Home Cars 25 Cars That Never Should Have Been Built

25 Cars That Never Should Have Been Built

Vukasin Herbez December 19, 2019

Every car manufacturer invests a lot of effort, money, and time into designing and producing new models. The development process can sometimes take almost a decade. Despite so much thinking and engineering, the finished product can sometimes be extremely disappointing. Some cars were so disappointing, it would’ve been better to kill the project before it reached the dealership. This list will tell you about these cars that became flops and the laughingstock of the entire car community. They are the perfect examples of poor thinking, engineering, and design.

Sometimes, car companies introduced these vehicles at a bad time for the economy or the company. Other times, they were poorly presented, marketed or developed. However, some of these stinkers just managed to miss the point. Here is an interesting and colorful mix of cars that they should never have built. These cars stand as a reminder to all car engineers, designers and, marketing teams. You probably will recognize some of these cars, while others may be totally new to you. Read on to learn more about the cars that made history, but in a bad way.

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25. Volkswagen Phaeton

The Phaeton car was a clear case of misjudgment from Volkswagen. It was a luxury sedan from a company that specializes in economy models using a Bentley Continental platform, big engines, and upscale features. However, the market wasn’t ready for a brand that gained fame by offering compact, affordable models to introduce a luxurious land barge.

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As a result, the Phaeton failed worldwide despite being a fantastic car. When Volkswagen approved the Phaeton project, they thought they could pull it off. They wanted to become a legitimate competitor to the Mercedes S Class or BMW 7 Series, but things turned out differently.

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24. Renault Le Car

Back in the early ’70s, economy models were popular, so foreign companies started importing cars to the American market in significant numbers. Renault, the French company, was present in the U.S. They thought it would be a great idea to send their new supermini, the Renault 5, to America. They named it the Le Car, and it was to be the competitor to the new Volkswagen Golf/Rabbit, as well as the Japanese imports.

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But there was a problem. U.S. safety standards imposed the use of different bumpers and grilles, so the 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine only developed 51 HP in the U.S.-spec model. Because it was painfully slow and small with a strange design and poor construction, soon, the Le Car became the subject of many jokes. Drivers considered it to be the worst choice in the compact car class. Renault struggled to sell them, so they eventually pulled out of the market.

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23. Honda Insight

Honda wanted a piece of the action in the hybrid car segment, so it introduced the Insight. It was the direct copy and competitor to the Toyota Prius. Although the Prius managed to win hundreds of thousands of owners to become the dominant model in its segment, the Insight failed miserably, selling in just a few thousand examples.

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The reason was that the Insight was even less powerful, slower and uglier than the Prius. As a result, most people didn’t want anything to do with it. Unfortunately for Honda, the Insight was a major sales disappointment.

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22. Ford Pinto

In the 1970s, most domestic car manufacturers addressed the changing market climate and the rising popularity of compact cars with several homegrown models. However, most drivers consider all of them to be bad. One of those cars is the Ford Pinto that debuted in the early ’70s. The Pinto was popular due to its low price, reasonably nice design, and a long list of options. Ford equipped it with economical four and six-cylinder engines, and the overall quality of the car was decent.

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So what was the problem? While engineering the car, Ford “forgot” to add protection to its rear-mounted fuel tank. The fuel tank was below the trunk and just behind the rear bumper. In most models, there is a strong cross-member to protect the fuel tank in the case of a crash. However, the Pinto lacked this feature. Sadly, that became apparent when people started getting killed in fiery crashes due to the leaking fuel tanks. The families of the people who were killed or hurt in such incidents sued Ford. Eventually, the company spent millions to settle all of the cases.

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21. Merkur XR4Ti

During the ’80s, Ford took several approaches to revive its performance image. One of them was the introduction of the Merkur XR4Ti. This was basically a British Ford Sierra they packed with a special aero package, a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-banger, and various other improvements.

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Ford envisioned it as a hot hatch with rear-wheel drive, racing credentials and better driving dynamics than its front-wheel-drive competitors. Unfortunately, the Merkur XR4Ti proved to be unsuccessful because it was expensive. Also, the American market just didn’t understand Ford’s attempt to offer a rear-wheel-drive hot hatch.

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20. Lexus CT 200H

Lexus insists it can beat the German car manufacturers in the luxury vehicle game, and sure enough, the company tries hard to do so. However, sometimes the failure is obvious, like in the case of the CT 200H. Marketed as a premium compact hatch with a performance edge, the CT 200H is nothing more than a Prius in fancy clothes.

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This means it is painfully slow, dull to drive, and embarrassing pulling out from the stoplight. This car is not something people want to buy. Every magazine that tested the CT 200H was disappointed with its slow performance and poor driving dynamics.

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19. Pontiac Aztek

When they presented it in 2000, the Pontiac Aztek was a good idea on paper, at least. The mid-size crossover model with its sharp new styling, decent engine lineup, and plenty of interior space was a modern concept at the time. Pontiac was eager to present it to the public since the overall sales of the brand were poor. They thought a new model would boost their popularity and bring new customers to the dealerships.

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The plan was sound, except for one thing, and that was the design. Somehow, the Pontiac designers managed to push to production one of the ugliest cars they ever made. Even from a distance and 17 years after the first Aztek saw the light of day, it is still a car with a design that makes no sense whatsoever. Every design component, and the car as a whole, is extremely ugly. Also, the interior is questionable. The same person who designed the Aztek went on to design the great-looking Corvette C7, so it is strange how he managed to do such a bad job at Pontiac. The pure ugliness of the car, as well as the bad fit and finish quality, is what sealed the fate of the Aztek despite having some good features.

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18. Chrysler 200

The 200 has a cool design and looks modern, which are great accomplishments in a class full of interesting designs. However, the quality is poor, and the reliability score is less than average. Also, rear passengers have a problem with comfort, and the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is not a particularly fast or powerful engine.

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Automotive journalists have published many articles explaining why the 200 failed to hit its mark. After the 2017 model year, Chrysler discontinued this car. Many drivers hope that Chrysler will replace it with something truly remarkable and repair its damaged reputation.

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17. Yugo GV

Back in the late ’80s, the ex-Yugoslav car manufacturer Crvena Zastava made a brave attempt to enter the American market. They did it with a compact model they called the Yugo. The Yugo was a three-door hatchback they built on a Fiat 127 base, but with some improvements in the design and technology. Under the hood was a 1.1-liter four-cylinder engine with electronic fuel injection. However, for the U.S. market, car buyers got updated equipment, a radio, and even air conditioning as an option. From today’s viewpoint, the Yugo was a basic, even primitive car. But for the middle of the ’80s, it was a decent proposition as well as a solution to the economy car dilemma.

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Fiat mechanics were relatively common in the USA since Fiat had just left the American market in the early ’80s. So, why did the Yugo received such bad reviews from Consumer Reports back in the day? The reason was simple: driving dynamics and quality. Both were horrible, even by the standards of the day. The engine only produced 65 HP that went to the front wheels over a badly-assembled five-speed manual gearbox. The performance was painfully slow, but that is not the worst thing. The fit and finish were bad, and to make things worse, Yugo importer Malcolm Bricklin didn’t import enough spare parts. That meant that if your Yugo broke down, and eventually they all did, the spare parts had to travel for months from Yugoslavia to America.

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16. Cadillac Cimarron

Today, almost all the luxury brands have downsized their lineups, offering more affordable and compact versions of their big sedans. But, back in the early ’80s, this move was unheard of and hard to understand. In those days, Cadillac was suffering from an identity crisis, so they looked for a way to reinvent the company to fight all their foreign competitors. After long meetings with the product development managers, they decided to introduce a small Cadillac with a lower price to attract more customers. The problem was that Cadillac didn’t have a small platform, so they turned to Chevrolet.

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They borrowed the modest Cavalier chassis, along with the small and slow four-cylinder engine. Although Cadillac dressed the Cavalier with unique trim, new colors and a new name, the Cimarron just wasn’t enough. Sales were poor, and Cadillac was under fire from their brand loyalists for ruining the company image. All throughout the industry, the Cimarron was a laughingstock. To this day, it has remained one of the worst examples of downsizing ever.

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15. 1980 Chevrolet Corvette

In 1970, the hottest Corvette pumped out 435 HP, but in 1980, the hottest Corvette only produced a modest 180 HP. Worse yet, it was 10 HP less in California, due to the stricter emission standards. So, what happened in just 10 years? Where did all those horses go?

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It was the economic recession as well as the tightening emission standards and safety regulations that robbed performance from the legendary Corvette. The 1980 Corvette was a dinosaur with old technology under its plastic skin, lazy engines, and outdated interiors. Although it still looked the business, years had caught up with it and the disco era had passed.

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14. Skoda Felicia

If you think the Yugo was the first communist car they sold in the USA, think again. Back in 1959, the Czechoslovakian car company, Skoda, offered the compact Felicia to U.S. buyers. In the late ’50s, that was brave for a communist company to offer anything in America, but Skoda was brave enough to try.

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The Felicia was a solid, competent car by European standards, but it was tiny and didn’t have enough power for American drivers. With almost no dealer networks, high prices due to export fees, and zero marketing, Felicia didn’t have a chance in America from the start.

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13. Cadillac 8-6-4 Engine

Back in the early ’80s when fuel efficiency and cost savings were the most desirable features in the car sales game, most manufacturers were experimenting with various engine and drivetrain options. Oldsmobile went the diesel route by introducing the notoriously bad 4.3-liter V8 and then the slightly better 5.7-liter V8. However, Cadillac decided to install a fancy electronic cylinder deactivation system on their gasoline V8s. When cruising around town with the new deactivation system, the car would only use four cylinders.

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The rest would deactivate electronically, stopping the fuel delivery and shutting down the spark plugs. When the driver needed more power, two more cylinders would activate, making the engine a V6. However, when the driver pushed the throttle to the end, all eight would fire up to deliver full V8 power. However, as soon they delivered the first examples, problems started. Simply, the electronic system was terribly unreliable, so the engine tended to get stuck in one mode, most often as a four-cylinder. After a few years on the market, Cadillac discontinued this option, but it took a long time to recover from the damage to its reputation.

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12. Oldsmobile Cutlass Diesel

In the late ’70s, American manufacturers were all about fuel efficiency and downsizing. The era of big cruisers and powerful gasoline engines of the ’60s was gone. Everybody was busy trying to find a way to introduce new and innovative technologies. Oldsmobile was at the forefront of this new trend with the introduction of the diesel engine in passenger cars. They introduced the 4.3-liter V8 diesel engine as an option for the Cutlass line, and soon, this model was subject to enormous amounts of recalls and engine swaps.

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Simply put, the 4.3-liter had the tendency to explode and shatter during normal driving. Even though there were no injuries, the car was unusable and only good for scrap. Oldsmobile later introduced the 5.7-liter diesel that was somewhat better and more durable. However, most people consider the 4.3-liter to be the worst diesel engine in history.

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11. Fiat Strada

One of the last models Fiat offered to U.S. buyers before it left in the early ’80s was a futuristic compact hatchback they called the Strada. The attractive car had a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine and an interesting interior layout.

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But it was poorly assembled and prone to rust. That didn’t help Fiat’s reputation, so they pulled the Strada from the market after just two years.

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10. Sterling 825

If you don’t know what the Sterling 825 is, nobody can blame you. Although they presented it as the next big thing in the luxury segment on the American market, Sterling is now a forgotten brand that didn’t leave a mark, moving to the outer margins of automotive history. However, the Sterling car company has an interesting story. Sterling was a British company they established in the late ’80s with Honda’s capital and Rover’s design.

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Although that sounds like a strange combination, the finished product looked attractive. It had a stylish interior and decent power thanks to Honda’s V6 engine. However, after they debuted it in 1987 with promising sales numbers in the first few months, some problems showed up. Sterlings were of poor construction, their electronics were troublesome, and some cars even had rust issues. Honda tried to improve the production process, but there wasn’t much they could do. Unfortunately, by the early ’90s, Sterling was gone, yet nobody was sad about it, not even Honda.

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9. Chevrolet Corvair

In the late ’50s, Chevrolet presented the Corvair, a revolutionary compact car with a rear-mounted, air-cooled, flat-six engine. For a couple of years, it looked like everything was okay with the Corvair, and sales were good. That was, until a book called, Unsafe at Any Speed hit the bookstores across the country, causing big problems for GM. The book’s author, Ralph Nader, was a consumer advocate. He discovered some classified documents showing the Corvair was responsible for many car accidents, some even with fatal outcomes.

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Apparently, the engine in the back of the car caused the Corvair to become difficult to handle. Chevrolet was aware of that, but they didn’t want to invest any money in additional stabilizer bars and suspension modifications. Soon, the book gained publicity and the public demanded answers while drivers continued to report crashes in the Corvair. Soon, Chevrolet was involved in government hearings where the company admitted its executives knew about the matter. In the end, they paid the settlement and promised to invest money in safety research. Corvair sales dropped dramatically, causing Chevrolet to discontinue the model in 1969.

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8. Mitsubishi Mirage

Available as a five-door hatchback or a compact four-door sedan, the Mirage was affordable with a starting price just above $13,000. However, for that kind of money, drivers couldn’t expect much. In fact, the Mirage comes with limited equipment and a sluggish three-cylinder engine.

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The transmission choice is either a manual or a slow-shifting automatic that sends the power to the front wheels. To most drivers, the budget-priced Mirage feels like it’s below the industry average. Mirage buyers have criticized its interior design and materials, as well as painfully slow performance and quality.

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7. Audi 5000

Today, Audi is one of the leading luxury brands in the American market. Still, in the late ’80s, the company was almost gone from U.S. shores. That was due to the news of unintended acceleration problems resulting in numerous crashes. In 1986, the popular CBS TV show 60 Minutes ran a feature about Audi’s unintended acceleration on the popular 5000 model.

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However, television viewers didn’t see that they had rigged the car. In fact, the acceleration they featured in the show wasn’t genuine. After the show aired, the car community was buzzing. As a result, Audi’s reputation was badly damaged. Audi responded by publishing numerous tests and videos to show the only possible way something like that could happen was if the driver’s foot slipped off the brake to the accelerator pedal. Unfortunately, it didn’t help and soon their sales hit rock bottom.

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6. Volkswagen Passat TDI

Volkswagen has been selling its diesel-powered cars in America for some time, offering several models. Buyers love the economy and smooth running of 2.0-liter turbo diesel engines, but then “Dieselgate” happened. Apparently, Volkswagen was caught cheating on its emissions tests. Although they said their diesel cars were a cleaner alternative, they were actually polluting the environment more than regular gasoline-powered cars.

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This dishonesty massively backfired on the company. Soon, their customers started disposing of their diesel-powered Passats. That forced the company to stop selling them in the USA. To this day, the company’s reputation is still damaged. Still, some loyal customers are hoping the Golf will bring the company back to its former glory.

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5. Fiat 500L

At first, it looked like Fiat scored big with its cute and compact 500, causing a triumphant return to the American market. Soon, they presented the 500L, a car Fiat they built on an extended platform. It came with the same basic design in the front end, but with a longer wheelbase and more interior space. In theory, the Fiat 500L should have worked.

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But in real life, it turned out to be a disaster. The 500L is slow, has poor equipment and is impractical and unattractive. Also, it had quality and reliability issues, as well as bad interior materials. Most of all, the 500L is expensive, with a base price of over $20,000.

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4. Cadillac ELR

Cadillac’s brave attempt to break into the luxury EV market didn’t pay off since car customers ignored the ELR. While the car was cool-looking and luxurious, it came with a limited range, high price and strange marketing.

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Cadillac made the marketing mistake of offering the ELR at the same time Tesla debuted the more practical and cooler Model S. Sadly, the ELR failed to succeed after just a couple of years on the market.

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3. Honda CRZ

When it debuted in 2010, the Honda CRZ was an innovative compact hybrid-powered coupe that looked like a spiritual successor to the legendary CRX. Unfortunately, it wasn’t even close with a 1.5-liter engine barely producing 130 HP. Along with the heavy hybrid add-ons, the CRZ was slow and didn’t handle well.

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Needless to say, the managers at Honda were disappointed. Honda just didn’t have any luck with electric or hybrid cars, and the CRZ didn’t help. After all the money Honda invested in engineering and marketing, they probably wish the CRZ never happened.

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2. Mitsubishi i-MiEV

If you think the Mirage is bad, just wait until you hear about Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV electric model. The move to introduce an all-electric car could have been profitable for Mitsubishi since this segment is so promising. Still, if you want to sell cars, you have to offer something substantial to buyers, yet Mitsubishi failed to do so. The main problem is that the i-MiEV is painfully slow to recharge.

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In fact, it takes between seven and 21 hours to fully recharge them, which is forever compared to other electric cars. Also, the drive is terrible, while the interior is outdated, cramped, and uncomfortable. In general, the car is undeveloped, clumsy and painfully slow. In comparison to other electric cars in its class like the Nissan Leaf, the i-MiEV looks like an unfinished prototype.

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1. Suzuki X-90

How about a two-seater, two-door SUV with compact dimensions and a removable T-Top? That may sound insane, but that is exactly what the Suzuki X-90 was when they unveiled it in 1995. Powered by a 95 HP, 1.6-liter four-cylinder, the X-90 came with a rear-wheel drive as standard.

Buyers could also opt for the all-wheel-drive model with limited interior and trunk space. They officially offered the car in America, so Suzuki managed to sell 7,000 copies. Still, neither the buyers nor the motoring press understood what Suzuki wanted to say with this model. It wasn’t an off-roader, yet it wasn’t a roadster. However, it was ugly and unappealing, which hurt the sales numbers badly.

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These are 25 cars that should have never been built for a number of reasons, some even fatal. All of these cars are memorable, but not in a good way. If you ever have the chance to buy one of these cars, be sure to run in the opposite direction as fast as you can.

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