5 biggest car flops
The explosive Ford Pinto tops our list of the 5 biggest car flops.
Tue, Apr 12, 2011 at 09:12 AM
Despite their best efforts, automakers don’t always hit the mark with new vehicle introductions. Some vehicles have missed the mark more wildly than others — and these are the cars that will forever be remembered as the greatest flops.
The explosive Ford Pinto will go down in history as one of the biggest car flops of all time. Manufactured during the 1970s as the domestic alternative to popular subcompacts like the VW Beetle and the Toyota Corolla, the Pinto was a great car in concept — economical and small but with enough room for storage, thanks to the hatchback. Unfortunately, there was a major flaw in the design of the vehicle. The fuel tank was located behind the rear axle. The poor location made the fuel tank prone to catching fire and even exploding during a rear-end collision. After several lawsuits, Ford initiated a nationwide recall to fix the problem but the damage was already done. Ford stopped production of the Pinto in 1980.
General Motors EV1
General Motors’ EV1 was a car that was ahead of its time. GM brought the EV1 to market in 1996 and by 2002 more than 1,000 EV1s had been produced. It wasn’t the vehicle itself that made the EV1 a flop, it was the actions taken by GM that led to the car’s inclusion on this list. The EV1 was only available for lease, and despite an extremely loyal customer base, GM pulled all of the EV1s off the road in the early part of this century. Customers were willing to pay a premium price to purchase an EV1 outright, but GM refused and instead began the arduous process of destroying the majority of EV1s that it had produced.
Bigger isn’t always better, and the Ford Excursion helps prove this point. Ford introduced this super-sized SUV in 1999 as a model year 2000 vehicle but stopped production just five years later. The Excursion was plagued by controversy from the start with environmental groups voicing concerns about the 19-foot long, 7,200-pound behemoth. The Sierra Club actually held a nickname contest for the Excursion, and the winning name was the Ford Valdez, a nod to the Exxon Valdez oil tanker. The Excursion faced other problems including that it was too tall to fit into a standard garage and its dismal 12-mpg fuel efficiency.
What was the leadership at Ford thinking when they decided to produce a pickup truck under the Lincoln luxury label? The truck was produced for 15 months between 2002 and 2003, one of the shortest production runs of a mass-produced vehicle, and fewer than 4,000 were sold. There were many problems with the Blackwood — including its more than $50,000 price tag. If a consumer is going to spend $50,000 on a pickup truck, it better act like a pickup truck. Unfortunately the Blackwood was not equipped with four-wheel drive and the cargo bed had limited space thanks to a poorly designed cover. (One of the biggest reasons to buy a truck instead of an SUV is the storage space in the bed; if an owner can’t utilize this space, the vehicle is essentially worthless. This point was proven by the early demise of the Lincoln Blackwood.)
Dodge Durango Hybrid
Chrysler was a day late and a dollar short when it introduced a hybrid. The company’s choice for its first hybrid models was the Dodge Durango SUV and its cousin, the Chrysler Aspen. This hybrid project was doomed to fail, even if it wasn’t entirely Chrysler’s fault. The hybrid SUV, with a $45,000 price tag, was released just when the economy started to crash in late 2008. After a summer with record-high gas prices, a hybrid alternative to a fuel-sucking SUV sounded great. Unfortunately, Chrysler and the American public in general were not in a position to support the launch of these vehicles. Shortly after the two vehicles became available, Chrysler halted production and eventually closed the plant used to manufacture the models.