What makes for poor sales of a car? A bad car, obviously because sometimes even the best of carmakers can err. Sometimes though, a car selling badly isn’t indicative of quality but timing. A car ahead of its time can sell poorly while one which is good but looks too retro for the day can also make for poor sales.
Then some cars are bad but manage to sell amazingly well, like the Ford Pinto or even the second-generation Mustang. Basically, bad sales do not necessarily make a bad car. Here are 10 of the worst-selling cars in the world, but were they bad or simply ill-marketed? You decide…
10 1986 Lamborghini LM002: A Tad OTT
The Lamborghini LM002 is a far cry from the sleek celebrity-splurged Lambos of today. This one was a V12-propelled dune buggy that chewed and spit up sand like none other. It was the civilian version of a military vehicle, much like the Hummer was to the Humvee.
This was the car every Saudi wanted to cross those endless rolling vistas of sand in comfort, to survey his reign of oil in peace. A reason it never found many takers on the US soil was that one was owned by Saddam’s son; after all, my enemy's car is my enemy. If you want one, forget about this model and go for its successor instead, the Lamborghini Urus.
9 1970 Triumph Stag: Only Good Looks
Take a perfectly good car, go OTT with chrome and forget to add quality under the hood, and the end result is the Triumph Stag. As good as it looked (though it was faintly reminiscent of a shiny disco ball because of all that chrome on the windows), it ran awful.
The 3.0-liter Triumph The V8 engine was the worst choice for this sporty car, and not just because it tended to overheat to the point of flames and smoke. The piston heads tended to warp while timing chains broke more than they ran. Just a very shoddy effort under the hood for a car that otherwise looked very capable.
8 1958 Ford Edsel: An Expensive Disaster
The biggest Utopian Turtletop disaster of them all, the Edsel marque was so hyped that nothing could have saved the model and the $250 million it took with it. The amount of ooh-la-la created by the crackerjack forces of Ford made people assume that the Edsel cars would be the answer to everything – including the egg and the chicken question.
Sadly, it was just a set of rebadged cars, with a really strange piece of anatomical design in the front. The Edsel Citation ran the same as the Ford Citation, which is to say neither were good. The same goes for the other Edsel cars like the Ranger. All in all, too much marketing can also lead to a mother of all downfall in sales.
7 1961 Chevrolet Corvair: Unsafe At Any Speed
The Chevrolet Corvair became the car everyone loved to hate, especially after its inglorious mention in Ralph Nader’s book “Unsafe At Any Speed.” The reason for this was simple – the Corvair was a rear-engined car that tended to spin out the moment you looked at the steering wrong. Think of it as a car that permanently drifted without you using speed or steering to do so.
Not safe, though very adrenaline-boosting. If this was not already enough, the Corvair tended to leak oil and the single-piece steering column was too hardy – enough to impale drivers at high-speed drifts. People were better of buying coffins than the Corvair, because the result was just the same, just that coffins came cheaper.
6 1975 Triumph TR7: Killed Off Triumph Cars
Triumph’s 1984 retirement was perhaps hastened by its last and final offering, the TR7 and the equally haranguing TR8. The design of this car is best not talked about because once we start, we may never be able to stop at its obvious inspiration – a doorstopper.
The design may be off-putting but it was the fact that the TR-7 was the shoddiest put-together car ever that killed it and the Triumph car-making division in general. Short circuits were the norm while the oil and water pumps were spectacular fails. Timing chains snapped if you blew on them, and the so-called concealable headlights were too shy to come out. The worst in British automaking.
5 1980 Ferrari Mondial 8: Not Cheap After All
The Mondial was like a visit to the dentist or the gynecologist - whatever was the worst you expected, you got. However, over time, you simply got used to the bad bedside manner. While it was marketed as a cheap Ferrari, it was almost set up to fail. You did spend less on buying it, sure, but once it began to go bad, you paid through every bodily orifice including the nose to get it fixed.
The car perpetually smelled of burning wires because its electric system was shot and preprogrammed to smoke up at the drop of a hat. The 214-horsepower V8 wasn’t enough to power up this heavy coupe either, which goes to say there can even be a bad Ferrari.
4 1984 Maserati Biturbo: Shoddy & Sad
Yet another one of the greats who fell so hard, they took down a nameplate with them. For the Maserati, their epic fail was the Biturbo, which a desperate fund-stricken Maserati tried to peddle of as a GT sedan. Sadly, it was arguably among the most powerless and unreliable car ever made in the history of automobiles, save maybe for the Ford Pinto.
With the Biturbo, everything that could go pop went pop with alacrity. If you had a good day with this car, you’d be extremely suspicious of what the car gods had in store for you next. Rather than repairing the Biturbo, it was cheaper to park it at the mechanics, forget about it, and move town with an unlisted number.
3 1934 Chrysler Airflow: Ahead Of Its Time?
Remember when we said that not all cars that sell badly are bad? Well, here’s an example. The Chrysler Airflow came with unheard-of advancements for its time. A singlet fuselage, steel frame, and a 1:1 ratio of the front and rear weight distribution.
At the time of heavy cars, this was light and most would have thought it as cheaply built, even though the truth was quite the opposite. Aerodynamics were for airplanes so no one got its sleeker-than-others design either. This was a car that was perhaps two decades too early to make a dent in sales. To be fair, the fact that the engines of a few of these cars fell off mid-drive did not help much either.
2 1981 Cadillac Fleetwood V-8-6-4: A Wild Filly
This was Caddy’s big disaster, almost enough to end the brand. A variable displacement engine is not a strange concept anymore, with the Honda Accord nailing it down to a smooth flow. It makes sense to have a few cylinders shut down when the car doesn’t need them, saving fuel in the process, but when GM brought out its ill-famed and not-researched-enough V-8-6-4, it made the car buyers go wide-eyed.
At first, it was a wondrous wide-eyedness; however, when people started driving this temperamental engine that was worse than an ill-mannered steed, the initial wonderment turned to pure shock. The car bucked and stalled more than it ran. Customers had to run to dealers to get the system disconnected and simply use the car as a V8 engine one. Sometimes, the idea is great but the execution sucks.
1 1976 Aston Martin Lagonda: Fashionable But A Failure
The Aston Martin Lagonda is another classic example of technology and common sense failing to meet. Fashionably thin, which in model-speak means bone-protruding-sickly-thin, the Lagonda looked exotic and unapproachable. If you bought this car, you’d realize that it wasn’t drivable either.
All the so-called cutting-edge technology refused to work from day one. It’s like the car was a junkyard of electronics - new but worthless and unfixable. Beauty may lie in the eyes of the beholder but for a car to be called beautiful, it has to run beautifully as well. The Lagonda was a spectacular fail in the running-of-anything department.