The 50 Worst Cars of All Time

A few years back Time magazine teamed with automotive critic Dan Neil to compile a list of the 50 worst cars of all time. It is pretty amusing to read. My own opinion is that they are way too tough on SUV’s — among the handful included on the list is the Ford Explorer (one of the best-selling vehicles in this country for over a decade), for example, because its success helped trigger the super-sizing of American vehicles.

Far more interesting than cases like the Ford Explorer are the dismal commercial failures. How is that the Edsel or the Plymouth Prowler or the Fiat Multipla are brought to the market? You might think that if you can’t find a consumer who likes the car once it is made, somebody might have been able to figure this out in advance.

In talking with an auto executive a few years back, I got some insight into how disasters like this happen. I asked this auto executive how his company decided between the 10 or 15 concept cars that the design teams proposed.

His answer: The five most senior executives at the company looked over the possible vehicles and picked the ones they liked best!


Brad

It's odd to me that they chose the second-generation Explorer, but maybe this had to do with the inclusion of the V8. I actually owned the first year of the Explorer (1991), and it was a nice little SUV that was not terribly different than my dad's old Bronco II.

Speaking of, with all the rollover hysteria, I'm surprised the Bronco II was not on this list.

Additionally, as far as recent history, I would nominate the GMC Envoy XUV -- the SUV that is attempting to be some sort of truck with a retractable roof. It is easily one of the most hideous cars in recent memory besides the Aztek, which was properly included on the list.

The Land Rover Discovery should be on the list, too. Not only is it an eyesore, but its unreliability and poor handling are a large part of Land Rover's recent tarnished image.

Also, if you're going to throw novelty cars like the Prowler and SSR on there, you might as well include Ford's T-bird, too.

I would argue that Lexus's SC430 should also be included because it's been the same bodystyle for 108 years and it probably has the most pointless backseat in automobile history.

Speaking of ugly, where is the Toyota Previa that used to look like a jellybean, too. Horrible.

I could go on forever; these are just the ones that spring to mind.

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Garry

I see that the Ford Pinto is on the list and deservedly so. But I recall that the Chevy Vega was neck and neck with the Pinto as the worst car of the early 70s. It should be on th list.

Brad: I think you are a bit harsh on the Lexus SC 430. Yes, the styling is now dated, but it drew rave reviews when it was first introduced. And as with any Lexus, it has outstanding reliability. Regarding the tiny back seat, a Lexus salesman told me that the back seat was put in to reduce insurance costs for owners.

M.B.

Following the lin, I get:
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ScottK

Perhaps Consumer Reports should do a "50 worst cars of all time"

ACW

My first car was an AMC Pacer and I loved it. De Gustibus.

John

I would love to get an inventory of the cars traded in on the cash for clunkers program. Some social benefit should come of the free ride. There would certainly be some interesting trends if the data was released with the type of car purchased with the cash.

Eric M. Jones

Wikipedia has a great entry for the AMC Pacer. Originally the plan was to power it with a Wankel. I consider the design a great notion but it seems to have been crushed by corporate confusion and derivative engineering. Too bad.

federico

It is not clear which are the parameter for putting cars on this list.

Here in Italy Fiat Multipla is quite popular (especially the NG version).
It is ugly, but quite comfortable (it has 6 seat, 3+3).
The Fiat Duna was a total distaster, from a market and quality pov.

Sean

@John

Current news reports are listing the Ford Focus as the most-purchased car in the "Cash for Clunkers" program.

(CfC is a terrible name, by the way: A 20 year old car that gets 19 miles per gallon can't be traded in, but a 2 year old "clunker" that gets 17 miles per gallon can be.)

Infopractical

It's interesting that your defense of the Ford Explorer is part of the reason that they condemn it: because it's commercially successful. To me, this has nothing to do with the value of the car in question, except to say that it was well enough engineered for its purpose, and pretty enough for consumer eyes.

Many of the great heroes and villains of society were well enough engineered for consumption, and pretty enough (in one sense or another) to lead. Yet...some are heroes, and some are villains.

Personally, I drove an SUV for 8 months. It was a lot of fun.

Now, I see people driving them around my smaller car and many drivers use them as offensive weapons of the road, menacing other drivers in a variety of ways. SUVs are dangerous in the hands of people whose driving devolves the moment they get behind the wheel.

And yeah, it's not exactly environmentally friendly to drive one with no passengers. But I am sure that for some part of the population, it's exactly what they need.

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N. Z.

The snobby self-righteousness of the writing in that list is remarkable. It seems like the writer hates any car that isn't tiny, economic, and driven by other snobby intellectuals.

Nuno

A few years back, the French magazine Automobile compiled a list of the best and worst cars of the 20th century. The VW beetle came out first. The Yugoslav Lada Niva came out last. In their own words:

Pros: Nothing.
Cons: Nice rear window defroster, keeps your hands warm while you push.

John

Sean- Couldn't agree with you more. I would have traded in my '87 Volvo 240 with 300K on it under the program, but it gets 21 MPG. Although the program smells like a gas tax holiday to me, I would have participated but my 'clunker' gets too many MPG.

Sbard

I just wish they'd replaced one of the SUVs on that list with GMs absolutely horrible 2005-2009 model year minivans: the Chevy Uplander/Pontiac Montana SV6/Buick Terrazza/Saturn Relay. The only time I've ever seen any of them is in fleets, and for good reason. Awful to drive, awful to ride in, and thoroughly uncompetative with ANYTHING else on the market.

Bill

So, by choosing the Ford Explorer, they have changed their purpose to selecting the 50 most politically incorrect cars. Or the 50 cars they think other people, who don't know what's good for them and who ought to listen to their betters, ought not to be driving.

What a bunch of losers they have over at Time.

econobiker

Levitt wrote "In talking with an auto executive a few years back, I got some insight into how disasters like this happen. I asked this auto executive how his company decided between the 10 or 15 concept cars that the design teams proposed.

His answer: The five most senior executives at the company looked over the possible vehicles and picked the ones they liked best! "

I gather that this was a domestic auto company. Some posters on an auto enthusiast website took umbrage at my suggestions that Detroit based car companies didn't get exposed enough to East, West coast customer needs and trends. And this seems to prove it if the company referenced was based in that area.

Supposedly Lee Iacocca was infamous for picking and choosing design details while at Chrysler - guessing that he might have another Mustang moment. Instead, by picking parts of designs he liked, the designers had to integrate vehicles without regard to astetics or sales needs and results were cobbled together Plymouth Laser /Dodge Dayonta among other 1980's vehicles.

This list also avoids cars with the most recalls such as the Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare with front fenders which pretty much rusted through looking at them and the GM X cars such as Chevy Citation which took away the most recalled title from the Aspen and Volare...

The list also leans heavily on political correctness or pricey cars versus mass produced cars.

Come on - the Lambo LM002 as a worst car ever??? -Only about 330 of them ever made versus say the mass sold Suzuki Samuri which was pulled due to roll over issues after its first couple of years.

The list is a little off in its reasoning.

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Marc

Why defend the SUV? Is there any doubt that the boom-let created by its popularity led GM to over invest in an unsustainable line of guzzlers and ultimately contributed to its bankruptcy? Not so bad for Ford, which saw the writing on the wall though...

Jeff H

I have a 1997 Exploder V8. I throw crap into the back just about every weekend. It tows a race trailer and sometimes, two Harleys. It runs fine and I've spent little more than $1,000 total on repairs/maintenance since I've owned it. A little soap and water and it looks new. It's stable (and quite fast) in corners if you drive it smoothly. It gets crappy mileage, but I live a half-mile from my office. I'm trying to figure out how I can get my $4,500 AND buy a new Explorer. Anybody got any ideas?

Sean Samis

I didn't see the Renault-AMC Alliance (1983); any list of "Worst cars" that does't have the Alliance is worthless because so was that piece of crap car.

kevin

i agree with #11 and #15. this is the most ignorantly biased list i have ever seen.

seriously, what a bunch of losers.