There are just some cars that people know by name because of their influence and popularity. The Volkswagen Beetle. The Lincoln Cadillac. Ford and Chevrolet’s pickup trucks. However, there are other cars that crashed and burned within a few years of being on the market––and while you might recognize some of these names, it certainly isn’t for a good reason.
Some of these cars include:
- The DeLorean DMC
- The Ford Edsel
- The Cadillac Cimarron
- The Yugo
- The Chevrolet Series-C
While these cars each vary based on size and price, they all flopped for similar reasons. Continue reading to learn more about these flops and what makes them so iconic.
What Makes a Car a Flop?
The simplest definition of a “flop” is a car that simply didn’t sell well. This can be due to a myriad of factors, including:
- Hype. Some advertising campaigns are bigger than the products themselves. By raising consumers’ expectations, there’s a lot of pressure to deliver. Upon release, if the car doesn’t meet the hype, people might even criticize things that they otherwise would have overlooked.
- Design. Some cars are just ugly. While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, without a doubt, there are some cars that just have no redeemable designs.
- Price. Everyone loves a cheap, fuel-efficient car. Nobody wants to spend thousands on a car they can’t really afford in the first place.
Mechanics. Even on a bad day, a car should be able to make it from point A to point B. However, some cars reach the market that can’t even do that––or fall apart once they hit a certain mileage. Those cars typically do not turn a profit for their makers.
Now, without further ado, here are five of the biggest car flops in modern history.
Could the Chevrolet Series-C Be the First Car Flop?
Everyone wants to be first––but not when it comes to being the first disaster. Riding on the success of Ford’s Model T, Chevrolet stepped onto the scene, hoping to provide a rival. The biggest pitfall here wasn’t the fact that they wanted to copy Ford’s success, but rather, they rushed into production without testing their cars.
It could not regulate its internal engine temperature. Plain and simple. Which caused them to blow quite regularly. Once people caught on, Chevy was forced to stop production after selling just under 750 units. According to Motorbiscuit, rumor has it that Chevy actually destroyed about 260 units before they could even be driven off the lot.
Needless to say, Chevy strayed away from these types of vehicles for a while.
The Ford Edsel: Overhyped and Unattractive
Ford spent millions of dollars hyping people up for the Edsel. They accepted dozens of pre-orders. Big-name stars like Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Louis Armstrong performed at the unveiling. Then the Edsel was released. And man, people hated it, mostly because:
- It didn’t meet expectations. Ford made grandiose promises and couldn’t keep up its end of the bargain.
- It was released in the middle of 1957’s recession, where the mid-priced car market had taken a huge hit.
- Its design did not resonate with people in the least bit. It was like a Cadillac, but… not.
In the end, the Edsel disaster cost Ford $350 million. Keep in mind this happened in 1957––and Ford discontinued the car in 1959. By today’s standards, the Edsel cost Ford $2.8 billion.
The DMC DeLorean: Not One of DeLorean’s Best Moves
Yes, this was the car featured in “Back to the Future.” Yes, this is considered one of the most iconic cars in cinema. And also, yes: it is considered a flop. Here’s why:
- It literally looks like a flattened trapezoid. It simply didn’t measure up to the other sports cars in its class.
- It was too expensive. Despite the fact that it debuted in the ‘80s (the decade of spending and excess), combined with its less-than-ideal design, people didn’t want to spend the money. By the way, when the DMC DeLorean debuted, it cost $7,100 by today’s standards.
- Its performance wasn’t that great. It got 130 horsepower (which is not great), and it took nine seconds to reach 60 miles an hour (also not great).
One of the plus sides of the DMC DeLorean is that they’re collectibles. If you’re a car-flop connoisseur, you could land one of these cars for around $40,000.
The Cadillac Cimarron Could Not Reach Over 89 Miles an Hour
There’s no doubt that Cadillac’s had its share of successes. The Escalade. The Coupe Deville. The list goes on. But just as there’s no doubt denying Cadillac’s popularity, there’s also no doubting that the Cadillac Cimarron was a complete and total flop.
Here’s a fast summary as to why:
- There were only three transmission options.
- Consumers felt it was a “rebadging” of the Chevrolet Cavalier, a less luxurious car than the Cimarron was toted.
- Cadillac was known for cushy, luxury interiors. The Cimmaron’s interior to many felt like cheap plastic.
- It could only reach 89 miles per hour, and for those living in the ‘80s, that just didn’t cut it.
The Cadillac Cimarron managed to stay on the market for a decent amount of time, running from 1981 to 1988. Many sources note that it wasn’t the car itself that was a flop, but rather, a reflection of consumers’ disappointment in Cadillac’s lack of innovation.
A Flop So Big, Less Than 200 Units Exist in the U.S.
Jason Vuic called the Yugo “the worst car in history.” His opinion is not entirely unfounded. Malcolm Bricklin wanted to make money, and he saw the Yugo as the perfect opportunity to enter the U.S. auto industry market. However, he didn’t find much success, as the car in general was just…. bad.
This is mostly because:
It performed terribly in crash collision tests. If a Yugo collided with another car, it was no surprise which vehicle suffered the brunt of the impact.
- They were not well-manufactured. Yugo’s developers wanted to make a cheap car, and consumers knew it.
- It was not pleasing to the eye by any means. While this might have been overlooked in any other period, this was the mid-80s; appearances mattered.
- The Yugo quickly became the butt of pretty much late-night talk show out there. You could even say it became a meme.
The Blade reported that during the car’s eight-year run, it sold just over 140,000 units. Those numbers don’t lie.
These cars only scratch the surface of history’s biggest car flops. For more information, check out this article from Time.