Every company across every industry releases a product from time to time that winds up being a complete dud. It’s simply an axiom of the consumer products business; markets and customer attitudes are too fickle for everyone to be successful all of the time. What makes the failures of the automotive industry so unique is that the manufacturers spend so much money during the concept and development phase (on things such as engineering, marketing, safety testing, and research) that the flops tend to be very high-profile and infamous. Some companies spend years or decades trying to rebuild their reputations following a notorious fiasco, while other manufacturers find themselves completely sunk and unable to continue operating. These five lemons were marketed to the car-buying public as game-changers that would upend the market as we know it; they ended their lives as punchlines in jokes for years after.
Introduced by DaimlerChrysler as a concept car in 1993, the Plymouth Prowler was poised to herald a return to the hot rod obsessed days of the 1950’s. While the car did have some decent specs, including a 3.5L V6 capable of producing 214 hp, the design team went so far out of bounds compared to what most Americans were interested in buying that most people wouldn’t even consider the Prowler. American designs in the 1990’s had shifted away from the boldness of previous generations, and most upper-middle class drivers who could afford the approximately $40,000 manufacturer’s suggested retail price didn’t want to draw attention to themselves in such an obvious manner. DaimlerChrysler ceased production on the Plymouth after the 2002 model year.
John DeLorean wanted to revolutionize the American sports car market by creating a vehicle that combined the best in Italian high-end design with classic American performance. What ensued was the only model that his DeLorean Motor Company would ever produce, and bankruptcy for his organization. The DeLorean Motor Company produced just under 9,000 DMC-12s before shuttering the plant in 1982. Notable for its heavy use of stainless steel in the design and the infamous gull-wing doors that swing upward, the car is now mostly remembered for being used as the time machine in jesting fashion throughout Robert Zemeckis’s Back to the Future trilogy of films.
Following the explosion of the Volkswagen Beetle into the U.S. market throughout the 1960’s, Ford decided that they needed their own version of the compact, affordable family car in order to seriously compete. Ford executives envisioned the Pinto as the car for everyday American’s, and despite receiving some criticism from automotive publications concerning its suspension and brakes, the Pinto initially sold well and was produced throughout the entirety of the 70’s. What lands it on this list, however, is the legal nightmare that it created for Ford after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration initiated a recall of the vehicle due to the position of its fuel tank.
The American Motors Corporation anticipated that with its innovative design features and focus on performance specs, the Pacer would be seen as the car of the future and would instantly be destined for legendary status. What they failed to see was that the Pacer had the ultimate love it or hate it design; just as many consumers found it ludicrously laughable as did sleek and stylish, and the Pacer was discontinued after only five model years. While the car did perform reasonable well, its terrible gas mileage for a car of its size (18 mpg in city driving) also turned off many buyers embroiled in the stagflation of the 1970’s.
It’s the car so notoriously shoddy that its own name became a running joke (as in: if you own one, yu don’t go). The Yugo is the first lemon that pops into many people’s minds when they think of classic automotive failures. The Yugo initially sold respectably in the U.S. during the late 1980’s, but by 1992 it had become so synonymous with poor craftsmanship and assembly that it sold under 1,500 units and was pulled from the market. Production continued in the, shall we say, less competitive Serbian market into the mid-2000’s, but it was clear early on that the dream of making a splash in America was frivolous at best.
Even if you’re driving one of these famous fiascoes, it’s wise to complete a defensive driving/traffic school course as soon as possible! No one wants to be stuck driving a lemon, but who doesn’t need a discount on their insurance premiums or an infrequent traffic violation dismissed? Completing a defensive driving course may be the answer you’re looking for!