7 biggest car flops in history
You would think that with the same basic ingredients, it would be quite difficult to make a car that people didn’t like or wasn't successful for other reasons. I’m afraid it’s not so, as these examples illustrate.
The DeLorean DMC-12 was former General Motors man John DeLorean’s vision of a sports car completely unlike anything on the market. With gull-wing doors and a brushed stainless steel shell, the DMC-12 was a stylish and truly international collaboration: an American car powered by a French/Swedish V6 engine and built in Northern Ireland. Launched into a savage slump in the US car market and plagued by what car enthusiasts have called ‘a lack of attention to detail’, the car failed to sell. A couple of years later, it attained iconic status after being turned into a time machine in the 1985 film, Back to the Future.
Now a by-word for failure, the Ford Edsel was produced for just three years (1958-60). It was marketed as a ‘new type of car’ and launched with a huge public fanfare. It proved not to be special enough and failed to sell enough units over its lifespan to break even.
Ford’s foray into the small car market provided a notable failure. The Pinto, produced between 1971–80, was plagued by safety concerns, particularly the issue of the lack of reinforcement between the fuel tank and the rear panel, leading to concerns about rear-end collisions rupturing the fuel tank. History has restored the Pinto’s reputation for safety retrospectively, but at the time, it was enough to kill it off as a viable long-term production model.
NSU Ro 80
Sometimes the car is good, but its heart is not. The NSU Ro 80 was a revolutionary West German saloon produced from 1967–1977 that incorporated many stylistic and mechanical innovations. One of these was its 113 bhp Wankel engine. This was the problem. Despite being the 1968 Car of the Year, the Ro 80’s notorious thirstiness and the engine’s mechanical unreliability undermined the good press and the lack of sales eventually led to the demise of the parent company.
Aston Martin Lagonda
In the ‘should have known better’ file is Aston Martin’s Lagonda. This ultimate luxury saloon was a striking departure from the company’s usual business. It was a futuristic four-door saloon whose electronic management systems took four times as much money to develop than was allocated for the development of the whole original car. Launched into a world beset by an oil crisis, its fuel consumption was pitiful. And the electronics didn’t work.
Maybach 57 and 62
Luxury limousine makers Maybach’s mistake with their ruinously expensive 57 and 62 models was to base their car on a successful marque (the Mercedes-Benz S-Class) and then try to sell it at Rolls Royce prices. With sales poor and costs high, each vehicle sold resulted in a net loss to the company of over €300,000.
Probably the worst car ever to be held dear by its drivers is the Trabant. The car of the people for East Germans, its recycled plastic shell concealed a smoky 500cc two-stroke engine. Slow, basic and genuinely awful in every motoring sense, the Trabi is an enduring symbol of motoring for the masses. Probably not a flop, but you wouldn’t want to have to go anywhere in one.