It’s one of the great hypocrisy of fandom: When you guys win, it’s “We,” when they lose, its “Them.”
Honestly, it isn’t that much different in the automotive world. Everyone has their pet brands, and everyone knows that their brands have all made awful, awful mistakes. In almost every business, products come out that look like a mistake as soon as they leave the factory, but due to the auto industry’s inherent exposure to the public, automotive flops tend to be more spectacular than most — and potentially more damaging to the brand responsible.
Here we’ve compiled a collection of 10 of the most high-profile offenders. Although these cars may have seemed right at the time to somebody, they probably should have been put through a little more development — and at least a focus group or two.
1. 1975-’80 AMC Pacer
In the 1970s, tiny Wisconsin-based American Motors was strapped for cash, and increasingly relying on its aging Gremlin/Hornet platform (which would eventually underpin its Concord, Spirit, and Eagle models). That’s what makes the Pacer so baffling. On paper, it was a pioneer: The second American car to have rack-and-pinion steering, an integrated rollbar, a longer passenger door for rear seat access, and an interior designed for safety and class-leading space. But in reality, it was “The Flying Fishbowl,” a gawky, unbelievably hot (all that glass), and expensive failure. The struggling company sank $60 million (nearly $360 million today) into developing the car “from the inside out.” Customers took one look at the slow (100 horsepower), heavy (nearly two tons) Pacer, and said “no, thanks.” In 2007, Hagerty Insurance issued a poll asking for the enthusiasts to name the worst car design of all time, and the Pacer was bestowed with the unfortunate honor.