The Ford Probe was a car that was initially pegged to replace the Mustang. But after an outcry from consumers, Ford decided against the move. The Mustang got to stay and the Probe was sold as a cheaper alternative. The naming of the car was unconventional and the butt of many jokes. There was a special 24V edition, but for the most part, the Probe was a fairly unassuming coupe (via Motor 1).
Ford carried the model well into the 1990s until the car was deemed a loss and discontinued. The build quality of the Probe wasn’t the best and it always lurked in the shadows of the Mustang.
Ford’s Pinto-based Mustang II was a gamble from the start. Taking a legendary icon and shrinking it down was questionable at best. The Mustang II was vastly underpowered and the exterior styling was a far cry from the original brand. There was a special Cobra edition but for the most part, the Mustang II was a joke when you compared it to the previous generation car (via Motor Trend).
The controversy surrounding the Pinto this time was enough to stop the Mustang II in its tracks. The car just couldn’t overcome the reputation of its humble economy car-based roots and live up to the prior reputation that the Mustang brand had built up.
Likewise, the Ford Pinto itself also had an issue proving customer satisfaction. After a brief period of controversy due to a rear hatch design flaw, the Pinto saw a dramatic sales decline as well. Sadly, the platform was one of the most potentially good ones to come out of Detroit around this period (via Tort Museum).
The AMC brand was seeing a rapid decline and GM was also having troubles adapting to the new emissions regulations. If you were a gear head around the 1970s, you were being let down left and right by automakers. Ford just couldn’t catch a break with the Pinto.
The Ford Explorer was a massive hit for the Ford Motor Company, but with massive success also comes the massive risk of controversy. The Explorer suffered this during its second generation with the Firestone Tire recall and resulting rollover epidemic. It was found that Ford weakened the roof of the second-generation Explorer in an attempt to make the design more aerodynamic (via Auto Safety).
Consumers were floored that a company would do something like this. As a result, the second-generation Explorer was ultimately marked for life. Firestone also had its reputation ruined forever when the company paid out over a billion dollars in lawsuits.
Cheap and quality don’t go together. But Ford still tried to give consumers that with the 1990 Escort. The problem was that the car just didn’t deliver in the areas that it should. Unfortunately customers were the ones who had to suffer. The build quality of the Escort and the carbon copy Mercury Lynx were downright awful (via Repair Pal).
Customers would routinely bring these back to the dealership. Their reasons were everything from interior pieces falling off to random oil leaks. Indeed, this was probably the least reliable generation of the Escort and it tarnished the brand’s image.
When Ford purchased Jaguar, there were going to be some intrinsic benefits for the Blue Oval. The first of which was the fact that the company would have access to all kinds of great automotive technology and platforms. The Lincoln LS was based on the Jaguar S-Type and was designed to bring young car shoppers back into showrooms (via Car and Driver).
Equipped with a V8 engine and daring looks. you’d think it was going to do just that. Unfortunately, the car was notoriously unreliable and expensive to fix, which sent owners running for the hills. The LS has managed to cultivate a loyal following years later but it was never a sales success for Ford.
The S-Type was released after the Ford and Jaguar marriage was official. During this time, Ford was trying to introduce new and fresh products into the market. The problem is that the S-Type had a horrible reputation when it came to quality and most consumers just weren’t having it. The S-Type with the optional V8 engine spent more time in the shop than on the road (via Auto Trader).
The S-Type had a smooth exterior body and the interior was fairly well-appointed, but that wasn’t enough to sell cars. The S-Type would routinely get low marks with the automotive press and Ford finally discontinued the car after a lengthy run and years of failure.
Sold right alongside the S-Type was the X-Type, which was also based on the same platform. Both were Ford products and also suffered from the same reliability problems. Ford was a confused company during this time and the X-Type was evidence of that because the car didn’t know if it was a sports sedan or a high-end luxury car (via Car and Driver).
Luckily, Jaguar would change the brand’s focus years later but the X-Type is still the butt of many Jaguar quality jokes to this day. The car would routinely spend a good deal of time in the repair shop and the repairs were often costlier than owners anticipated.
The Tempo is another car that got off to a bad start thanks to a less-than-stellar reputation. It’s no surprise that compact American cars were at their lowest quality levels in the 1980s. The automakers were just trying to squeeze as much profit as possible. But the Tempo pretty much takes the cake when it comes to a cheaply-made American compact car (via Curbside Classic).
If you could keep the vehicle on the road, it managed to prove to be an affordable ride but that was just about it. The Tempo managed to get one of the most questionable reputations of any Ford car and the company’s small car branding never recovered.
The Mercury brand was also confused around this same period as the corporate clone of the Tempo was being sold. The Topaz was pretty much an identical car in every sense of the word. There was no difference aside from a front fascia. The Topaz could have been a unique proposition for the Mercury brand, but instead, the car ended up being a dud (via: TTAC).
Consumers were looking for a compact car that had style and substance. Yet the Topaz didn’t have either of these qualities. Instead, it was a poorly engineered clone of the Tempo that didn’t offer anything in the way of a unique driving experience.
The Capri was another failed attempt by Ford to garner some traction for the Mercury brand in the 1980s and early 1990s. The first variation of the car was a knockoff of the Mustang 5.0 with a much uglier-looking front clip. The second variation came at the start of the decade in the form of a compact roadster (via Road and Track).
The brand was looking to compete head-on with Mazda and the Miata, but the result wasn’t anything to run home with. The Capri is a blip in the otherwise complicated history of Ford rebadging certain cars and trucks for Mercury.
In the 1990s, Ford had several compact cars on the market at the same time. After the hype surrounding the launch of the new Escort and Contour twins, there was a lot of hope for the Mystique. But the car didn’t offer anything in the way of a unique experience and that was a bit of a letdown for most Ford enthusiasts (via Auto Safety).
The Mystique was pretty similar to the Escort in a lot of aspects from the exterior to the standard features. So it begged the question, why even buy a Mystique in the first place? From paltry reliability to a cheap-feeling interior, the Mystique just didn’t cut the mustard when it came to a new car choice.
The Escort ZX2 was an add-on to the standard Escort lineup. Offering a compact two-door allowed the brand to branch off into new territory without alienating the existing customer base of the car. However, Ford didn’t do anything to make the ZX2 a unique option and it ended up getting a bad reputation for the perceived lack of quality (via Motor Trend).
The ZETEC engine was among one of the worst to come out of Detroit, and with the new Ford, the sales of the ZX2 fell flat. You’ll still see these cars on the road every so often, but the car just wasn’t a popular choice with consumers for several reasons.
You’ve got to at least give Ford credit for trying new things and the company did just that with the Lincoln Blackwood. This was probably the first authentic luxury pickup truck from a domestic automaker, a unique feat. The problem is that consumers want more than just a unique nameplate and the Blackwood just failed to deliver on a lot of fronts (via Motor Trend).
The truckbed was utterly useless at a time when consumers were using pickup trucks more than ever before. The Blackwood was more of a novelty item than a useful vehicle and this is partly the reason that the truck faded into obscurity after one year.
A few years after the failure that was the Blackwood, the folks at Ford were up to their old tricks again. This time it was with the launch of the Mark LT full-sized pickup truck, which boasted a chromed-out exterior design. The Mark LT was a much more appealing option than the outgoing Blackwood was, but at the end of the day, it was just an F-150 (via Car and Driver).
Luxury pickup trucks were still a new thing and at this point. Drivers only had a choice between the Mark LT and the Cadillac Escalade EXT. The Mark LT did manage to cultivate enough of a following that Ford found it profitable to release the F-150 Platinum a few years down the road.
The new Continental was released to much fanfare in 2017 complete with a heavy advertising campaign featuring actor Matthew McConaughey. Sadly, the result was a car that made big promises but fell flat on its face. The first glaring problem with the Continental was the lack of a V8 powerplant (via Motor Biscuit).
Traditional buyers were looking forward to a rear-wheel-drive V8-powered full-size sedan once again. The Continential had a lot going for it but the lack of some fundamental features that traditional Lincoln buyers were looking for left it in the lurch this time around.
When the final generation of the Focus came out, there was a lot that Ford did right. Its gas efficiency and performance were at the top of its class, but fast forward a few years later and the Focus is one of the worst used cars (via Car and Driver). There are a few reasons for this and it comes down to cost of repairs.
The Focus ST was notorious for transmission complaints among consumers, and this is one of the most costly repairs. When it comes to having a brand new car the last thing that you’d expect is for the transmission to go out on you. But the Focus was experiencing more of these problems than other cars in the same segment.
The original “Oval”. Taurus was a game-changer for Ford and shifted the momentum for the popular Taurus into the negative. The 1996 Taurus was universally panned for its overtly oval styling but there were also reliability issues with this model. The head gaskets on these Taurus models were notorious for going out, as were the automatic transmissions (via Road and Track).
Consumers developed a negative perception of the Taurus brand beginning with this generation and the brand never fully recovered. Before this release of the Taurus, the car was the most popular family car in the United States, but by the 1990s favor had shifted toward SUV models.
The Aviator was released at the height of the SUV boom in the early 2000s. Ford already had great luck with the Navigator so they thought it would be profitable to release a smaller offering. Sadly, the Aviator was nothing more than an overpriced Ford Explorer and consumers were hip to this revelation (via Car and Driver).
There were some unique aspects to the Aviator such as the shared a powerplant with the Ford Mustang Mach-1. That helped to increase the performance to new heights but as far as the rest of the car went it was a relatively standard offering. Most consumers weren’t willing to pay a premium price just for a Lincoln badge.
The Ford Five Hundred wagon was not a great seller for the brand, so Ford tried to reinvigorate the model by renaming it after the popular Taurus. But guess what? Even with a Taurus badge on it, the Taurus X wasn’t a popular offering by any means. Consumers just didn’t see the promise in driving a lifted wagon and thus the Taurus X died off.
The Taurus X had the usual reliability issues that came out of this generation of Ford cars. The transmissions are notorious for going out and the safety ratings were questionable. From a practical standpoint, there were much better options that you could choose from besides the Taurus X (via Motor Biscuit).
Affectionately known as the “cateye,” the 2000 Mercury Cougar was a departure from traditional Mercury vehicles. As the brand shifted its focus toward a female demographic the Cougar was one of the first cars. The performance wasn’t anything to be excited about as the car shared most of its components with the Ford Focus.
As the years went on reliability was a problem for the Cougar and the brand was eventually shelved altogether. The car was not a success for Ford by any stretch of the imagination. The Mercury brand as a whole was disbanded in the late 2000s (via Car and Driver).