These Disappointing Cars Ruined The Companies That Made Them

February 5, 2022

The car market is a crowded one, so companies sometimes have to try to push the envelope to make their cars stand out. This can mean creating cars that are ahead of their time or packed to the gills with features, or it can mean making a car so 'affordable' (cheap) that it barely withstands its first test drive. More often than not, these seemingly revolutionary cars spell disaster for their makers. Curious to know which cars were epic failures? Check out these disappointing cars that ruined the companies that made them, or sullied their hard earned reputations.

Saturn Ion

Poor Saturn. The American automaker tried desperately to revive the then-struggling American auto industry, but ultimately came up short in the face of stiff international competition. Saturn was branded as “a different kind of car company” but was effectively just another GM subsidiary. In 2003, Saturn attempted to enter the crowded compact sedan market with the Ion, which faced up against the wildly popular Honda Accord and Toyota Corolla. American car buyers were not enthused by the Ion, nor by its poor safety ratings.

Edsel Corsair

Edsel was a short-lived division of Ford Motor Company which was intended to steal some of GM and Chrysler’s domestic auto market share. Edsel automobiles were marketed as the cars of the future, a promise which consumers never seemed to believe. In 1958, Edsel rolled out the Corsair, a massive, streamlined bulk of a land yacht packed with features nobody needed. The feature which doomed the Corsair from the start was the Teletouch transmission, which included an arrangement of buttons on the steering wheel similar to a telephone keypad which was used to change gears. From the outset, the system was prone to failure - so much so that Edsel went out of business in 1959, sending the 1960 model year to market amidst the shutdown.

Hummer H2

The Hummer H2 is arguably the car most responsible for causing General Motors’ most recent bankruptcy and subsequent government bailout. For some reason, GM executives believed what the American car market needed most was a $65,000 four-seater SUV with a fuel efficiency of a wallet-draining ten miles per gallon. As gas prices soared in the mid-2000s, people quit buying the gas-guzzling Hummer H2s and its bigger brother the Hummer, and GM stock values plummeted.

Geo Tracker

In 1989, automaker General Motors (GM) launched an economy compact car division known as Geo. It was meant to be able to help GM, under the heading of their Chevrolet division, compete in the economy import market. To that end, Geo launched the Tracker, a mini SUV that was technically a light truck, as its flagship model. Confusingly, the Tracker was manufactured in a joint venture with Suzuki, so it has an identical twin vehicle known as the Suzuki Sidekick. While the Tracker was shopped out with moderate success in such markets as Canada and Mexico, its shady safety ratings and, let’s face it, ridiculously small design made it largely flop in the United States. You can paint it like a Jurassic Park Jeep all you want, Steve, but nobody’s fooled.

1968-'82 Corvette C3

With a mere 180-90 horsepower from a 5.7L V8 engine, this vehicle is a disappointment in comparison to the speed of its predecessors. The C3 Corvette is said to be a half-hearted attempt to maintain an interest in the design until the anticipated C4 was released. Chevrolet added 'Cross-Fire' throttle body fuel injection to the already underwhelming engine and then eliminated the option for manual transmission. The final straw came in a Collector Edition - the first Corvette to cost more than $20,000 - which adorned a silvery leather upholstery, lift-up rear tail glass, turbine wheels, metallic paint and fade graphics on the hood and sides.

Crosley Hotshot

After World War Two, steel was in short supply in post-war America. As a result, automaker Crosley produced the Hotshot, a tiny sportscar, largely out of stamped tin - including the engine. The dual-overhead cam .75-liter four-cylinder engine was welded together out of brazed tin and enabled the car to reach a maximum speed of fifty-two miles per hour. As the engine heated up, the tin had a tendency to warp and bend, causing frequent engine failures. The CoBra (Copper Brazed) engine was replaced after the first model year with Crosley’s Cast Iron Block Assembly - more commonly known as Crosley’s CIBA engine. The Hotshot would be the last car Crosley produced before it ceased production in 1952.

Nissan Frontier

Nissan's affordable mid-sized picked up is as disappointing as it is outdated. Having received its latest update around the time Obama was being sworn in as President, the Frontier is a trip back in time to when hands-free calling was a luxury instead of standard, and RAM was still owned by Dodge. In the years since the Frontier saw an overhaul, most of its domestic competition have had more facelifts than wealthy bored housewives. While the Frontier continues to sell at its economical pricepoint - just $20k for the base model - the lackluster interior, outdated electronics, noisey cabin, and subpar handling all remind buyers that you get what you pay for.

Vector M12

Vector Motor Company started out as an American rival of high-end sports car makers such as Ferrari and Lamborghini. After the company was taken over by an Indonesian company, Megatech, the company churned out the cheaply-produced Vector M12. In 1995, the M12 hit the market with a price of $184,000 USD, but auto buyers were not impressed. Furthermore, frequent mechanical problems during production slowed the manufacture of the M12 to a crawl, and the company tanked after only eighteen models of the M12 were produced. Despite being so rare, AutoWeek Magazine called the M12 the worst car it has ever tested.

Bricklin SV-1

The Bricklin SV-1 was a huge hit after its debut in 1974. The sleek sports car with gull-wing doors looked like nothing else on the market and sported a powerful AMC 360 V8 engine in its first year, then shifted to the Windsor V8 after. Designer Malcolm Bricklin, who also founded Subaru of America, intended the car to be a safer alternative to the bulky, heavy muscle cars of the day. Unfortunately, a host of technical problems hampered production when the cars’ fiberglass bodies cracked while still in their molds. Due to the manufacturing issues, Bricklin couldn’t produce cars quickly enough and went bankrupt in 1976.

Pontiac Aztek

The Pontiac Aztek frequently makes it onto 'worst cars of all time' lists, and for good measure. The brutally angular, hideous Picasso painting of a body was an instant turn-off for many, and the lackluster performance didn’t do much to improve its reception. While the Aztek was marketed as some sort of in-your-face adventure vehicle, the 3.4-liter V6 engine and front-wheel drive didn’t exactly allow the Aztek to do more than grocery runs. Edmundsranked the Aztek the fifth worst car of all time, not only for its hideous appearance but also because its commercial failure was the death knell for the eighty-four-year-old Pontiac Motor Company, once the pride of Detroit.

Dodge Intrepid (2.7L DOHC)

Back in the 1990s, as Chrysler was trying to dig its way out of the reputation for cheap autos that the K-platform had solidified for them. Approaching the market with a sporty, wedge-shaped sedan that cranked out 200 horses in the base model seemed the perfect cure to the K-Car blues. While the Intrepid was initially praised, future issues would sully the vehicle's reputation. Amongst the complaints owners were raising, Dodge also fended off five separate class-action lawsuits over the poor design of the 2.7 litre V-6 that came in the stock model. The engine had a habit of retaining oil sludge, which gummed up the engine, reducing performance over time and eventually causing the powerplant to fail - not exactly a feature most people want in their vehicle.

DeLorean DMC-12

The DeLorean DMC-12 or, as it’s commonly referred to, simply 'The DeLorean,' is a strange animal. On the one hand, it’s nearly universally known and adored (among people who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, at least) as that car from Back to the Future, but on the other, it was literally the only car creator John DeLorean was ever able to sell - and he didn’t even sell that many of them in the first place. Over its two-year lifespan, there were only about 9,000 DeLorean DMC-12s ever produced. For one thing, the car was quite pricey for its time; originally expected to sell for $12,000 (hence its name), the DMC-12 ended up costing $25,000 - about $65,000 today - straight off the factory floor. When the automotive industry took a huge nosedive, DeLorean didn’t attempt to make any other cars and the company folded soon after. Those gullwing doors will forever be etched in the collective conscious, however.

Plymouth Prowler

The Plymouth Prowler, like so many on this list, seemed like a good idea on paper, but the realization of the vision fell far short. This retro hot rod was plagued with problems from its inception. To begin with, the throwback roadster design was practically plagiarized from designer, Chip Foose. While its body was super cool, with an open-wheel arrangement and lines that begged for flames, Plymouth decided to go cheap under the hood by installing their standard 250-horsepower V6 engine and not even offering a manual transmission option. The result was an all hype, no delivery disappointment of a granny-mobile that was often referred to as 'flaccid.' Ouch.

1997-2003 Chevrolet Malibu

GM Performance

Although the Cavalier is known as GM's worst car of the 90s, it has been said that the '97-'03 Malibu might give the original title owner a run for its money. The Chevrolet Malibu burst onto the auto scene during what was arguably the most competitive era for midsize sedans, and sadly it was left in the dust. With horrible reviews on style, handling, fit, finish and especially the 4-cylinder engine, it's a wonder any of these models were sold at all. Prone to rust, particularly under the gas cap and engine cradle, these vehicles left their owner with a plethora of problems.

Merkur XR4TI

Motor Trend

After being sold in the U.S for a mere four years, the Merkur was basically the American version of the European Ford Scorpio. Its original two-level wing was actually viewed as a positive thing by the automotive press at the time. The interesting XR4Ti made the Car and Driver Best List in 1986, but Ford had to go one step further and replaced the two-level spoiler with a single spoiler that incidentally increased its coefficient of drag. Shortly afterward, Car and Driver removed the Merkur from its 1986 list citing lack of sales; the vehicle was discontinued soon after.

Chevrolet Chevette

GTA Forums

Where to start? This automotive crisis is said to have merely one positive quality, rear wheel drive, and even that isn't enough to appease the mass of people who were left with nothing but a pile of crap and disappointment after purchasing this Chevy model. Basically a cross between a Pinto and a Gremlin, the Chevette made it's appearance in the auto market in 1976 and was quickly reviled by anyone with decent taste. Designed as a hatchback with a nose, it has been widely viewed as one of the ugliest cars ever to come off the assembly line. While other notable misses (the Pacer and the Yugo) have dedicated fan clubs, the Chevette is considered by most people to be a vehicle best left forgotten about. And forget about it they have, with good reason, the Chevette had a 51 horsepower engine and a four-speed manual transmission, but not much else. With a description of being loud and tinny, the engine always sounded like it was about to take its last breath. While some will remember this as an old-faithful car that got them from point A to point B throughout college, most will remember it for spending more time in the repair shop than out on the road.

PT Cruiser

Car And Driver

Next up, we have the model that Chrysler had high hopes for, except many design flaws gave it the nickname, the 'PT Loser'. This was largely due to the large and boxy appearance of the vehicle that just was not cool, for anyone. PT stands for 'Personal Transport', which in itself is a pretty unoriginal name. In a last-ditch effort to give the PT Cruiser some sex appeal, the company released a convertible version in 2005, which coincidentally turned out to be the only thing people hated more than the original Cruiser model! It looks exactly like the original model with the roof cut off, which is a perfect example where design flaw overshadowed all other aspects of the car.

Chrysler K-Car

Car Style Critic

The K-Car is another doozy from Chrysler - more specifically the Plymouth Reliant and Dodge Aries. Unfortunately, these cars became synonymous with the term 'cheap' and helped to solidify Chrysler's reputation in the 80s for making poor quality vehicles. The idea to mass market a cheap car that would appeal to everyone was an idea conceived by Chrysler's (then) head honcho, a man named Lee Iacocca, and the K-cars were rather successful in this endeavor - selling more than one million units of each model in the first year of production. Still, the K-Car was nicknamed the "Poor Man's Car" and gained a reputation for having a boat-load of problems, from knobs that literally fell off, to fault transmissions and rusted out bodies. Being as it was a cheap car made cheaply, the K-Car has since become a part of 1980s automotive nostalgia for all the wrong reasons.

AMC Gremlin

The Street Peep

After its release in 1970, the Gremlin was the car that teenagers everywhere hoped their parents wouldn't gift them on their eighteenth birthday. A sad attempt by American Motors Company to beat Ford and GM to the subcompact car market, the Gremlin goes down in automotive history as one of the ugliest cars ever. With its long and low front end and a short hatchback in the rear, the Gremlin looks odd at any angle. It also featured vacuum-operated windshield wipers, a six-cylinder motor and erratic handling due to the loss of suspension in the back. Although, the Gremlin did have one small thing going for it, it was faster than other subcompact cars, but it was little consolation to those who drove this vehicle and had to endure being the brunt of many, many jokes.

Chevrolet Vega


When purchased brand new, the Vega was actually a pretty decent car. General Motors did sort out many of the ongoing issues after a few years of production, but by that time, it was too late. Some of the better-known problems include rushed paint jobs, engine oil leakage, piston scuffing due to the use of a liner-less aluminum block, and selective rustproofing that left significant areas of the vehicle prone to corrosion, among other things.

1985-1992 Yugo


Being as it is the butt of many car jokes, the Yugo was a Fiat 127 that was lightly modified and built in what was then Communist Yugoslavia. At the time, quality control was an enormous issue, not only inside the plant but from suppliers as well. The Yugo's super low price attracted car buyers who were not necessarily able to afford the maintenance schedule, causing preventable mechanical breakdowns and the inevitable death of the Yugo.

Chevrolet SSR

The Chevy SSR came out of the gate as if GM had a proper plan to compete with the retro-styled Prowler. The hot-rod pickup packed the massive 5300 Vortec V8 under the hood, with the Corvette's LS2 V8 taking that role in later models. With over 300 horsepower under the hood and classic truck stylings, the SSR should have been a grand slam. Unfortunately, GM paired the engines with a four speed automatic transmission that - while adequate for the 'vette's size, was underpowered in the two ton truck. Part of that weight discrepancy was caused by the silly looking convertible top. While the SSR could climb to 60 mph in under six seconds, on the turns it handled like the pickup it was. Ultimately, the SSR ended up underselling and Chev cut their losses and discontinued the truck after just three years.

Reliant Robin

Ran When Parked

Appropriately named the worst British car of all time, the Reliant Robin was another failed installment in three-wheeled car experiments. Its original design was supposed to be classified as a motorcycle with relaxed licensing rules. The Robin - or the 'Plastic Pig' as it was named - came in four variations with a top speed of 85 mph, but didn't have the option to reverse! While it was a constant concern to Robin drivers that their vehicle would tip sideways, in truth, the steering wheel popping off while in motion was a much bigger concern.

1987 Pontiac LeMans

Wheels Age

Getting it's start in North America between 1987 and 1993, with a 74hp 1.6-liter engine, the Pontiac LeMans will go down in history as the little car that just couldn't. It's very difficult to hide that this Pontiac model was no more than an old Opel built in South Korea, only to be rebranded and sold in North America, where it ultimately failed. Although, even if Americans didn't end up embracing the LeMans, it has, indeed, found a loving home elsewhere. They're still being manufactured in Uzbekistan under a new name!

1982 Cadillac Cimarron


Our next vehicle is said to be a shameful attempt to compete against a very popular model, with it's redecorated version of the front-drive, four-cylinder Cavalier. In fact, if you cover the grill what are you left with? A Chevy Cavalier! It can be assumed that the marketing 'genius' that decided to slap a Cadillac logo on a Cavalier has likely moved on and can do no further damage to the automotive industry. Unfortunately for the company, this self-inflicted wound was enough to nearly kill Cadillac.

Ford Pinto


Most cars are designed to help protect its occupants in the event of a crash, but the Pinto had other priorities. Due to a pretty severe design failure, a rear impact could cause the vehicle's fuel filler to come loose and puncture the fuel tank, often ending in the car being engulfed in flames, how safe! As if that wasn't bad enough, Ford allegedly determined that the cost of litigation would be less than fixing the problem itself.

1975-'80 AMC Pacer

Pics To Pin

First introduced in the mid-1970's, this enduring symbol of bad taste featured tall, wraparound windows that resemble a mobile fishbowl. AMC spent millions of dollars promoting the Pacer but was met with a resounding sales flop. The oddball design, complete with asymmetric doors - the right being longer than the left so that passengers could climb into the back more easily - had unexpected consequences. When the Pacer was later converted into a station wagon, items stored in the trunk fell out when the right door was ajar. Although it was a gas guzzler and a rust bucket, the AMC Pacer is remembered most for its hideous appearance, being dubbed as a 'glassine bolus of dorkiness' by Time Magazine.

Lincoln Continental Mark IV


Unfortunately, Ford really missed the 'mark' with this one, although it was exactly what the CEO Lee Iacocca wanted at the time. His hope was to refine the '69-'71 Mark III and create something that boomed American luxury. Enter the Mark IV - looking like a washed-up Cruella De Vil chariot - with it's Thunderbird chassis, 'fancy' bodywork and a fake Rolls Royce grille on the front for a little style. The Mark IV lacks precision, is slow, graceless, lumbering and just plain boring.