The 8 Biggest Car Failures Ever

Sometimes ideas for cars just run out of gas

Out of the thousands of automobile models that have emerged since the first self-propelled vehicle in 1769, a pretty large number fail to capture the public's attention and get chalked up as failures. 

These are the worst of that group. 

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Subaru 360

Subaru 360.

In the battle for cheap transportation, Subaru actually advertised the 360 as "cheap and ugly", to appeal to the heartstrings of Volkswagen Beetle fans that made that car a hit.

It was so small, it was exempt from most automative safety standards - and you know what that means (there weren't really any on the car). The Beetle wasn't necessarily much better in terms of safety, but, people loved that damn thing.


of 08

The Amphicar

A 1965 Amphicar. Heritage Images/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Amphicar attempted to be two things at once--a car and a boat, but it didn't do either particularly well.   

Most Amphicars were built pretty much the same. They had a top speed of 7 knots on water and 70 mph on land. But they had a tendency, to, well, flood and sometimes sink. And you thought your commute was bad.

Combined with EPA regulations that killed the U.S. market, the amphicar is just a side note in automative history.

Read more about the amphicar →

of 08

Chevrolet Corvair

Chevrolet Corvair. Eric O'Connell/Photodisc/Getty Images

The Chevrolet Corvair, had, well, a lot of problems. Famously chronicled in Ralph Nader's seminal book on the auto industry called Unsafe At Any Speed, the issues included:

  • The car's rear-mounted engine shifted most of its weight to the back of the car, which made it prone to swerving uncontrollably in sharp turns.
  • In an S-shaped turn, its suspension would cause the wheels to dig into the pavement and catapult the car onto its roof.
  • In a front-end collision, the Corvair's non-collapsible steering column would crush the driver's rib cage. 

General Motors eventually made fixes on the car, but the damage to customer perceptions was already done. 

See 12 more of the scariest cars ever 

of 08

Pontiac Aztek

A Pontiac Aztek. Flickr user: Yahya S. - licensed under CC BY 2.0

To this day, the Pontiac Aztek is recognized as one of General Motors' biggest design disasters, usually soliciting a polarizing reaction on sight (and that's putting it politely).

The Aztek probably only exists in a positive light in the hearts of fans of hero/anti-hero Walter White, who toted himself around in it while building his secret drug empire.

12 more of the ugliest cars ever made  

of 08

Ford Pinto

1974 Ford Pinto. SuperStock/Getty Images

The issues with the Ford Pinto ranged from the minor (the plastic grille breaking when the hood was slammed; inside door handles breaking off in a passenger's hand) to the major (the car had a nasty habit of bursting into flames on rear impact).

The bigger issue for the Pinto was one of trust. After post-production testing, Ford KNEW about the fuel tank flaw, and chose not to deploy fixes (at a cost of about $20 per car) for them, because they were too expensive.

In the end, 27 people were determined to have been killed in rear-end-crash explosions involving Pintos, dissolving trust for the car.

Why the Ford Pinto's flaws ultimately saved many more lives →

of 08

DeLorean DMC-12

The DeLorean DMC-12. Matthew Ward/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

After years of working on products like the Chevrolet Vega, former GM executive John Z. DeLorean quit his job to raise the funds to start his own car company.

His premise was simple, the car should be "fun to drive, safe to operate, and long-lasting."  DeLorean hired the famed car designers Giorgetto Giugiaro of Ital Design and Colin Chapman of Lotus to assist in creating the car. Pre-orders were strong for the unique car, which featured an all aluminum body and gullwing doors.

The problems started when they needed to actually MAKE the car. 

The facility where it was built in Northern Island had to be shut several times for safety. Vendors wouldn't visit. The exchange rate raised the price of the car well higher than it's target competitor, the Corvette. 

Cash flow problems, however, doomed the company, and when DeLorean tried to pursue questionable funding (read: drug money), his arrest (and later acquittal) marked the end of the company.

That is, until a certain future traveling teenager hit the big screen in 1985.

More DeLorean DMC-12 Facts 

of 08

The Yugo GV

A Yugo GV. Flickr user: Michael Gil - Licensed under CC BY 2.0

When it was introduced in 1985, the Yugo GV was the cheapest car in America.  And it showed. The car was built in what was then Yugoslavia, not exactly known at the time for its automative industry.

The styling was outdated, the engine was underpowered, and build quality was terrible. But, it wasn't even this that killed the Yugo - it was new emissions standards that ended its run in 1992.

It's proof you get what you pay for.  

See more 19 more truly terrible cars 

of 08

Ford Edsel

The Ford Edsel in 1957. M. McKeown /Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Edsel was named for Henry Ford's only son, and started out as a complete mystery. 

In the spring of 1957, they began "The Edsel is Coming" ad campaign, which only offered a small glimpse. Anyone involved with the Edsel was sworn to secrecy not to leak details. Dealers were required to hide their stock in the showroom.

And when launch day came, the public came in droves to see it.  And then left without buying it.

See why the Edsel failed 

Next: The Other Things You Need To Consider When Buying a Car