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Blue Oval Blunders: Cars & Trucks That Nearly Put Ford Out of Business

Cameron EittreimAugust 11, 2022

The Ford Motor Company is the oldest automaker in the world and has achieved astounding success. When the company was on a tremendous growth spur for decades, part of the reason for that success was the unique automotive designs. Cars like the Model T and the Mustang defined generations of drivers. Ford understood what it took to be a dominant force in the automotive industry. Other companies like AMC have come and gone but the ‘blue oval’ is still here.

Yet there have also been quite a few failures at the Blue Oval. These were cars that didn’t quite cut the mustard, but Ford tried to push them onto consumers anyway. The Ford Pinto comes to mind. The second-generation Ford Explorer was also marred in controversy. That controversy alone cost the company over a billion dollars in settlements and tarnished the reputation of the Explorer brand. Some of these failures were extremely costly and damaging, so we looked back at the less-than-successful cars and trucks that could have potentially put the blue oval out of business for good.

1955 Ford Thunderbird
Photo Credit: Hot Rod

Ford Thunderbird (1955-1957)

Where do we begin with the Thunderbird? It wasn’t necessarily a bad car, but it was a huge gamble for Ford. The company spent millions of dollars developing a car to compete against the Corvette. The problem with the first generation of the Thunderbird is that it wasn’t a direct competitor to the Corvette. The Corvette was built for speed while the Thunderbird was built for comfort and luxury (via The Motor Digest).

1955 Ford Thunderbird
Photo Credit: Ford

Still, the Thunderbird would be one of the most popular cars at Ford. The styling resonated with a new generation of buyers who wanted something different. The Thunderbird did gain the following in the automotive world, but the car was a major gamble for Ford. Whenever an automaker embarks on a completely new product, there are a lot of risks involved to follow.

Ford Maverick
Photo Credit: Ford

Ford Pinto

The Pinto involved the simple concept of selling an affordable hatchback model to the public. The problem came in the design, where Ford cut a few corners. The problem came in the design of the fuel tank, which was located on the corner of the car. When the Pinto would be hit from behind, it could potentially cause an explosion (via The Motor Digest).

Photo Credit: Bring a Trailer

Ford got hit with thousands of lawsuits due to the rate of deaths that were involved with the car. The Pinto immediately received a lot of bad press. The Pinto did a lot of damage to Ford’s reputation. The fact that the company cut corners on the design directly contradicted its prior good reputation.

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

Ford F-100 (1953-1956)

The Ford F-100 was one of the first mainstream pickup trucks on the automotive market. Ford saw the potential of the pickup truck market and that the vehicle could be more than a farming tool. The F-100 had a modern interior with a lot of features that hadn’t been seen on a pickup truck before. There were also quite a few trim options that the F-100 could be had in (via The Motor Digest).

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

The F-Series pickup truck started the successful line that we still have today. But at the time, the truck was a novelty, and the risk of failure could have lost Ford billions. The truck was far ahead of the time, and the design was unlike anything else on the market. The truck is considered one of the most successful model lines of all time.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Ford Edsel

The Ford Edsel was a million-dollar project for the Ford Motor Company. The purpose of the car was to appeal to several different demographics. The Edsel had new features, such as an electronic transmission that was controlled via buttons. The problem was that the car did not get the proper research and development before hitting the market (via The Motor Digest).

1958-1960 Edsel
Photo Credit: Ford

The car would not sell well at all, being dubbed the worst Ford of all time. The Edsel lost the Ford Motor Company $350 million, which is over a billion in today’s money. There were 18 different variations of the Edsel, and not one caught on with consumers. Interestingly enough, Martha Stewart is a well-known owner of an original Edsel station wagon.

Photo Credit: RM Sotheby

Ford GT40 (1964-1969)

The problem with the Ford GT40 is that the car was built out of a feud between Henry Ford II and Ferrari. Made famous recently in the movie Ford Vs. Ferrari and the Ford GT40 won the LeMans race. But the car was costly for the company to develop and build, costing millions of dollars for a car that never went into production (via The Motor Digest).

Photo Credit: RM Sotheby

The Ford GT40 is one of the most well-known sports cars that has ever been built. But the high price Ford paid to develop the car was not overlooked. There is no doubt that the GT40 was a massive gamble for the Ford Motor Company. As with any high-stakes project, the Ford GT40 had a lot on the line at the time.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Ford Bronco II

The Bronco II was a confusing SUV model released by the Blue Oval at the end of the ’80s. The problem with the Bronco II is that it was nothing like the Bronco in which it shared a nameplate. Gone was the V8 engine, removable top, and everything else that made the Bronco a great ride (via The Motor Digest).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

The Bronco II hit the market to compete with the Jeep Cherokee, which is the main reason Chrysler had purchased the American Motor Company. But the problem with the Bronco II was that it was not even in the same league as the Jeep Cherokee. The traditionalists who purchased Bronco models were extremely let down by the Bronco II.

Photo Credit: Ford

2017 Ford Focus RS

The Ford Focus RS took the well-known nameplate to the next level of performance. The Focus had been the voice of reason for entry-level customers to the Ford lineup. But by the new decade, the appetite for compact cars had waned, and crossover vehicles gained traction. Ford spent millions to get the Focus RS into production (via The Motor Digest).

Photo Credit: Forbes

The Focus RS did not sell very well. The performance of the car competed with the likes of the Honda Civic SI. But the Focus did not have the same dedicated performance fan base as Honda. Ford eventually discontinued the Focus RS and the Focus line altogether in the U.S. There was a time when the Focus sold well but that period is gone.

Photo Credit: Classic

Ford Thunderbird (1980-1982)

The Thunderbird released for 1980 is another example of Ford messing up a good thing. The Thunderbird went through a massive change for the 1980 model year. Gone was all the prestige that made the car great. Instead, it was oversized and underpowered. The appearance of Thunderbird looked like a Crown Victoria, there was nothing unique about it (via The Motor Digest).

Photo Credit: Davids Classic Cars

The Thunderbird would continue until the 1998 model. But the 1980 model is generally regarded as the worst generation. Ford had made a lot of changes to the Thunderbird over the years. It was this model that differentiated from the formula that made the car a great seller for the company.

Photo Credit: Ford

Ford Mustang II

The Ford Mustang II completely obliterated the Mustang name in the 1970s by switching the legendary pony car to the same platform as the Ford Pinto compact car. Ford’s move was in response to high fuel prices. But the move was seen as controversial because the Pinto was nothing like the Ford Mustang (via The Motor Digest).

Photo Credit: Ford

Ford stood by the choice to switch the car but sales were disappointing at best. The Pinto-based Mustang couldn’t compete with the Chevrolet Camaro. The look and feel of the car lost the edge it had. Now the Mustang was a shell of its former self, and even the Cobra trim package lacked that necessary push.

Photo Credit: Mecum

Lincoln K Series (1931-1940)

The Lincoln K Series was the first Lincoln model to take luxury to the next level. When the automotive industry was still evolving from the stagecoach days, Ford decided to take things a bit further. And the result was the Lincoln K Series. The car came with all kinds of luxury features that hadn’t been seen on a car before this (via The Motor Digest).

Photo Credit: Mecum

The problem with the K Series was that the automotive industry was not ready for something that came with so much luxury. And the result was a slump in the sales numbers and a lost investment by Ford. Still, the K Series is an important part of the heritage when it comes to the Lincoln brand. The car had a lot to offer consumers in an attractive package.

Photo Credit: Curbside Classic

Ford Fiesta (1978-1980)

The first generation of the Ford Fiesta wasn’t designed for the American market. But when the Volkswagen Rabbit hit the scene Ford needed something that could compete. The Fiesta was grotesque and underpowered with a measly 54 HP. The build quality of the car was also cheap from the interior to the exterior (via The Motor Digest).

Photo Credit: Curbside Classic

The first generation of the Ford Fiesta is easily forgettable. The car did not sell well in America and it was ultimately redesigned. Around this time, domestic automakers still had issues building viable compact cars. The domestic compact cars were not able to compete with the competition coming out of Japan and Germany.

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

Ford Fairmont

The Fairmont was one of the most unoriginal cars in the history of the company. Ford attempted to market the Fairmont as the most efficient sedan on the market, but it was an utter failure. The 2.3L inline-four provided no power whatsoever, especially when you considered how large the sedan’s body was (via The Motor Digest).

Photo Credit: Ford

Sales numbers were abysmal at best. The styling of the car and lack of power made the Fairmont the joke of the automotive industry. The Fairmont had a basic design, at a time when increased competition was coming. Ford didn’t do anything to make the car particularly desirable and the sales numbers sank dramatically.

Photo Credit: RM Sotheby’s

1932 Ford V8

Before the V8 engine became the norm in the automotive industry, cars such as the Ford Model T used a much less powerful setup. This all changed in 1932 when Ford introduced the V8 Coupe. The Ford V8 utilized the same stylistic cues from the previous cars and added more performance (via The Motor Digest).

Photo Credit: RM Sotheby’s

As with most new products, the Ford V8 was somewhat primitive to say the least. The performance was not all that impressive, and the price was much more than most consumers wanted to pay. Ford’s V8 failed to garner the success that the automaker had hoped for, but it did open the door to the V8 engine as a mainstream option for consumers.

Photo Credit: Hagerty

Ford EXP

Building a compact car that would connect with consumer interests was important in the 1970s and early 1980s. Ford had put a few different compact cars on the road but none of them were successful. The Ford EXP was a two-door sport version of the Ford Escort, and the hope was that it would attract young buyers who wanted something fun to drive (via The Motor Digest).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

The EXP was not popular by any stretch of the imagination. But the car has gained a bit of notoriety in the past decade. As more consumers reflect on their childhood, the popularity of these cars has steadily increased. The EXP was a big gamble for the Ford Motor Company and it didn’t pay off.

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

1949 Ford Custom

Ford was immediately on the verge of bankruptcy in the post-war period and its cars just were not selling. The 1949 Custom was meant to push the envelope with a radical new design. The car was much better than the previous Ford models that had hit the market, and the new design of the car was more consumers (via The Motor Digest).

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

The 1949 Ford Custom could have put the automaker out of business but it somehow became a success. When it comes to such a risky proposition, nothing is riskier than a new model in the middle of a recession. The Ford Custom somehow managed to grab many new consumers that the company hadn’t been able to attract before.

Photo Credit: Ford Club

Ford Th!nk City

Ford’s failures have not only been here in America but also overseas. The Th!nk was made in partnership with Think Mobility, and it was one of the first mass-produced electric cars on the road. The problem was that this microcar had a pathetic 50-mile range and a high price tag. The car was meant to introduce the world to the electric car (via The Motor Digest).

Photo Credit: Flickr

The Ford Th!nk City was a massive flop, released at a time when consumers weren’t ready for an electric car. Nowadays the Th!nk City might stand a chance. But, back then, with the high price tag and limited appeal, it didn’t do well. Consumers couldn’t justify the high price tag that came with the car and the limited range.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

Ford Gran Torino Elite

The Ford lineup in the 1970s was a confusing array of similar models. The fuel crisis has just started and the automaker was rushing to downsize a lot of its models to be more fuel efficient. At the same time, there were competing models within the same brand. The Gran Torino Elite was meant to have the same performance as the Mustang, but with the luxury of the Thunderbird (via The Motor Digest).

Photo Credit: Edmunds

The Ford Gran Torino had a high price tag and the performance didn’t add up. The car was too similar to the Thunderbird, which was already on the market, and that meant the car was overshadowed. The Gran Torino Elite did not sell well and Ford then discontinued the model shortly after its initial launch.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

1982 Ford Mustang

The 1982 Ford Mustang was the birth of one of the most popular and most well-known body styles in the lineage of the vehicle. The Fox Body was lightweight, looked reasonably attractive, and it was lightweight. The problem with the 1982 Mustang was the base model, which had the four-cylinder engine, a paltry offering in a great car (via The Motor Digest).

Photo Credit: Ford

Unfortunately, Ford wasn’t the only automaker that sold an underpowered four-cylinder engine. The Camaro also had the Iron Duke in the 1980s which was equally sad. The Mustang, however, was quite embarrassing with this power plant, especially coming off the heels of the excellent muscle car era and the 1970s.

Photo Credit: Ford

Ford Explorer (1991-2002)

The first generation of the Ford Explorer was a massive success for Ford, especially after the failure of the Bronco II. The second generation of the Explorer was also a sales success. Until the Firestone rollover incidents started happening. It was discovered in the court hearings that Ford had gone with a weakened roof design for the redesign of the SUV (via The Motor Digest).

Photo Credit: Ford

The redesign caused dozens of rollover deaths and the company had to settle with consumers for billions of dollars. The controversy that surrounded the rollover deaths almost pushed Ford into bankruptcy and permanently damaged the company’s reputation. The Explorer brand did manage to recover but it did take two decades to regain consumer trust again.

Photo Credit: BAT

Ford Contour

The Ford Contour was a car that was sold in the 1990s and the problem with it was that it was almost identical to the Ford Escort. The two cars were sold in different segments, but consumers were confused due to the similarity of the cars. The Contour had a higher price tag and the features were lacking when you looked at the competition (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

There was an SVT version of the car which has gained quite a following in recent years. But the base Contour didn’t make any sense and it lost Ford quite a bit of money in the development. The fact that the car had the same styling and identical size as the Escort didn’t help the model out. Ford would market the Contour until 1999 when the car was finally discontinued from the market.

Photo Credit: Mecum

Lincoln Continental (1961-1969)

The Continental was one of the longest-running and most historic nameplates in the automotive industry. But the car also had quite a few generations that were questionable at best. Because the Continental was positioned at the top of the food chain, it stood to be judged a bit harsher by the critics. The design of the 1961 model was controversial, at a time when the industry was evolving (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Mecum

The 7-L V8 was considered largely underpowered for the size of the car. The engine was also unreliable, and owners voiced many complaints about the build quality of the car. Although the interior was quite large, the rest of the car was not up to par when you looked at the lineage.

Photo Credit: Parts Open

Ford Taurus (1996-1999)

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Taurus was the best-selling car on the market. The Taurus was responsible for saving the Ford Motor Company when it was on the verge of financial ruin. The problem came in 1996 when the folks at Ford took a decidedly radical turn. The new car was nothing but ovals, and it caused a lot of dismay in the automotive community (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Ford

Taurus loyalists were suddenly turned off by the styling of the car. The new price tag was much higher than the outgoing model, and the car was not as reliable either. The transmission was notable for failures, and the standard features weren’t there. The sales of the Taurus plummeted as Ford invested billions in the design of the car.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

1966 Shelby Cobra 427

Carroll Shelby has had a long-standing relationship with the Ford Motor Company. And there have been many expensive projects that the automaker funded just on the name value of Shelby alone. The Shelby Cobra 427 was an expensive project with a lot of risks the car isn’t even branded as a Ford (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Auto WP

The Cobra was built in a very limited production run, and the car is one of the most valuable roadsters ever made. There was a lot of risk with the company building the Shelby Cobra. The car had millions invested in its development of it and it never did become a mainstream model. There have been various Shelby Cobra renditions built by coachbuilders, but Ford didn’t build one ever again.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

Ford Ecosport

The Ford Ecosport was a compact crossover SUV sold for two generations. We’re not sure what Ford was thinking with the development of this one. Critics largely panned the styling in the automotive world for being far too ugly to appeal to the masses. A side-opening rear hatch only complicated the design of the vehicle (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Ford

The Ecosport had some of the worst sales numbers of any Ford vehicle in a long time. The main selling feature was supposed to be the fuel economy but it was not all that great. Ford would introduce many new crossover models over the past decade, and new offerings overshadowed the Ecosport.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

1969 Ford Capri

Before the Ford Mustang was a world car, Ford needed a sports car that they could sell overseas. The Capri was the international car designed to take the Mustang’s place. The problem with the Capri is that it missed a lot of the style and performance of the Mustang model. The Capri also shared its name with the Mercury model sold over here (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Shannons

The Capri didn’t end up selling well, and part of the problem was the lack of name recognition. Ford would eventually just bring the Mustang brand overseas and make it universal. The design of the Capri fell short of the expectations of the driver. Ford Motor Company invested a lot of money in the development and design.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Ford Tempo

The Ford Tempo was a compact car Ford released in the 1980s. The car was supposed to compete with the likes of the Honda Civic and the Toyota Corolla. The attempt was laughable at best, as the car was not even remotely on the same level. The first problem came with the build quality, which was not up to par with Japanese competition (via Hot Cars).

Ford Tempo
Photo Credit: Ford

Early on consumers would complain about pieces of the Tempo falling off as soon as the car left the dealership. The interior was cheap, with lots of cheap plastic and vinyl seating. The engine’s reliability was nonexistent, and the car would more likely leave you stranded instead of getting you where you needed to go.

Photo Credit: Zomb Drive

Mercury Topaz

At the same time that the Ford Tempo was failing with consumers, the Mercury Topaz did the same thing. Ford always branded vehicles from its main lineup and sold them as Mercury models. The problem with the Topaz is that it was marketed as a premium offering over the Tempo. The truth was that the car was not any better in terms of quality. Sure, you got a light-up grill, but that was about the only noticeable improvement over the Tempo (via Hot Cars).

Mercury Topaz
Photo Credit: Mercury

The Mercury Topaz did not sell very well at all. It was hard enough to sell a compact domestic-made car, but it was even harder because they badge-engineered a bad one. The Tempo and the Topaz were not great cars at all. The quality just didn’t meet consumer expectations and Ford had to replace the car later on.

Photo Credit: Road Smile

Ford Festiva (1986-1990)

The Festiva was the lowly little compact car no one wanted when it was new. You’ll see one of these on the road every once in a while but that’s pushing it. The Festiva was a massive failure for the Ford Motor Company. The car was the cheapest in the Ford lineup, and it lacked quality and refinement. Driving a golf cart was more satisfying than getting behind the wheel of a Festiva (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Hot Cars

Consumers complained about the lack of performance, the shoddy transmission, and awful build quality. It was not uncommon to see these cars go back and forth to the shop when they were brand new. A good wind could blow the Festiva right off of the road. There wasn’t anything remotely appealing about this car, which is why Ford finally canceled it.

Photo Credit: Jay Leno’s Garage

Ford Shogun

In the typical logic of an American automaker, if a car is no good, let’s just try to spruce it up. That was the thinking behind the monstrosity that was the Ford Shogun. A turbocharged engine was stuffed into the back of a Ford Festiva. The resulting car had to have a bulging rear end to accommodate increased performance. Jay Leno famously owns one of the first models that came off of the showroom floor and there is a lot to like about the car (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Reddit

The Shogun has increased in notoriety in the last couple of years. The fact that the car has such a strong amount of performance in such a little package is intriguing. But the build quality at its core is still the Festiva. The car took a lot of investment on the part of Ford, and it did nothing more than generate press coverage. You also had to special order this car and the production numbers were quite low.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Ford Aspire

Just because the Festiva was a failure, it doesn’t mean Ford gave up on subcompact cars altogether. Kia Motors designed the Aspire in partnership with Ford. The problem was that the car was still lacking in quality when you compared it to the other subcompacts on the market. The performance of the Aspire was lethargic and the interior was also cramped (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Consumer tastes were gradually moving away from subcompact cars in the 1990s due to cheap gas prices. The rise of the SUV was also increasing consumer interest in that new segment. The subcompact cars were reserved for people who needed cheap transportation that was brand new. The Aspire never sold and dealerships were losing money by keeping these cars in stock.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

Lincoln Blackwood

Automakers have tried to sell consumers a premium luxury pickup truck for decades, and only recently has the pickup truck become a luxury item. However, it was Ford that did it first with the Lincoln Blackwood. The problem with the Blackwood was that the truck was done all wrong from the start. The truck bed was made of satin, which made it useless. The truck was only available in a short bed four-door configuration, which alienated many potential buyers (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Sales of the Blackwood were so poor that it was only sold for a single model year. Now the Blackwood has become sort of a novelty item because you never see them on the road. The fact that it was a Lincoln truck had a lot of appeal. But the designers went way overboard with features that the consumers would never use. A satin truck bed was just something truck owners were never going to use all too much. Lincoln missed the boat with this one, and it cost Ford millions of dollars.

Photo Credit: Ford Motor

Lincoln Aviator

The SUV boom was in full swing in the mid-2000s and Ford decided to bring a mid-size luxury SUV to the market. The new model was dubbed the ‘Aviator’ and there was a massive marketing campaign that followed. The problem with the Aviator was that it was a fully loaded Ford Explorer with a price tag that matched the Navigator. Consumers didn’t see the point in paying such a high price for something less than what they could get (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

The Aviator did have some unique features, such as sharing the same V8 engine found in the Mach-1 Mustang. But the general design of the car was the same as the Ford Explorer. The quality of the Aviator was also questionable. There were many issues with the timing chain making noise. And there were also transmission failures.

Photo Credit: Ford

Ford Transit

Long before the Econoline became the smash hit that it was there was another lesser-known Ford van. The Transit was designed to appeal to businesses that needed to transport cargo. While the Transit did not catch on with consumers over here the van was quite popular in Europe. But the reliability of the van was questionable, and getting to the engine to do repairs was just as hard (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Motor Trend

The Transit had a lot of quirks that needed to be ironed out. The development of the van cost the Ford Motor Company millions of dollars. The Econoline would take the place of the Transit in the American market. Both vans had innovative designs but it took a ton of time for the company to perfect them.

Photo Credit: Ford

Ford Focus SVT

The Focus SVT was another confusing product of the early 2000s. The Special Vehicles Team at Ford created a car that was meant to appeal to a new generation of consumers. The SVT had a unique look to it that was night and day above the standard Focus. The problem was that the car was priced significantly higher than a regular Focus model. There was not that much improvement over the standard model and most consumers weren’t interested in a souped-up Focus (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

The Focus SVT was quite popular in the media world as it was featured in countless video games and magazines. But from a sales perspective, the Focus SVT was not a success for Ford. The car just didn’t appeal to the average consumer interested in the Focus. Ford spent a ton of money on the marketing and development of this car to no avail.

Photo Credit: Ford

Ford Probe

The Probe was a car designed to fill some big shoes, and those big shoes were the Mustang. The thought was that the Mustang had fallen out of favor with consumers, and the Probe would be a more appealing option. The Probe had a 24V special edition with decent performance but most consumers couldn’t get over the naming of the car. Not to mention that there was no V8 offering of the car. Needless to say, the Probe was not a suitable replacement for the Mustang (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

The Probe did not gain enough market share to make the investment worth it for the company. The Probe’s styling was about as bland as you could imagine. The first generation of the car was just plain ugly but the second generation was more respectable. Nevertheless, it was known early on that the Mustang was not going anywhere. The Probe was an expensive experiment by Ford to try and dethrone a piece of automotive history in the Mustang.

Ford Aerostar
Photo Credit: Ford

Ford Aerostar

The Chrysler Corporation stumbled on a lottery ticket with the success of the original Plymouth Voyager minivan. So much so that the other automakers were caught off guard by the success. No one could seem to replicate the success that Chrysler had with their minivans. Ford attempted to bring Aerostar to the market. And while it was a worthy competitor in some aspects, it seemed like a big commercial van and consumers weren’t too excited about it (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Cars & Bids

The Aerostar was a failure in the marketplace, but the van surprisingly attracted such a loyal following that Ford kept it in production until 1997, long after the replacement Windstar had already hit dealerships. The Aerostar had a lot of strong attributes such as a spacious interior and truck-like towing capabilities. The van just didn’t appeal to the mainstream consumer, and that is why Ford discontinued it.

Ford Windstar
Photo Credit: Ford

Ford Windstar

The Ford Windstar was the long-awaited replacement for the Aerostar. And while the van was seemingly more sedate, it still couldn’t compete with Chrysler. At the same time, Ford released this van, Chrysler continued to innovate. The Chrysler vans had an industry-first four-door design on a minivan, the Windstar not so much. The build quality of the Windstar was also not all that great. Reliability was questionable from the gate (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Ford

The Windstar would stay in production until 2004, but the sales numbers were disappointing for the company. The van still couldn’t compete with the Chrysler offerings, and new competition from Honda and Toyota was now on the market. Ford invested a lot of money in the design of the Windstar, only to have the model fail.

Ford Freestar
Photo Credit: Ford

Ford Freestar

The Freestar was the last minivan to ever be released by the Ford Motor Company. This van was the last ditch effort to try and reverse the tides of the previous decade. Sadly, the Freestar was a jazzed-up Windstar, and consumers were not blind to that fact. The Freestar didn’t offer anything new over the Windstar. You could say the Freestar was one of the most careful redesigns in automotive history because the van didn’t change much at all (via Hot Cars).

Ford Freestar
Photo Credit: Ford

The Freestar had a lot of potentials if the company had put more effort into the redesign. The fact that the van was so lackluster just put a bad taste in the mouths of consumers. By this point, Honda and Toyota were both offering compelling minivans, and Ford was pretty much last in the segment.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Mercury Villager

Interestingly enough, Ford chose to outsource the van that was sold under the Mercury banner. That van was designed by Nissan and shared an entire design with the Nissan Quest. The Villager was a small van, much smaller than anything else on the market when it was originally released. Mercury advertised this as an advantage but most consumers weren’t buying it. The Villager was never a real threat to Chrysler, and sales were minuscule at best (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Curbside Classic

Even though the Villager was not a success there was no mistaking the van. The light grill was a standout part of the design of Mercury vehicles from this period. The van had some interesting aspects, such as the short design, but it was not unique enough to make a dent in the dominance that Chrysler had.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

Mercury Monterey

In addition to the Ford Windstar being redesigned, the Mercury brand was given a new van as well. The Monterey had a lot of luxury appointments over the Ford Freestar. Just the exterior design alone was far more upscale than the Ford model. Unfortunately, the price tag was quite high and most consumers didn’t trust Mercury to deliver a compelling minivan. Sales of the Monterey were almost non-existent, and you’ll seldom see one of these on the road (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Ford

Some of the most notable features in the Monterey were the Microsoft Sync connectivity and the two-tone leather interior. Unfortunately, Chrysler had been selling a luxury appointed minivan for decades in the Town & Country. Just about every feature that the Monterey offered, there were other vans on the market that did it better. The Mercury brand was discontinued shortly after the Monterey had failed and it was a sad investment by Ford.

Ford RS200
Photo Credit: Ford

Ford RS200

If there is one thing that’s for certain about the Ford Motor Company, it’s that they take their standing in the motorsports world seriously. The RS200 was developed with the sole purpose of dominating the rally car circuit. Ford spent millions of dollars on the car, and it did end up becoming a winner. The RS200 was a mid-engined sports car with a very lightweight design, which meant it could pick up speed quickly and maintain control on the course (via Hot Cars).

Ford RS200
Photo Credit: Ford

The RS200 was not the best idea for an automaker to put into production, but it did manage to garner a few notable owners. Tim Allen is the owner of an RS200, and even Jay Leno has one as well. The car has a lot of potential but importing one for the average person is not as easy as you’d think.

2003 Ford Thunderbird
Photo Credit: Ford

2005 Thunderbird

The 2005 Ford Thunderbird was another confusing overture for the company. The main problem with the car was that it used a retro-inspired design, which would have been cool a decade prior. The new Thunderbird brought back the use of a V8 engine, which was welcomed but the engine that was chosen was not the most reliable. Consumers complained about the high price tag of the car, and due to the novelty appearance, most dealerships marked the prices up even further (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Bring a Trailer

The 2005 Thunderbird was released along with the retro-inspired Mustang redesign, but unlike the Mustang consumers weren’t buying this car. The final generation of the Thunderbird was not a success by any stretch of the imagination. The car was overpriced for what it was and it did not offer any real value or performance.

Photo Credit: Ford

Ford Taurus X

After the Taurus had been discontinued and Ford sales were slumping the company decided to bring the Taurus nameplate back again. This time it replaced the existing Five Hundred and Freestyle, neither of which had been good sellers. The Taurus X was meant to rejuvenate the brand, but also get some market share that Subaru specialized in. The thinking was that active people gravitated towards the Taurus X due to the upright styling (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Ford

The Taurus X was not a complete redesign which was a problem, and the move negatively affected consumer confidence in Ford. The models were not up to par with the competition. Ford around this period had been using cheap interior materials and the cars had questionable reliability. Needless to say, the Taurus X is rare, you’ll seldom see one on the road.

Photo Credit: Ford

Ford Escort ZX2

The Ford Escort ZX2 was another questionable release by the blue oval. Based on the existing compact Escort the ZX2 was meant to be a sporty alternative. The problem is that it was anything but sporty, and the build quality was lackluster at best. The performance of the ZX2 was lethargic, and the reliability was even worse. Consumers would report problems with the ZX2 as soon as it left the dealership and that isn’t a good thing (via Hot Cars).

Ford Escort ZX2
Photo Credit: Car Domain

The ZX2 would go on as a separate model from the Escort after that car was discontinued. The ZX2 sales were so poor that the car was constantly marked down in price compared to the competition. For a lot of consumers, the only good thing about the ZX2 was the affordable price tag and the seemingly modern-looking design.

Photo Credit: Ford

Lincoln Mark LT

By the mid-2000s the pickup truck was becoming more of a luxury purchase and less of a work tool. Ford thought it would be wise to introduce a luxury pickup truck to the market, and that was the Mark LT. The problem with the Mark LT is that it wasn’t that much of an upgrade over the F-150. Both trucks looked eerily similar, but you were paying thousands of dollars more to have the Lincoln badge. The Mark LT didn’t sell well and part of the reason for this could have been the recession (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Interestingly enough, even though the Mark LT was a failure, Ford took a lot of the design aspects and applied them to the F-150 Platinum. That truck has a lot of what the Mark LT offered almost a decade ago. The world just wasn’t ready for a Lincoln pickup truck, especially after the failure of the Blackwood. You won’t find a Mark LT easily as production numbers on this truck were extremely low.

Photo Credit: Ford

Lincoln Continental

The Lincoln Continental was released to much fanfare as a historic nameplate was revived once again. From the outside, the sedan was beautiful, with every inch of the design having specific attention to detail. But the problem with the Continental was that Lincoln missed a few important aspects of the design. The large sedan was lacking a V8 engine option and this was a letdown to loyalists who had been hoping for a V8-powered Lincoln sedan (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Ford

Consumer tastes were also changing, and the marketplace for sedans was going away. Crossover vehicles were becoming more popular by the year and the Continental just didn’t sell very well. Ford spent millions on the development and advertising campaign, even getting famed actor Matthew McConaughey to advertise the car. Unfortunately, Continental did not make much of a dent in the automotive industry.

Photo Credit: Ford

Mercury Mariner

Even as Ford Motor Company was gearing up to disband the Mercery lineup, there was a final ditch effort to try and garner interest in the brand. A new marketing campaign was launched to appeal to female car shoppers. The Mariner was the first product of these efforts, and it took the styling of the Ford Escape and combined that with luxury appointments (via Hot Cars).

Photo Credit: Ford

The problem is that most consumers weren’t going to pay a premium for a jazzed-up Ford Escape. The car didn’t offer anything unique, and the design was dated compared to the competition. The Mariner did sell in respectable numbers, but it was not enough to save the Mercury brand. Ford had lost billions trying to save a brand that had lost its identity decades before.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Mercury Cougar

The Cougar is one of the most storied nameplates in the history of the automotive world. So it was shocking to many people when the car was relaunched in the 2000s as a compact two-door. Gone was its V8 power, performance, and luxury. What we got was a car designed to appeal to a certain buyer, and that was it. The Cougar cost Ford a penny to develop but it didn’t sell well (via Hot Cars).

Mercury Cougar
Photo Credit: Car Domain

The Cougar has become a sort of collector’s item recently. The car is starting to garner interest because it had quite a unique design. But at the time it was not enough to save the Mercury brand. The loyalists couldn’t accept this car as the new face of the Cougar. New car shoppers went elsewhere for a better deal.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Ford Excursion

Ford has never had a car that could compete against the Suburban straight across. But that all changed in 1999 when the big, beefy Excursion was released. The SUV was one of the most inefficient rides on the planet, and the automotive press lambasted its outdated design of the thing. When you compared the Excursion to the Suburban, the GM offering was far more advanced (via Hot Cars).

Ford Excursion
Photo Credit: Auto Trader

The Excursion was canceled after the 2008 recession, but in recent years it has become a hot commodity. As consumers look for the last of the real SUV models that you can still find on the used market. The Excursion had many great attributes, such as an optional diesel power plant taken out of the super-duty truck.

Sport Trac
Photo Credit: Ford

Ford Explorer Sport-Trac

The Ford Explorer Sport-Trac was a confusing truck. The Sport-Trac was released after the Explorer was already redesigned. But the truck rode on the design and frame of the previous generation. The Sport-Trac did not get the V8 engine as an option, and the truck was severely underpowered compared to the competition (via Hot Cars).

Sport Trac
Photo Credit: Ford

The Sport-Trac would be canceled and then brought back in the late-2000s again, but the truck never caught on. The price was quite high, and consumers just went with the Ranger or the full-size F-150. The bed on the Sport-Trac was not usable, and the performance was lackluster. Ford dropped the ball with the Explorer Sport-Trac.

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