performance and efficiency by aligning all the vehicle's molecules. HDT discovered that the Energy Polarizer predictably did nothing, and the car also had some weird panelling done in poor-quality GRP instead of the final product. Brock ditched it in favour of important and upgrading Lada Samaras, cheap Russian shitboxes which ended up costing him more in the long run.
- Some Asian cars were made in Australia, but due to Australian laws at the time, they had to contain a certain amount of Australian components. This led to some poor products, even when compared to their Asian-built counterparts which weren't all that great to begin with:
- The Nissan Pintara was a revamp of the Bluebird, which was obsolete, clumsy, and dull. It wasn't any worse, but it wasn't any better either, and nobody bothered to buy it.
- The Toyota Corona Starfire 79 was originally a horribly dull Japanese car that could have been spat out of a vending machine on a distant world in some corporate Used Future setting. Its Australian version used the Holden Starfire engine (a.k.a. the "Misfire"), used only in the not-too-successful Sunbird and which the Holden people were a little too eager to dump on their Japanese partners. This made the car now terribly unreliable.
- The Holden Piazza works the other way around, based on the obsolete Isuzu Piazza (already listed in Japan's section), which became the most expensive Holden-badged product when released. Its dashboard looked dated quickly with its digital instruments and loose, rattly collection of pods and binnacles; it had a turbo engine in an old chassis that couldn't handle it, making it hard to drive; and it had a poor ride, rattled, and didn't improve upon upgrading to the S version.
- The Valiant VH Hardtop from Chrysler Australia was trying to do the same job as the much-vaunted Valiant Charger. It cost much more, had a much larger footprint, was heavier, more cramped inside, not very well-equipped, ugly, impractical, noisy, and slow.
- Gray and Harper's Edith of 1952 had a cartoonish appearance, 250kg Gross Vehicle Mass, a garden tool engine which could give it a 50 mile per gallon rate of fuel consumption (which isn't that impressive when big Aussie sixes could do better than 30mpg), and a single rear wheel. It appeared to be as well-developed as a 10-year-old's go-kart project.
- The Volkswagen Country Buggy (a.k.a. the "Thing") was the company's attempt to try and bolster interest in the flagging Beetle in Australia. It was supposed to be an evolution of the World War II-era Kubelwagen, even having the assistance of an engineer who worked on the original. The aim was to make a stripped-out rear-wheel-drive Beetle which could still "go anywhere" because the engine was mounted over the drive axle (which doesn't make sense) and was also amphibious, for whatever reason. It still had to use Beetle parts for logistical reasons. The end result looked like it had been designed by aliens who only knew what a car was from a dictionary description. The amphibious feature was quietly dropped on request from headquarters in Germany — so quietly that a motor magazine tried to test it without realizing it had been removed and ended up sinking it very decisively.
- The Australian arm of BMC is Always Second Best to its main rival Holden, but it's tried some odd things over the years:
- The Austin Freeway was poorly engineered and suffered from dodgy, improvised production. Holden sold more of its equivalents in a week than BMC did in a year. BMC did introduce what they thought would be a killer feature: a map of Australia in the middle of the steering wheel.
- The Austin X6 had an okay ride and handling, but looked so dull. It had an inline 6 engine stuffed in the wrong way, necessitating an extra electric fan; 2.2L, and was front-wheel-drive, available in a 76kW version named the Tasman, or the 86kW Kimberly, which lacked the low-range torque that made Australian sixes easier to drive, and devoured fuel, such that it was no cheaper to run even though it was smaller and more cramped than its competitors. It had poor seating, wipers that didn't wipe the entire screen, controls for accessory functions that often didn't work, and poor ergonomics and quality, with "thumping suspension" and "heavy kicking steering".
- koda gained this reputation with its dated 1970s-80s models. It was somewhat better than other Eastern Bloc brands, with rear-engined, rear-wheel-drive designs giving it snappy, Porsche-like handling, but it was still a Communist car with all the issues you'd expect. After Communism fell, koda was bought out by Volkswagen and now makes decent cars which are effectively VWs; but the company remembers its reputation and advertises them with the tagline "It's a koda, honest."
- The Czechoslovak company Velorex is a respected name in motorcycle sidecars. They also built something that might be described as a car, but which is basically a motorcycle sidecar without the motorcycle. It's vinyl-coated canvas over steel tubing. The frame is attached to what is effectively the rear end of a motorcycle with a 125cc or 250cc two-stroke single-cylinder engine driving the single rear wheel. Top Gear (UK)'s Andy Wilman took one for a spin once and reported (yelling over the din of the engine) that "braking is accomplished by writing a letter politely asking to reduce your speed, oh, sometime next week".
- The Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid quickly gained this reputation. Owners reported a litany of problems, and Consumer Reports had their Karma die on them with only 200 miles on the odometer. It's not spacious, in spite of its swoopy body. It's not fast, requiring over seven seconds to go from 0-60mph in pure electric mode. And it's not even that efficient: it only gets 30 mpg on electric, 20 mpg on gas, and about 60 mpg equivalent; for comparison, the Chevy Volt gets 90 mpg equivalent. It was enough to send Fisker into bankruptcy; they were bought out by the Wanxiang Group in China, who relaunched the car as the Karma Revero.
- The Alpine A106 was an Alleged Sports Coupe variant of the otherwise popular Dauphine line. It turned out to be an ultra-cheap rust magnet that went from 0-60 in 32 seconds.
- The second-generation Renault Laguna was outfitted with a lot of optional cutting-edge tech, including GPS, hands-free entry, a state-of-the-art de-pollution system, and a power tailgate. Unfortunately, the tech rarely worked like it was supposed to. Lights would go on and off, it would have trouble starting, and the de-pollution system would fail and generate a lot of smoke.
- The Renault Avantime was, for all intents and purposes, France's version of the Pontiac Aztek. It was originally conceived when Renault started manufacturing their popular and long-running Espace minivan in-house rather than at Matra. In an attempt to fill the resulting void in the market, the latter company decided to create a luxury coupe on the same platform as the old Espace, retaining the height of the original minivan. The result was widely ridiculed in the French automotive press for appearing tall and ungainly. Styling issues aside, the Avantime was also criticized for its lack of interior space, as it had only been designed to hold four people with the fifth being a squeeze. The combination of terrible styling and lack of functionality caused the Avantime to flop hard, with less than 8,600 units sold, bankrupting Matra in the process. Strangely, it's beloved by the folks at Top Gear.
- The 1975 Acoma Mini Comtesse was a three-wheeled car designed to qualify for a law meant for mopeds. It has one seat, a weak 50cc engine (the maximum allowed by the law), has a maximum speed of about 10 miles per hour, and it looks vaguely like a porta-potty. While it lacks such basic features like a radio or a seat belt, it tries to make up for it with a pedal so you can theoretically make the vehicle move with your foot, and two extra suspended wheels to prevent the vehicle from tipping over. At the very least, you could have driven it without a license.
- The Trabant is a legendary East German car known for three things; barely functioning, being so demanded and scarce in East Germany that people lined up to buy one anyway, and being the subject of an entire subgenre of "Trabi jokes".
- The body was made of low-quality plastic due to a shortage of metal. The East Germans had found a clever way to recycle cotton garment factory waste into a cellulose-based polymer called "Duroplast". This meant that you never needed to wash a Trabi because the rain could do it just fine, and no amount of scrubbing would do any better.
- It had a two-stroke, 15-20 horsepower, half-liter in-line 2-cylinder engine. Its fuel efficiency was 34 mpg, its top speed was around 70 mph, and it took a minute to go from 0 to 60 mph. After reunification, many Trabants got a second lease on life by having their engines replaced, especially with Suzuki Hayabusa engines — for reference, that's from a motorcycle.
- The gas tank was mounted in the cowl above the engine — and the driver's legs, meaning any major frontal accident could be catastrophic. You filled it by opening the hood, pouring gasoline in the fuel tank, pouring in two-stroke oil, and mixing it by shaking the car. In some places in the Eastern Bloc, you didn't have to do that, but you did have to find a petrol station that offered the special mixture. There was no gas gauge, but there was a sightglass in the dashboard.
- The electrical dynamo would fall out so often that the owner's manual contained instructions for replacing it. In any event, dealerships and automobile workshops were uncommon in East Germany, so you were on your own anyway.
- Production capacity at the factories was so poor that used Trabants would sell for more money than new ones by dint of actually being available. Car dealerships would also sometimes be willing to sell one in exchange for a new pair of Western blue jeans. The government didn't want to spend valuable foreign currency to get technological advances for it. And by the time production ended, the tooling had more than doubled its expected lifetime, meaning late-model Trabants had severely flawed and unreliable fit and finish. After reunification, you could get a Trabant for as little as 50 cents, and many were simply abandoned on the spot whenever they broke down.
- What good was a Trabant? It was better than other Eastern Bloc brands. It was surprisingly safe (other than the gas tank thing). And it handled so well that it could even beat out some pricey Western brands in obstacle avoidance tests (including the infamous "elk test" that the Mercedes A-class failed). And they were thus actually pretty useful, which is all you need out of your car and more than you can say for some of the other entries on this page.
- The Wartburg was basically the only other option to the Trabant in East Germany. It had an extra cylinder on the Trabant, it was made from a polymer so soft that livestock could eat your car, and the only reason its flaws weren't fatal was that the motor had only seven moving parts.
- Fun fact: for a while, the Wartburg was produced by a marque (EMW) which sounded like "BMW" with the Serial Numbers Filed Off (right down to the logo, which was round and quadripartite with four arrows and two alternated colours, but one was red instead of white) which, before the actual BMW sued, actually called itself "BMW" (the factory where the car was produced was indeed, before World War II, owned by the actual BMW, and was in fact where they started their car production, but it had fallen into Soviet hands, which later handed it to the East Germans. The actual BMW would never see the factory again, as it was bought out by Opel after privatization who, like in the sad case of many former East German industries, would dismantle it).
- The Volkswagen Beetle is one of the best-selling and most iconic cars in all of automotive history and was a reliable all-purpose light car, but its postwar versions aren't among them. Before the war, the Beetle was so reliable and hardy that it was used as the basis for the Kubelwagen, a "Nazi Jeep" that could handle both the heat of North Africa and the sub-zero of Russia. But when the war ended, so did the war machine, and the factories — which had been bombed to pieces during the war — were left with poor-quality parts, worn-out tooling, and demoralized and exhausted workers. As such, late 1940s model Beetles had a crashbox transmission, hand-operated windshield wipers, no cabin heater, semaphore flags for turn signals, no fuel gauge (you just switched to a two-litre backup tank when the engine started to cough), hand-crank starters, and upholstery glued on with a smelly fish-based adhesive. They barely lasted 30,000 km before the engines gave up. Fortunately for Volkswagen, things got better relatively quickly.
- During World War I, the Rumpler aircraft company came out with the Tropfenwagen, a car whose coefficient of air resistance wouldn't be equaled for 50 years. Unfortunately, the engine was poorly designed and prone to overheating, and it didn't have a trunk (meaning luggage could only go on the roof). It wound up being used as a taxi in Berlin, and several were burned in Metropolis because they were dirt cheap and looked futuristic. Only one has survived to this day.
- The NSU Ro80 was comfortable, good-looking, and very advanced. Unfortunately, it had a Wankel rotary engine, and the versions fitted to early cars tended to fail after only 15,000 to 30,000 miles. A redesign of the tip seals eventually solved the problem, but the cost of frequent repairs during the guarantee period bankrupted NSU, causing them to be taken over by VW-Audi (who promptly used some NSU designs in development as their first conventionally front-engined and water-cooled VW models).
- Narrowly averted by the Audi TT, which required a hasty recall and some modifications to correct a nasty habit of rolling if the driver took a sharp turn at motorway speeds. They corrected it just a bit too well, though, as the production TTs got a bit sluggish in steering afterwards, and enthusiasts had no more of the original suspension parts to retrofit as they had been sent to scrap metal.
- Volkswagen's TDI has slowly gotten this reputation. Its big upside, the relatively low emissions, was shot when it was discovered that Volkswagen had rigged the car to pass emissions tests. And its other big upside, being a fun car, was shot with engine problems. The first series of TDI engines was notorious for shoddy pump injectors, this being a new technology back then — replacements cost $6000, and there were at least four per engine.
- The Hoffmann was a small two-stroke metal egg made shortly after the war. It's a weird paradox of surprisingly good build quality combined with just about every design decision being the absolute worst one that could be made.
- BMW, despite being one of the best-regarded car brands in the world, has lately picked up a reputation for making good cars that break easily and are a nightmare to maintain.
- When BMW bought the Mini brand for a Continuity Reboot, Mini drivers now had to pay BMW prices for a car whose parts would break on a monthly basis. Plastic pieces in the engine were particularly prone to breaking and causing catastrophic failures. This got BMW a ton of complaints.
- The subframe of the E46 3-Series is a known Achilles heel, prompting aftermarket manufacturers to come up with a weld-on reinforcement plate to rectify the issue.
- In many more recent BMWs, not only do the batteries wear down more often than they need to, but you can't even replace it yourself — which you can do in pretty much any other production car on the market. You need to register the new battery with BMW before you can use it. If you really want to do it yourself, you can end-around this with a $20 OBD adapter, a USB cable, and an Android smartphone with a special app.
- The 2020 model Toyota Supra was a joint venture between Toyota and BMW, and Toyota fans cringed in anticipation of its turning into a BMW Z4 and being just as annoying and expensive to maintain.
- Even Mercedes cannot stay free of problems. The most notorious of them:
- The 300 SLR racing car of the 1950s caused one of the most catastrophic crashes in the history of auto racing (see the Racing section below).
- Between 1993-96, they introduced biodegradable wiring, which seems really cool and eco-friendly — until you realise that the electrics are designed to essentially self-destruct. Replacing the main wiring harness is possible, but expensive and labour-intensive.
- In the late 1990s, Mercedes decided to save on rustproofing. Nowadays, if you buy a Mercedes from that time period, you should be prepared for a lot of corrosion, including perforative corrosion. Well, it worked, didn't it?
- The early version of the 2.1 diesel engine was notorious for its awful fuel injectors. Sometimes it took only a few hundred kilometres before they needed replacements. After a few months, Mercedes decided to replace all the injectors with reworked ones free of charge.
- Mercedes produced the Smart Fortwo, which is notorious for its quirky semi-automatic gearbox and subpar fuel consumption, due to a safety-cell body that has decent crash ratings but means the car is a good bit heavier than one would expect of a little two-seater. The fact that the front and rear tires are of different sizes can also complicate matters, as it's hard to carry a spare.
- The earliest A-Class infamously flipped during an "elk test"note by Swedish automobile publication Teknikens Värld. Mercedes recalled the car and modified the suspension as well as adding electronic stability control.
- The 1.0, 1.6, and 2.0 Ford Ecoboost engines are very lacking in durability. Mechanics estimate their lifespan at about 125,000 miles.
- Lamborghini is rightfully known for making Cool Cars, but the Espada was anything but. The glass in the door panels was so fragile that it could shatter if someone just bumped into the car. The engine would consistently starve itself of oil. Body corrosion would set in quickly, causing electrical faults to all the switches, which had a goofy placement layout as well. Proof that anyone who isn't careful can build an Alleged Car. And although Lamborghini's logo is a bull, espada is the Spanish term for the sword used to kill bulls after bullfights.
- The Maserati Biturbo series almost buried the brand by the end of The '80s. It was a huge reach downmarket, an attempt for the supercar maker to build, for the first time, a car that would be used every day (rather than as a rich guy's toy). They proved that they had no idea what they were doing:
- The timing belt had to be changed every 30,000 miles, which required the removal of the entire front section of the car, bumper, grill, radiator, intercoolers, fuel system, fuel and air ducts, and plenty of small parts. Once a year.
- The valves had to be adjusted every 30,000 miles. The engine had to be removed from the car for this. Of course, you were changing the timing belt anyway, so you might as well.
- The front wheel bearings were so poorly made, they had to be changed once a year.
- Coolant leaked regularly into the oil, at least until they fixed it in 1984. And it leaked oil like a sieve.
- It was rear wheel-driven, yet too light in the rear, and it snapped accordingly in tight turns.
- The printed circuit board fusebox melted itself often for no reason whatsoever, leaving the car with no electrics running.
- Fiat earned a reputation for making cheap, tiny, unreliable cars such that "FIAT" was said to stand for "Fix it again, Tony" or "Failure in Automotive Technology". Most of their cars were notorious for using a lightweight, high-carbon steel in their unibody construction, making them so prone to rusting that Car & Driver called them "biodegradable". They had an even worse reputation in the U.S. and Northern Europe with more exposure to snow. The Ritmo/Strada used Soviet steel that was heavily recycled and not zinc-plated; as such, the car was infamous for rusting quickly. Very few even exist anymore, much less function. Similar rust issues plagued the early Alfa Romeo Alfasud models.
- During the mid-1980s, Alfa Romeo partnered with Nissan to produce the Arna, which ended up having the worst of both worlds: the dubious build quality of Alfa Romeo and the frumpy design of the Nissan Pulsar.
- The original Fiat 500 might be called "adorable", but it really isn't. The body is made out of rust-prone and unsafe thin steel, the foldable roof frequently leaks rain, the interior is cramped, the boot is smaller than 100 litres, and it can't even reach 60 mph.
- Lancia was a once-respected manufacturer whose reputation was permanently marred by two alleged cars, the Beta and Gamma. The Beta had a severe rusting problem to the point of many having to be scrapped; the Gamma's engine overheated very easily and had severe handling problems. This forced the brand to pull out of the United Kingdom and other right-hand drive markets in 1995, among other things, in spite of strong comebacks with the Delta and Thema models. Later on, attempts to rebadge the Chrysler Voyager and 300 as Lancias for the European market — courtesy of the Fiat-Chrysler joint venture — failed to convince buyers. As of 2017, Lancia only produces one model, the Ypsilon supermini, and it is sold only in Italy.
- The DAF 600 was a funny little car. It had a continuously variable transmission, enabling it to drive backwards just as fast as forwards. It could out-accelerate most contemporary cars from a standing stop. And they provided a lot of entertainment. But because of the modest engine power, terrible styling, and automatic-only transmission, it was seriously uncool for anyone under 65. These days, DAF just focuses on transport trucks.
- The Tarpan 237D and 239D were 1980s Polish diesel trucks created in response to a petrol shortage in Poland. Tarpan solved the shortage by taking its pickup truck and swapped out its dedicated diesel engine with a tractor engine. The final product had 3 cylinders, 2.5 litres of engine displacement, 42 horsepower, and a 52 mph top speed. Noise was also an issue; there is an urban legend of a guy who did three hours of highway driving in a diesel Tarpan and ending up half-deaf. Even the low fuel consumption (33 mpg) and being, well, a car in a Communist country weren't enough to cover the flaws.
- The Fiat 126p was a licensed version of the Fiat 126 made in Poland since 1973. The only problem was that it was intended to be a car that would be affordable to a typical Polish family. Yes, a barely ten-foot-long hatchback-bodied "family car", which resulted in many, many horrible holiday road trips. The car's performance was also dreadful, with a top speed of 65 mph, making it slower than such "supercars" as the Trabant or Yugo. Build quality simply sucked too. They kept making it until 2000, even as build quality declined; at least it was cheap, with the price being an equivalent of a current $2,500, at the time one of the cheapest cars you could buy in the world. When Fiats made for export in Poland replaced the Italian-made ones in 1980, the Germans, who were the first to get the new model, deemed them all faulty. Its only positive contribution to the world is this fancy Fiat 126p that resulted from Tom Hanks getting his picture in one for laughs.
- The FSO Syrena started production in 1955, and at the time it wasn't a bad car aside from unreliable drive joints. But production continued until 1983, by which time the Syrena was hilariously outdated and badly built. By the 2000s, you could get a running one for as low as 50 PLZ, which is about $15 in today's money.
- The Oltcit/Citroen Axel was a paradoxical endeavour of a car. It was very high-tech for the time, with a four-wheel independent suspension with torsion bars, an air-cooled flat engine, and a highly-efficient braking system. It was extremely lightweight and very manoeuvrable. Unfortunately, it was made in The '80s in Romania, when practically everything was rationed and the Communists insisted that everything be as cheap as possible. This led to a car whose brake rotors wore themselves thin and cracked, whose bodywork could rust to flakes, whose ignition system would absorb water and stall the car, and whose carburetor would mis-adjust and draw fuel like crazy. The few that survived into the 1990s would be fixed by enthusiasts and can now compete against Lamborghinis.
Serbia / Yugoslavia
- The export version of the Zastava Koral, better known as the Yugo, is the Hollywood benchmark for the Alleged Car. It was considered the epitome of the tiny, inefficient, undrivable Eastern European car. It was better than most other cars from the region; Americans are familiar with it because it was pretty much the only such car that could actually pass safety and emissions tests and be allowed to be imported and sold for so long. It was treated as a cheap, disposable car and rarely properly maintained, exacerbating its poor reputation, and it didn't help that it came from a country that ceased to exist by the 1990s. To add insult to injury, the factory was bombed during the Kosovo War in 1999, as it was also producing weapons. On its reputation alone, Car Talk rated it "Worst Car of the Millennium". The car was marketed in the US by Malcolm Bricklin, the same who brought the Subaru 360 to the US and created the Bricklin SV1.
- Devrim, the first Turkish-produced car, had this reputation despite not really deserving it; in particular, its first test drive by then-President Cemal Gürsel was a disaster because they forgot to fill the gas tank, and it very publicly stopped after only 100 meters. This caused the press and the public to think of it as an Alleged Car, and it never sold well.
- Within Ukraine, the most famous Alleged Car is the Zaporozhych ZAZ-965◊, an ultracompact inspired by the Fiat 600. It wasn't a bad car per se, but it was incredibly small and cheap even for a Soviet car. Because it was a Soviet car, no one cared about performance, speed, or handling, and things kept falling off. But being a Soviet car also meant that it could take some level of abuse and be fixed with Percussive Maintenance.
- The 1976 Aston Martin Lagonda was a beautiful luxury sedan filled with cutting-edge electronics and gadgets, all of which refused to work. Apparently for 1970s engineers, nothing was more cutting-edge than cramming multiple hundred-watt CRT screens into the small space beneath a car's dashboard.
- The Austin Allegro is one of the most famous British examples of an Alleged Car. It was widely derided on its launch for its odd styling, quirky square steering wheel (they called it "quartic"), and early models suffered from numerous design problems, very likely caused by the myriad of issues with British Leyland — including chaotic industrial relations, behind-the-times management, obsolete engineering, and its various brands operating in silos. Richard Porter once wrote that "the only bit of the Allegro they got even vaguely right was the rust-proofing", Hilarious in Hindsight considering that Allegros are now well known for having rust problems. The Allegro's issues were so widely publicised that British Leyland actually created new training videos for its workers to show them how to put cars together better than they were currently doing. The Daily Telegraph wrote that "the most charitable explanation for how this car entered production is that it was part of a successful Communist plot to destroy Britain's motor industry." Going further, in the series three finale of The Grand Tour, Richard Hammond stated that in his childhood in Birmingham, he had the misfortune of his father owning one instead of a Ford Cortina (which the fathers of Hammond's co-presenters Jeremy Clarkson and James May did have) and it was miserable. He even beat up an Allegro with a baseball bat in frustration for the documentary film he, Clarkson, and May made for the episode.
- The Reliant Robin can't easily be considered an Alleged Car, because it's hard to classify it as a car. It has two defining features: it has only three wheels with a single wheel in front, and it rolls over a lot. It may be the only car in history to roll over 360 degrees from turning too hard. In the UK, it was officially classified as a motorcycle and only required a motorcycle licence, which made it more popular, especially Oop North. The Robin became something of an icon in British pop culture due to this.
- Mr. Bean's blue van and the yellow van from Only Fools and Horses are commonly mistaken for Robins (but are actually Reliant Regal Supervans). They share the same tropes, though, including the frequent rolling.
- The opening of the 2012 Olympic Games in London had a Robin in it, which didn't tip over — it just exploded.
- Somehow, this didn't stop Top Gear from turning one into a space shuttle. Predictably, it rolled over in mid-flight, crashed, and exploded.
- Forza Horizon 4 had a field day with the supervan during the insurance claim missions. First, the one available in-game has crude training wheels bolted to the front corner panels to keep it upright. Then the entire trip to the test site is basically listing the vehicle's reputation and flaws. Finally, after taking the thing off a massive jump, it proves so lightweight the insurance adjuster manages to deny a claim about crashing one into a church roof by stating that the events as claimed would have made the car hit the belfry instead.
- From 1948 to 1978, the National Health Service leased to the disabled what were basically Reliant Robins but even smaller, commonly known as "spaz chariots". Various companies produced these, including Invacar and AC Cars (the very same who produced the AC Cobra sports car sold as the Shelby Cobra in the States), but they all shared common features such as the "Ministry Blue" colour scheme, dubious styling, and being rather unsafe to use on public roads, to the point the NHS recalled and scrapped the ones they still owned in 2003 (some examples still exist in the hands of private owners).
- Lucas Industries was a major subcontractor for several British auto manufacturers, including British Leyland. They had a spotty reputation for building nearly non-functional electrical components, even in otherwise nice British sports cars; enthusiasts called the company founder "the Prince of Darkness". British cars also tended to have electrical circuits without fuses, so if something in the electrics went wrong, there was nothing to protect the system and it was now a fire risk. Their electronics were particularly unreliable in harsh climates, a major factor in British cars' bad reputation in Scandinavia. It's so legendary that when Lane Pryce of Mad Men tries to commit suicide by running the exhaust from his brand-new Jaguar into the cabin, everyone got the joke when the car wouldn't start.
- While the third-generation Vauxhall Viva performed reliably in its own market, it quickly gained notoriety in North America for its disastrous attempted export it to Canada through GM in The '70s. GM called it the "Firenza" and marketed it as a "tough little fun car". But it was downright dangerous, with brake failures, accelerator pedals getting stuck, total steering failure, parts falling off, and engine fires. GM tried to salvage the car's reputation by driving four Firenzas from Halifax to Vancouver in the dead of winter in order to demonstrate that they were ideal for cold, tough Canadian conditions; even though the cars had been modified with block heaters for the trip (which GM claimed they didn't have), two of them still had trouble starting and one of them caught fire. When GM tried to cover this up, they got fined for false advertising. The car was the subject of Canada's first-ever class-action lawsuit and lasted two years before it was withdrawn, having utterly destroyed the already-shaky reputation of British manufacturing in Canada in the process. To quote the Canadian car magazine Autofocus, who referred to the car as "Canada's equivalent to the Nader-Corvair affair":On May 14, 1973, three days after the [Ministry of Transport] closed its investigation, the Dissatisfied Firenza Owners Association in Ottawa staged a 32-car protest outside of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill. Two of the Firenzas caught fire during the protest.
- The Jaguar X-Type was effectively Britain's version of the Cadillac Cimarron in the sense that it was little more than a barely-modified Ford Mondeo with the front end of a Jaguar bolted on. Not too many people were impressed by it, though it does have its defenders.
- The 1999-2007 Jaguar S-Type was effectively Britain's version of the Chrysler PT Cruiser. While initially praised for its comfortable ride and performance, its retro styling aged very poorly and soon invited unfavourable comparisons to the Rover 75, whose design also employed a retro style but did so in a manner that many considered far less awkward. Top Gear's James May was especially critical of the S-Type, describing the styling, particularly the radiator grille, as "goppingly awful" and saying that it pandered to common stereotypes of British culture held in America and Germany, whose markets he believed it was primarily designed to appeal to.
- While the Triumph TR7 was, generally speaking, an okay vehicle apart from some questionable styling choicesnote , early models suffered from severe quality control problems due to the aforementioned internal issues affecting British Leyland at the time. Quality improved considerably when production was moved to the Canley plant in Coventry, and later Solihull, but it wasn't enough to save the TR7's reputation, and it was ultimately withdrawn from the market in 1981, with Triumph itself folding three years later.
- The Andrea Moda and the Life cars from the 1990s rarely made it beyond the end of the pitlane. One of the Moda's unfortunate pilots was Perry McCarthy (a.k.a. the first Stig), who posed for photographers in a faux-triumphal pose next to its silent form when it ground to a halt after a few hundred metres. The Life was a repurposed Formula 3000 chassis with a W12 engine instead of the conventional V8/10/12 (which wouldn't even fit inside the chassis, as proven when they tried to go back to basics in their dying moments), and was usually about 20 seconds off the pace. Needless to say, both their entries were a sham from start to finish.
- Despite decent pace, a supposedly huge budget, and 1997 driver's champion Jacques Villeneuve on their side, British American Racing had a disastrous debut season in 1999. The car had frequent technical issues; both drivers could only finish twice and retired six times. Villeneuve in particular was forced to retire from 12 of the 16 races. BAR was the only team not to have scored any points that season when both Arrows and Minardi had finished with one point each, their best result being just shy of that — a seventh place from Mika Salo (who, later that same season, would cover for an injured Michael Schumacher at Ferrari) in San Marino.
- In 1997, the Lola team attempted to enter the scene with sponsorship from MasterCard. They expected to get their cars ready for the 1998 season, and so work had to begin in 1996, but Executive Meddling from MasterCard resulted in the cars being rushed out of the garage for the immediately following year. Thus, while a respected livery maker for other categories, Lola had to make do with a couple of largely untested, ineffective cars that had no hope of reaching the 107% qualifying cutoff. The constructor folded right after their first entry, while MasterCard got off the fiasco scot-free.
- Penske Racing had a long and glorious history of success in IndyCar, but in 1995 they came up with a real lemon in the Penske PC-24. The year after Penske's race team practically lapped the field in the 1994 Indianapolis 500 with a Mercedes-Benz 500I engine that exploited some gaps in USAC's rulebook, they seemed sure to be top contenders the following year. But deprived of their advantage, they also got saddled with the PC-24 — an ill-handling chassis coupled with an underpowered engine that was incapable of the high speeds and precision control Indy demanded. Within the first week and without even attempting to qualify for the 1995 Indy 500 in them, both Penske drivers (Al Unser, Jr. and Emerson Fittipaldi) had abandoned their rides for either year-old Penskes or Lolas that were loaned from another team. Unser failed to qualify, and Fittipaldi was bumped from the field, shutting Penske out of the race for the first time in 30 years.
- The Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR performed well in the 1955 World Sportscar Championship season, but it had a flawed braking system (oversized drum brakes with a wind brake spoiler). It's best known for causing the worst crash in the history of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, when it flew off the track during a crash and landed in a spectator's enclosure, causing the deaths of 84 people, including the driver. This forced Mercedes-Benz to withdraw their entire racing program immediately and not return until The '80s.
- The Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR/LM enjoyed decent success in 1990s sports car racing, winning the first two manufacturers' championships in the now-defunct FIA GT championship. Its follow-up, the CLR, was much worse. Despite performing decently in testing, its debut at the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans revealed some rather serious aerodynamic issues. This led to one of the more memorable moments in the history of the race when the car suddenly lifted straight into the air and somersaulted off the track. Understandably, that was the car's only competitive appearance.
- The 24 Hours of LeMons (sic) involves racing an entire field of Alleged Cars for between 14 and 24 hours over two days. The car must have a net value of $500 at the time of the race, not counting the cost of safety equipment. You can sell parts of the car to "lower" its value. If you exceed the value, you're charged one penalty lap for every $10 over, so you effectively can't win by spending money. They're willing to waive those rules for sufficiently awesome cars, though they will also handicap anything that looks like it's going to be too advanced for the field. In the beginning, officials were even allowed to make random superficial modifications during the race itself purely for their own amusement. As you can tell, nobody takes the race itself seriously, and you can get prizes for being the least likely to finish the race. The Undie 500 is a similar rally held in New Zealand.
- The entire point of the sport known as Jokamiehenluokka in Finnish and Folkrace in Swedish is rallycross in cars like this (albeit with racing safety gear). To ensure that nobody starts putting up any "sleeper" cars with expensive mods, all participating cars (minus the mandatory safety gear) are put up for sale after the race at a set price between $500 and $1,500 US, and refusing to sell is cause for immediate revocation of competition license.
- The Eagle Aircraft Flyer is a disastrous mess of a car that tried unsuccessfully to qualify for the 1982 Indianapolis 500 and is probably the greatest Alleged Car of that race's long history. This was well into the era of aerodynamics — when racing designers understood that aerofoils and shaped undersides creating "ground effect" low pressure would give cars much higher downforce and thus cornering speeds. Yet bizarrely, this car, made by a light aircraft company, did not have either. It was also weirdly long, sticking the driver right at the front and the engine far in the rear, making it unwieldy as well as slow, and so slapdash that some parts of the body were made from plywood. The team was so badly run that the driver had to take charge, desperately paying for a rear wing to be made up and fixed on before the whole project was abandoned. Needless to say, the Flyer did not qualify for the race.
- The White Triplex was a 1920s attempt to set a world speed record and designed to do that and nothing else. It had three aircraft piston engines, giving the Triplex an engine capacity of 81 litres (the average modern fast car has three). It also had four wheels and a steering column. And it had a spot for the driver in the middle, where he would be bombarded with noise and heat. And that was about it — there was no transmission, no gearbox, and no aerodynamics other than a bluff triangular nose. The record keepers doubted that it was a "car" and asked if it could go in reverse — and the builders responded by hitching a detachable third axle that could slowly drag the car backwards, and that satisfied them. And amazingly, this lash-up did set a world record in 1928, going over 200 mph in the hands of Indianapolis champion driver Ray Keech, who promptly declined to drive it again. A different (and less experienced) driver tried to use it a year later and the whole thing crashed, taking the driver and two bystanders with it.
- The Citroën C3 WRC gained a rather dubious reputation with both fans and drivers of the World Rally Championship for its poor handling and occasional mechanical issues. In Germany and in Catalunya, Esapekka Lappi was forced to retire due to terminal engine failure, and Sébastien Ogier's C3 sustained a power steering pump issue which not only forced him to retire but which ended his championship reign. Ogier's wife lashed out at Citroën on Twitter (and deleted the tweet, not that it helped), and Ogier himself put it simply: "I cannot drive this car."
- Despite its notorious reputation, Russia's Tsar Tank prototype from World War I would have arguably been a subversion of this trope if put to proper use, as argued here. Despite an appearance so bizarre that one would assume Homer Simpson designed it — eschewing the caterpillar tracks that would become the norm in tank design in favor of two humungous spoked wheels driven by a third, smaller motor-driven wheel in the back, with a hull composed of upper and lower cannon turrets and sponson-mounted side guns — the Tsar was clocked at 17 mph (faster than any of the other primitive tanks introduced during the war) on the flat, solid ground it was built for. However, the Tsar flunked its initial test run when miscalculations in the tank's weight allowed it to become hopelessly stuck in soft groundnote . Alas, the only prototype was left abandoned at its testing grounds until it was scrapped five years after the war.
- The Elefant tank destroyer, initially dubbed the "Ferdinand", was the result of Porsche's bid to design and produce the Tiger I tank. In developing the Tiger prototype, Ferdinand Porsche decided that his ambitious engineering style could be applied to tanks as well as automobiles, and used a radical drive design that employed two diesel engines powering two electric generators that then powered the actual tracks with a pair of electric motors on the drive sprockets. However, this design made the prototype too complex and heavy, which in turn caused frequent breakdowns and fires. Porsche ultimately lost the contract, but he had been so sure he'd win that he'd already built about 100 tank hulls by then. Rather than just throw them out, they were re-purposed into tank destroyers, which meant adding armor and armaments, which made the vehicle's weight problems even worse. Once deployed, the Elefants fell victim to the same mechanical failures which blighted the Tiger prototype, forcing their crews to frequently abandon and destroy them on the battlefield when they inevitably broke down. So bad were the Elefant's mobility flaws that during the Battle of Kursk, it was reported that the simple act of trying to drive up a sloping hill caused many Elefants to catch fire from overheating engines. Worse still, when it was discovered the slow-moving machines were highly vulnerable to infantry "swarm" attacks, it became necessary to add a ball-mounted machinegun, a coating of anti-magnetic mine paste and extra armor, features that only increased the weight even more.
- Fascist Italy's Fiat-Ansaldo Carro Veloce CV3/35 was an Alleged Tank (or "Tankette"). Built to be cheap, fast, and simple, it was also uncomfortable and unsafe. It lacked a turret, was armed only with machine guns, had armor that could be penetrated by a rifle bullet in places, said armor was initially riveted together (a design that was two decades out of date), and was small enough that it could get stuck in shell holes and trenches that any serious tank would roll right over. Despite the myriad flaws, the tank saw service anyway, with predictable results. But it was cheap, so it was widely exported.
- The A38 Valiant was an Alleged Tank. Intended to be a lightweight yet heavily-armored infantry support tank, it was such a disaster that ultimately only one prototype was ever built. In its one test in May 1945 (a short ~20km drive on level ground), the test driver reported that he had exhausted himself simply operating the controls and that several items inside his station, including his own seat and the foot pedals, were liable to cause physical injury. The examining officer halted all further testing on the spot and recommended that the Valiant program be ended immediately, which it was. For many years, the Valiant prototype was displayed to engineering students as an example of how not to design a tank. It now resides in a museum.
- The Gama Goat was an ill-fated attempt to replace the U.S. Army's venerable Jeep. How well did it accomplish that goal? To quote The Other Wiki:While the Gama Goat had exceptional off-road ability, its quirky steering made it hard to handle on pavement, and its tendency to flounder in amphibious operations required drivers to have special training in order to operate it. This meant it could not be the "general purpose" vehicle the Army had hoped for, and production was halted after the original contract expired. This is somewhat ironic, as some claim the problems were largely due to cost-cutting modifications made at the request of the US Army.