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25 Failed Cars & Trucks That Almost Spelled The End Of Ford

Cameron EittreimMarch 31, 2022

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20: Ford Gran Torino Elite

The Ford Gran Torino Elite was a sports car that was designed to compete with the new offerings that were coming out of General Motors. It was in line with the other muscle cars from this era. The Gran Torino Elite had a couple of innovations including a completely new power plant that was added. While Ford had hoped the car would build on the success of other muscle cars from the same period, that wasn’t the case (via Motor Biscuit).

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Sadly, the Gran Torino Elite ended up costing Ford a lot more than the project was worth. Declining sales and a slowing appetite for sports cars caused the Gran Torino to suffer. Dealerships couldn’t move these cars off the lot, and Ford Motor Company lost millions of dollars by liquidating these cars. To this day, the Gran Torino Elite is a highly underrated sports car that never seems to get the acknowledgment that it deserves.

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19: 1974 to 1978 Ford Mustang II

We already know the Pinto was a disaster for the company when it ended up causing controversy. So the next generation Mustang at the time was based on the Ford Pinto platform. You might question a Ford Pinto-based Mustang model as most enthusiasts did at the time. The car never achieved the same sales success as the previous Mustang models (via Motor Biscuit).

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The design of the Pinto-based Mustang was contrary to the formula that the company had already put forward with the previous generations of the car. The compact dimensions and underpowered engine weren’t compelling enough to entice the next generation of buyers. The Pinto-based Mustang ended up being a sales nightmare for Ford. This is by far one of the most underwhelming generations of the car and a black mark on the otherwise storied heritage.

Futura Shock: 1980 Ford Fairmont | Fairmont, Ford, Shock
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18: 1978-1983 Ford Fairmont

Ford buyers were notoriously picky when this car hit the market. The days of being able to market a gas-guzzling vehicle were a thing of the past, and consumers wanted something that offered something different. Thus, the 1978-1983 Ford Fairmont was designed to be a reliable and easy-to-drive family car. The problem was that the design of the Fairmont was questionable at best, and this caused many consumers to change their minds about the car (via Motor Biscuit).

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Sales of the Fairmont were abysmal at best, and the car was discontinued shortly thereafter. The Fairmont could have been a hit for Ford had the car been designed a bit better. Unfortunately, though, the design was lacking in many critical areas, and this made the Fairmont a seemingly failed proposition for the company. The Chrysler K-Cars were on the horizon, and the passenger car market was going to change in more ways than one.

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17: 1980-1982 Ford Thunderbird

For a long period, the Thunderbird was sort of the go-to car in the Ford lineup. It was comfortable and sporty while offering an affordable price tag. Unfortunately, the later years for the Thunderbird were critical to the demise of the car and ultimately cost Ford millions of dollars in the meantime. The 1980-1982 Thunderbird is one of the most underwhelming versions of the otherwise storied nameplate (via Motor Biscuit).

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The main problem with the Thunderbird from this era was its lack of reliability. Other cars were in this same class were much more reliable. The word started to spread, and it negatively affected Ford’s reputation around this period. Consumers were looking for more reliable car brands and Ford was dwindling in the eyes of the consumer. The Thunderbird would get a major improvement in the next generation but it was too late.

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16: 1982-1988 Ford EXP

The Ford EXP was an experimental project that was supposed to be the next popular sports car in Ford’s portfolio. The problem with the EXP was that it was based on the Escort and that didn’t mesh with what consumers were looking for. The EXP was an underpowered car and the reliability and build quality of the Escort around this time were questionable at best. The lack of reliability was the main issue that caused sales of the EXP to never reach their full potential (via The Motor Digest).

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A compact sports car like this could have been popular, such as the Toyota Celica. However, with the issues the car faced from the gate, there was never a way for the company to recover the sales. The Ford Probe sort of took the place of the EXP later on, but it was also a sales flop.

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15: 1988-1994 Ford Tempo

Speaking of compact cars that never reached the heights they could, the Tempo is another such questionable model. Ford was looking to compete with the Chrysler K-Cars and so the Tempo hit the market. The design of the car was compact and there was a lot to like about it. The fuel economy was better than compact cars that came before it and initial consumer response to the new model was promising (via The Motor Digest).

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Sadly, the same sort of problem settled into the Tempo in the form of reliability and build quality issues that plagued the car. Consumers were finding better deals from automakers like Honda and Toyota. The Tempo cost Ford millions to develop and send to the market, only to cost the company the same amount of money.

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14: Ford Probe

The Probe was positioned to replace the Mustang as the sports car in the Ford lineup. But where did the Probe fail? Well for starters the car was a mere shadow of what the Mustang was offering. Although the Mustang line was questionable around this time there still was a great amount of brand loyalty to the car. The Probe had a questionable nameplate, and the styling was about as dry as you could imagine from this time period (via The Motor Digest).

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There would go on to be two generations of the Probe for the car to be discontinued in the mid-1990s. The thing with the Probe is that it just didn’t resonate with consumers. The SUV models were already outpacing sports cars hitting the market. With legendary nameplates like the Toyota Supra being discontinued, it was only a matter of time until Ford axed the Probe.

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13: Ford Aspire

There is no mystery that subcompact cars have never fared well when domestic automakers sold them. The cars just always seem to pale in comparison to their foreign counterparts. The Aspire is a case in point as a car sold by Ford in the 1990s as an entry level form of transportation. The car was designed by Kia and most of the underpinnings were sourced from Kia parts, making this an interesting Ford (via The Motor Digest).

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Needless to say, the Aspire was a gigantic failure for the Ford Motor Company. The car cost millions of dollars to advertise and sales were abysmal. The build quality of this car was so bad that you can’t even find parts for this anymore. You’ll see one on the road every once in a while, but it’s few and far between.

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12: 1996 Ford Taurus

By the ’90s, the Taurus had gone from being the best-selling car in the country to being a shadow of its former self. Toyota and Honda were both dominating the family car market by this point in time. The Taurus had to be redesigned, and the folks at Ford figured it was time to do drastic measures. The Taurus redesign was catastrophic for the company and the car was mocked for its overt oval appearance from the inside out (via The Motor Digest).

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The Taurus was universally panned for the awful exterior styling. The overtly oval appearance made the car a target for negative press. We’re not sure what Ford was thinking, but this was one of the most costly blunders in the automotive industry. Ford undoubtedly lost millions of dollars on this redesign of the Taurus and the brand never made a full recovery.

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11: Ford Taurus SHO (Third Generation)

If the design of the ordinary Taurus model wasn’t bad enough during this period, Ford tried to make it worse by sending the newly-revised Taurus SHO to the market. The SHO was the performance version of the Taurus and managed to gain a cult like following in the first two generations of the car. Unfortunately, there were a few issues with this car and the first issue wasn’t just related to its exterior styling (via The Motor Digest).

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The powerplant was one of the worst engines Ford ever put into a car. It was a Yamaha-powered V8 engine and suffered from some of the worst reliability issues that the Taurus brand has ever had. This engine was a pain to repair and most of the issues happened with the timing chain while the cars were still under warranty. Needless to say, this generation of the Taurus SHO ended up costing the company a pretty penny.

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10: Ford Contour SVT

Ford was already selling the compact Escort and the full-size Taurus at the same time in the ’90s. Which is why most car shoppers were confused when the company also launched the Contour. The Contour wasn’t that much different in size from the Escort and actually cost a bit more. The SVT version of the car was a gamble to try and get performance buyers into the door yet sales were abysmal and the car was a flop (via The Motor Digest).

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The SVT variation of the Contour had some unique attributes that made the car desirable. But the problems with reliability and high price drove most potential buyers the other way. These days, the SVT Contour has become a sort of collector’s item and the car is seldom seen on the roadways.

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9: Lincoln Aviator

Lincoln has always been the main luxury brand in the Ford Motor Company’s portfolio. The 2000s were a definite transition period for the brand as the Navigator SUV was a sales success. The company then decided to release a smaller version of the Navigator based on the Ford Explorer SUV (via Hot Cars).

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The problem with the Aviator was the high price tag and maintenance cost. The reliability was questionable and between the development and the advertising Ford lost quite a bit of money on this. The Aviator brand was revived almost a decade later as a crossover SUV.

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8: Lincoln Blackwood

The Blackwood was a limited-run luxury pickup truck, one of the first of its kind. At the time the Blackwood was released, the only competition on the market was the Cadillac Escalade EXT. The Blackwood was a good concept but the truck was just an all-around failure. The satin-covered bed wasn’t useful for average pickup truck buyers (via Hot Cars).

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The Blackwood was a catastrophic failure for the Ford Motor Company. Sales were paltry compared to the F-150, and the truck was only on the market for a single year. In recent years, the Blackwood has become a sort of collector’s item and you’ll see one for sale every now and then.

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7: Ford Focus SVT

Ford hasn’t had a lot of success with subcompact cars but the company still decided to release a performance-oriented compact nevertheless. The Focus SVT was a performance car with a lot of attitude and seemingly reasonable price. The sales of the car weren’t exactly what Ford had hoped for and the car ended up being a flop (via Hot Cars).

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Performance compacts were popular in the years that followed up to the Focus SVT. Honda was one of the first companies to sell a performance compact car. Nevertheless, the Focus SVT is a car that never caught on with consumers and there was a lot of competition in the segment.

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6: Lincoln Mark LT

Even though the Blackwood was a commercial failure, the folks at Lincoln still wanted to try selling a luxury pickup truck. That’s why the Mark LT was sent to the market in 2006. The truck was basically an up level F-150 and the truck fixed a lot of the issues that consumers had with the Blackwood (via Hot Cars).

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The problem here was that the Mark LT was sent to the market as the economic recession was about to start. The sales of the truck were very low and the company didn’t turn a profit on it. The trucks ended up being cleared at the end of the model’s run, and the truck was eventually phased out all the way.

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5: Mercury Mariner

The Mariner was a compact SUV sold by the Mercury brand in the 2000s. It was based on the Ford Escape model and it had a lot going for it. Unfortunately, Ford spent a lot of money on advertising and development of the SUV and it never really caught on with consumers (via Hot Cars).

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The Mariner was targeted toward a female demographic but never managed to sell well. It was also one of the first mass-produced hybrid SUV models but even that wasn’t enough to bolster the sales. The Mariner was the final model in the Mercury brand portfolio when the nameplate was discontinued.

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4: Ford Taurus X

Originally released as the Ford 500 in 2005, the Taurus X was an attempt by the automaker to reinvigorate a dead nameplate. Sales of the wagon weren’t doing what the executives had hoped for. Ford thought that by bringing back a trusted brand name like the Taurus it would somehow reinvigorate sales numbers (via Hot Cars).

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Unfortunately, the Ford Taurus X never achieved any serious sales numbers either. The car was just another novelty item that Ford tried to have consumers latch onto. There were better offerings on the market, and they came with much better features and performance for the price.

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3: Ford Taurus SHO

The Taurus SHO was a car that Ford managed to bring back a few different times. The most recent incarnation of the car was a big gamble for Ford, and one that didn’t end up paying off. The company spent millions designing the new car, but consumers didn’t gravitate toward the large sedan (via Hot Cars).

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Crossover vehicles have become more popular with every passing year and the appetite for new family sedans is waning more and more. The modern Taurus SHO was a great attempt to create a unique sport sedan, but it just didn’t connect with the consumers.

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2: Ford Excursion

The 2000s were a trying time at the Ford Motor Company, and as the SUV market was expanding the company decided to launch a large SUV to compete with the Suburban. The Excursion was a V10-powered beast of an SUV that offered a great deal of performance but was terrible on gas mileage (via Hot Cars).

Ford Excursion
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The Excursion could have been a big hit for the Ford Motor Company but the SUV didn’t manage to sell well. The reliability was questionable, and the design on the thing wasn’t the most pleasant to look at. The Excursion’s off-road capability has made it popular on the used car market although the sales were not very impressive when the Excursion was being sold as a new vehicle.

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1: Jaguar X-Type

When Ford purchased Jaguar in the 1990s, there was a lot of speculation as to what the company would do with the historic luxury brand. One of the first vehicles released under the new Ford leadership was the X-Type. Although this compact sedan was a great car when it was new, its reliability was one of the worst ever reported (via Hot Cars).

Jaguar X-Type R
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Ford spent millions on the design and advertising of the sedan but it never gained the type of sales numbers that the company had hoped for. The X-Type is one of the notoriously worst used luxury cars that you can buy because of the lackluster reliability. The X-Type is one of the most notable blunders that came out of Ford during this era.

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