What Henry Ford envisaged for America and his company has come true. Ford is the quintessential American car brand, adhering to what consumers are looking for most in their cars – economy, style, and substance. Their entire gamut of cars is enough to satisfy even the choosiest of all car buyers with the nit-pickiest of mannerisms.
And they have made the best of the bests – think Mustang, Model-T and the Ford F-Series. In fact, by 1914, it was estimated that 9 out of 10 cars in the world were Fords! So when a company of this repute and standing makes bad cars, they are bound to be epic fails. Here are the ten times Ford let its customers down...badly.
10 Tip-Over Trickster: 1984-1990 Ford Bronco II
Despite its fourteen-year lifespan, the Ford Bronco II was one epic fail despite its John Wayne marketing. The problem with the Bronco, unlike John Wayne on a horse, was that it rolled over too easy. A fact that was known to Ford at the design and testing phase. Ideally, they should have redesigned the Bronco but for reasons best known to Ford, the Bronco II was released on an unsuspecting public in 1984. When the Bronco II models began to tip over with alacrity, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) deemed that the rear-wheel-drive Bronco II had the highest fatalities recorded in rollover crashes. Finally, in 1991, The Explorer replace the Bronco II.
9 Puny-Powered Luxury: 1974-1978 Ford Mustang II
With the 70s oil crisis killing automobile sales especially when it came to the oil-guzzling muscle and pony cars, Ford got smart with the Mustang and launched the second shameful generation of it. This Mustang rode on the Pinto’s platform, which was bad enough.
Then it had no power, which was suicidal for a muscle car. It had cheap interiors but proclaimed itself to have economized luxury, and this was the final nail in its coffin. By 1979, this second generation died to give birth to the third generation phoenix that rose from its oil-flamed ashes. Sadly, many people bought the Mustang II, because it was a Mustang.
8 25th Anniversary Debacle: 1980-1982 Ford Thunderbird
Compared to the erstwhile models, the 1980 Thunderbird was more plucked chicken. The oil crisis maddened the automobile industry and Ford put the erstwhile beautiful Thunderbird on a diet – and called this newly slenderized and shortened T-bird the Anniversary special. This was the T-bird on the Fox platform and Ford made it look like a dressed-up Fairmont. Sales plummeted, despite Ford painting this T-bird in a silver shade and calling it the Anniversary Glow Silver. Thing is, you cannot market a bad car to people who knew what a Thunderbird should be like. For shame Ford, you managed to body-shame the T-bird.
7 Malaise Era Ford: 1978-1983 Ford Fairmont
None of the late 70s or early 80s cars of Ford seem to be good, and the Fairmont was no exception. It was ugly, to begin with. The exterior looked like an elongated cardboard box with wheels underneath – something a two-year-old draws when you say car. The interiors were not better with a long plasticky dashboard with huge gauges even a ninety-year-old could see, and the front seat was a long, uninspiring bench with a morose steering wheel in front. Everything about the Fairmont screamed "desperate" – and belonging to a company trying to stay afloat in the middle of gas embargos and tight emission rules.
6 An Unmelodious Cadence: 1988-1994 Ford Tempo
The first Ford Tempo was actually good – it was emission savvy, gas savvy, all-wheel-drive and had a great aerodynamic design. It was the first passenger car to keep driver safety on high priority by adding in a driver seat airbag. Then came the 1988 redesign, which effectively killed the Tempo. Not only was the design very meh and uninspiring, what lay under the hood was no better. Sales were dull because of the boring looks and when recalls began to spring up due to unintended acceleration (scary) and a fire-friendly faulty ignition (scarier) – the Tempo was finally paused for good. In 1995, the Tempo was replaced by the Ford Contour.
5 The Most Uninspired: 1993-1997 Ford Aspire
You’d think that when three brains (or brands) go into creating a car, it would be good, right? Wrong. While Ford, Kia and Mazda engines went into the Ford Aspire, there was simply nothing aspirational about owning it. It was a bad design that looked strange while ambling on the road because at 63-horsepower for the base model, it could not do anything more than amble. Acceleration was laughable, and what was hilarious is that this car managed to sell for four years before finally, thankfully, Ford took it off-market. Calling it the Aspire was the biggest misnomer gaffe Ford ever made in naming its cars.
4 The Bug-Eyed Frog: 1982-1988 Ford EXP
Was this Ford’s answer to the Beetle? We don’t know, and perhaps, we don’t want to know either. Not many would even know about the Ford EXP though Ford tried too hard to sell it as a cool two-seater car. This so-called personal luxury coupe had so much sound deadening material in it, it weighed more than the larger Ford Escort. If that was not enough, all it had was some pitiful 70 horses to power it along. Coupled with that strange bug-like bulging headlights, and a bubble back hatch – the EXP was doomed to die from the start and even a 1985 redesign could not revive it.
3 The Worst Sports Car: 1989-1997 Ford Probe
This was the car they brought out to replace the EXP. Sigh. Then they tried to make it the new Mustang, or rather, a replacement for the Mustang. Double Sigh. The Probe, which has gone down in automobile history as one of the worst names given to a car, was no Mustang.
It had no V8, and had Japanese organs, from the Mazda Miata. Technically, many say it was a good car to drive – sporty enough for its affordable price. Sadly, Ford marketed it all wrong and what worked in Mustang’s favor, worked against the Probe both in the US and Europe (where it replaced the Ford Capri).
2 The Incendiary Device: 1971-1980 Ford Pinto
By 1972, everyone knew that if you rear-ended a Pinto hard enough, it caught fire. Everyone also knew that if you were driving the Pinto and someone else rear-ended you, it still caught fire. Yet, in its nine-year lifespan, the Pinto sold 3 million units. Shazam! It was recalled for almost everything – faulty accelerator pedals that tended to stick when you didn’t want them to, and fuel vapors tending to ignite the engine filter. Then there was the engine itself that went boom when nudged too hard. If this was Ford’s answer to the oil embargo, just burn up the car, well, we don’t like it. Hard-pressed Ford customers probably didn’t either, but what is a cash-strapped car buyer to do?
1 The Prodigal Son: 1958-1960 Ford Edsel
If there was ever a report written on why a brand new marque should not be named after the head honcho’s son, the Ford Edsel would be on the numero uno of it. What went wrong with the Edsel? Everything. The OTT design, the reliability escapades, the production ineptitude and a car that was visual confusion in its worst form. Some $250 million went down the drain to make the Edsel, and this was the car Ford thought would eat into GM’s market share. Of course, the Edsel could have been named the Utopian Turtletop, or even the Turcotinga, or the Pluma Piluma – if Pulitzer-winner Marianne Moore’s suggestions were paid heed to.