A Ferrari is every young gearhead's dream car. The sound, the smell, the color, the culture—they're all reasons why a Ferrari is the ultimate car for young automotive fans. But as we get older, we learn some things. We learn about things like reliability and driveability and that there are other cars in Italy besides Ferraris.
There are cars from all over the world we shouldn’t buy. Over here in North America, we've spawned some of the most hideous crossover utility vehicles ever built. Japan has an endless amount of bulbous pint-sized vans and trucks. France does some seriously weird stuff with their Citroens. In Italy, the same trend rings true. For every performance piece of art, there's an unreliable rust bucket. It just so happens that when really bad cars are made in Italy, they're really bad.
Italy is a country of incredible automotive prestige. Historic marques like Ferrari and Alfa Romeo wear the country's racing red with pride. Cars are a central part of Italy's passionate culture, so they're usually designed with the utmost care for performance and style. But every once in a while, they miss the mark a little bit. Perhaps, the designers get caught up with their pens, or the engineers were thinking with their hearts and not their heads. Other times, certain brands' insistence on appearing luxurious have resulted in stately sedans that break down in every way possible. Scroll down for 20 reasons why you shouldn’t buy Italian cars.
This is a classic crux of Italian vehicles and a great reason to steer clear of cars from the boot of Europe. Particularly prevalent among Lambos, bursting into flames is common with Italian cars. This is a really scary habit for a car to have. Fire hurts—a lot. And chances are, if you've purchased an Italian vehicle, it cost a little more than it should of, and it sure would be a bummer to see all that money go up in flames.
This habit is caused by a myriad of issues common among Italian vehicles, from shoddy wiring to faulty oil pans.
In the case of some Lamborghinis, overzealous owners can flood their engine when revving the car in neutral and turn their hot ride into an even hotter ride.
19 1986 Lamborghini LM002
This is probably the most poorly planned, overpriced, and over-complicated vehicle ever built. Lambo was contacted by an American defense contractor in the mid-'70s about building a military-spec all-terrain vehicle. When the car was unveiled as the “Cheetah” in 1977, the Pentagon threatened legal action, as it so blatantly resembled a military vehicle they had developed years earlier. The Cheetah project was scrapped immediately, and after a failed venture, BMW Lamborghini was on the brink of bankruptcy. Great car, huh? When the LM002 was finally put into production, it was deemed too complicated for its intended military use. Nice. It went on to not sell due to its insane price and habit of failing in every way possible under standard driving conditions. Don’t buy this.
18 Shady Suspension
Everyone loves a recall. Baby toys, powdered milk, bad meat, and now, Italian cars with faulty suspension—in nothing less than a Maserati Quattroporte. The Italian “luxury” marque had to recall 26,000 cars in 2016 after repeated rear-suspension failures. The company stated that the “bolt securing the tie-rod to the hub carrier assembly may not have been tightened properly during assembly.” Perfect. Who needs rear suspension anyways, especially in luxury import vehicles?
How is a mass-produced car allowed to leave the factory with one of the most important bolts on the car under-tightened?
It’s a little bit freaky and a good reason to be wary when buying Italian vehicles. Even though Italian cars are renowned for their road-holding nature, driving is usually most enjoyed when all four wheels are safely anchored to the car.
Yeah, it’s a Ferrari, and yeah, it looks great, but it's way too expensive, just like a lot of other Italian cars. The Enzo cost over $600,000 new and now resells for millions. That’s a lot of money for a car that's slower than much cheaper alternatives.
What do the Nissan GT-R, the Corvette ZR1, and the Dodge Viper ACR all have in common? They're faster around the Nurburgring than the Ferrari Enzo and are a fraction of the cost.
I guess you pay for the unique styling and the prestige of having a yellow triangle and a little black horse on your car. But c’mon... we want to go fast, and we aren’t all rich. We want to spend as little as we can to go as fast as possible, and Italian cars certainly don't fit this bill. If you’re looking for fast and frugal, definitely, don’t buy Italian.
16 Questionable Styling
The Italians own fashion, for sure. Louis V and Gucci are the epitomes of style, sophistication, and desire. Bicycles, pasta, coastal views, and wine are other areas the Italians certainly have great taste in. However, the jury is out when it comes to their cars. Yes, a lot of beautiful vehicles are Italian, but a lot of those vehicles are unattainable Lamborghinis and Ferraris. The everyday Italian brands produce some frankly terrifying vehicles. They're supposed to be cars, but they're abominations. How can the same people create so much beauty and horror? This hideous bulge serves no clear performance purpose, and one can only assume it was a twisted attempt at style. It didn’t work, and this appalling piece of automobile history is a sore spot in our automotive history.
15 Budgeting Problems
When you’re broke, you budget smartly. Buying essentials, like toilet paper, is far more important than luxuries like steaks and six packs. Similarly, a lot of car companies make very pragmatic decisions when it comes to allocating funds for new projects, focusing on maximizing reliability and drivability at a low cost. Some Italian manufacturers, however, make some poor decisions when budgeting for their cars. The Maserati Biturbo is an excellent example of this. Appearance-wise, it screams luxury. Performance-wise, though, it doesn't scream, because it doesn't work.
The Biturbo is one of the most poorly built cars ever put together, a last-ditch effort by financially strained Maserati.
If only they had spent money on, you know... insulation for wires and not the leather interior, this might be another classic Italian executive vehicle.
14 Malfunctioning Amenities
Modern cars come with a bunch of features to make your life easy. Push-button start, remote unlock, voice control, touchscreens—the list goes on. Italian cars, of course, implement these features but don't always deliver a smooth user experience. When the Fiat 500 was reintroduced in 2007, it came rife with malfunctioning amenities. The trunk couldn't be unlocked while the car was on, the passenger door couldn't be unlocked from the inside, and there was no light to indicate when the AC was on—difficult, for sure. Most cars use these features to improve the driver's experience, not inhibit it. Why didn’t they figure out these problems back in the factory? The 500 is one of the smartest economy cars ever built but with some seriously silly mistakes.
13 "Stylish" Interiors
North American interiors are notoriously bland, a soul-sucking palette of muted greys and cheap plastics. But at least you can ignore them. There’s no escape from this. No human can ignore this many square meters of orange leather. I hope you don’t have vegan friends if you plan on owning an Italian vehicle because there’s going to be leather—potentially, a lot of it. Bold color choices can result in memorable interiors, but this misses the mark, and so do a lot of hyper-stylized Italian interiors. The attention to detail is commendable, as is the dedication to leather. But the color hurts to look at, and on a hot day, that would be the stickiest car you could ever sit in. Ultra-stylish, right?
12 Build Quality
It would be the worst thing in the world to buy a Ferrari and have it break. But if you were to purchase the first-generation Ferrari Mondial, you could expect a host of problems. Testers and bloggers universally remark about how just about everything fails on this car, a case study in subpar build quality. And this is a Ferrari. Low-end Fiats are notorious for being glass castles, and Alfa Romeos have a history of questionable construction, but if it means you get a cheap car, I guess that’s fair. However, you should get what you pay for; otherwise, you look stupid for buying an expensive car that doesn't work well. In the case of several Italian cars, close the door gently, with grace and care, so the mirror doesn't fall off, thus saving you a lot of humiliation.
It’s great when cars work. In fact, like every other invention, they exist to serve a purpose. And it sucks when they don’t. It’s a stereotype that unfortunately rings true, but Italian cars break down. A lot. Picture this. You're out with your special someone, blazing down the interstate, ocean to your left, rolling hills to the left. You round a sweeping left-hander in your red Italian sports car, reveling in the precise handling. That is, until, you go for fifth gear, and it all goes wrong. Grinding noises, sputters, pops, and bangs, followed by a disheartening hiss as your import grinds to a halt. Date night ruined. We're lucky here in North America that although our cars drive like stale bread, they don’t break that often.
10 Perpetuating the Minivan
Minivans are the worst thing we've ever created—besides weapons. Minivans take the classic boxy style of a work van and pervert it onto some sort of obese sedan. They look terrible, they suck, they’re really slow, and worst of all, there are millions of them.
As if the infestation of the soccer-mom mobile wasn't already at critical mass, Italy has thrown its contribution into the worst segment on the automotive market.
Don’t buy this, please. Essentially, it's a rebranded Chrysler, but who knows what else has happened to it? As you've seen so far in this list, cars in Italy are prone to some fairly unique problems, and a Minivan that breaks down and has no AC would certainly be the spawn of Satan. And catching fire isn't even the worst thing.
9 Automotive Plagiarism
In school, did you ever get in trouble for copying other people's work? Let’s hope you didn’t. After all, it's taught to us at a young age that it’s bad to steal others' ideas and not give them credit.
Unfortunately, Italian automakers borrow a lot of pieces from other manufacturers and don’t often give credit.
The Alfa Romeo Mito is based on the same platform as an Opel Corsa, but this lineage is obscured by the classic triangle Alfa grille. If it was an advertised collaboration, all the power to the two automakers. In this case, though, a budget-friendly microcar is being rebadged with claimed Italian performance that unfortunately isn't delivered. It’s like an Opel was wrapped in expensive red wrapping paper.
8 "Concept" Cars
Concept cars can offer a glimpse into the future of what cars will become. High-tech drivetrains, unique driver features, and radical styling wow audiences at auto shows around the world. In Italy, however, concept cars are often an exercise in drawing for high-end design firms. The legendary Pininfarina design house has penned some of the most beautiful Ferraris, but sometimes, their tact strays from stylish. The art of a car is to be appreciated, but it has to work. Unfortunately, whatever concept this car is presenting doesn’t seem to be a sound one. This wouldn’t work on public roads and presents a strange idea of what cars could become. Let’s hope they don’t. This concept was created in 1960, and 58 years later, most cars still have four wheels. Thankfully.
7 Limited Visibility
You need to see to drive safely. Foggy nights and glare-filled sunset drives are some of the most annoying experiences out on the road, but luckily, most of us drive cars with big wide windows and erect driving positions, allowing us a good view of the road. Many Lambo owners, however, report experiencing complete blindness while making right turns, thanks to the fact that they're sitting lower than the motor and the b pillars are a foot wide. Who needs visibility anyway? Everyone, that’s who, and driving a car you can’t see out of properly is unsafe for you and others on the road. Of course, drivers can lean their seats a little forward so they can actually see out of their low-slung Lambos, but then, you don’t feel like a race-car driver, so where’s the fun in that?
6 Cramped Interiors
If you're over 1.8 meters tall, Italian cars may not be the thing for you. Extreme examples such as the minuscule Fiat 500 show how petite those Europeans truly are, as anyone who has an above-34 waistline is going to have trouble getting his or her stomach behind the steering wheel.
Beyond the 500, countless Italian cars suffer from cramped interiors. Lambos and Ferraris are renowned for low race-inspired rooflines.
Ever tried to get in or out of a car where the seat is lower than your ankles and the door sills are knee-high? Let’s hope it doesn’t light on fire because you don’t get in or out of those fast. It's as if Alfas have a habit of being built for people with no legs or very short torsos or people with just one friend—because the back seats don’t work.
5 Quirks and Character
A lot of cars are super boring to drive, which isn’t great. Some cars, particularly British and Japanese specimens, bring a personality to an otherwise inanimate machine. Cute habits, happy handling, and responsive motors give drivers a sense the car is having as much fun as they are. Some Italian cars nail this blend of character and convention, but some are a little too eccentric. For example, there’s no reason a trunk needs to open this way, just as there’s no reason that various Italian cars reorganize the otherwise standard pattern of automatic transmissions. But they do these things and continue to. It’s quirky, for sure, and definitely gives character—maybe just not the type they were hoping for. I feel bad for the dozens of confused North American mechanics who had to make the discovery of the sideways-hinging deck lid.
4 Mob Ties
When Alfa 164s roll by, older Italian people cower. Why? No, it's not because they light on fire or shoot off body panels. It's because it was the choice getaway vehicle of mobsters from the mid-'80s to the late '90s, particularly for fleeing bank robberies. This leads one to believe it's a good car, and it just might be. But who wants to find out? The Italian Mafia is one of the largest and most powerful crime organizations in the world, and common sense says you should stay as far away from that scene as possible. That includes maybe not buying the same Alfa they used for fleeing bank robberies.
3 Bad Transmissions
The H-pattern manual and the P-R-N-D-L automatic are almost universally standard transmissions. That is, unless you're in Italy. This habit of rearranging the pattern of gear selection goes back to Maserati’s F1 monsters in the '50s, when the legendary Fangio mastered a gearbox completely inverse to standard H-patterns. This photo is of the shift knob out of a Fiat 500L. Any of that make sense to you? Me neither.
This is a car designed for the average Italian consumer. How is an average consumer expected to navigate this riddle?
Why Italian cars continue to employ ultra-confusing gear-selection patterns is a mystery. Surely, no one likes this nor entirely understands how it works. Perhaps, it's part of providing that exotic feel.
2 Maserati Ghibli V6 S
Unfortunately for Maserati, two of their cars made it onto this list for being exceptional
examples of why not to buy Italian. This is a sinister example of "don't judge a book by its cover," in that it looks great, but it isn’t. Much like the Biturbo, Maserati's ego and luxury got in the way of practicality, and they produced another stylish car that continually breaks and underperforms. This was shortly before Maserati was bought by Chrysler and, perhaps, was a public cry for help, declaring to the automotive world they had lost the plot and needed help. Almost every article about this car comes up with the word “worst” in the title, pretty much the worst press any car could ask for.
1 People Will Care About Your Car More Than They Care About You
This is the most likely problem on this list you'll experience because, let's face it—Italian cars draw a crowd for all types of reasons, be it fires and failures or, in the case of this beauty, drop-dead gorgeous looks. Italian cars cover the entire range of vehicles and do so with a loud, brash style. If it works, it works really, really well. When they don’t work, they're most certainly going to be a catastrophic failure. The fact Italian automakers don’t seem to know why their cars are tempered this way only makes people care more about how a country creates such crazy cars. Maybe, they really don’t know why Lambos catch fire, or maybe they just don’t care to fix it. It only adds to the allure.
Sources: telegraph.co.uk; carthrottle.com; wikipedia.com