10 Inexcusable Automotive Gaffes
These Automotive Industry Blunders Never Should of Happened
Updated October 4, 2018
I totally understand that mistakes happen, even in the automotive world. However, there are mistakes that don’t really do much damage and eventually fade away, but then there are gaffes that buyers will never forget.
We looked back into automotive history and picked out the 10 most inexcusable automotive gaffes of all time and listed them here. Let us know in the comments if you feel we missed one that you know of, or if you think we may have blown one way out of proportion.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you already know all about VW’s Dieselgate scandal. To avoid getting overly technical, Volkswagen essentially fitted its TDI engines with cheat devices that changed the way the car ran when it knew it was being checked for emissions. This switch, of sorts, made the TDI engine produce far less noxious emissions, thereby earning the TDI top marks in this department. An independent study uncovered this issue, and the EPA pounced, which created massive shakeups in the auto group’s management and reduced buyer confidence in the brand.
Mitsubishi Killing its Cool Cars
Mitsubishi has had a few really badass cars over the years. It began with the Starion in the 1980s, then continued with the Eclipse and finally with the Langer Evolution. The slowly morphed from a low-weight tuner car to a bloated sports coupe right before its elimination, so most of us had written it of well before it got the axe. The Lancer Evolution, however, was still a lean, mean sport compact that was among the best in its class when Mitsu chose to eliminate its last remaining cool car following the 2015 model year.
Hyundai and Kia Horsepower Inflation
You’ll read the names Hyundai and Kia several times, as the sister companies have a track record of dishonesty. The first serious issue was the misstatement of horsepower numbers that costed the brand $85 million in a class-action lawsuit.
The cars that were affected by this misstatement of power ranged from the mid-1980s through 2002, and the average misstatement was by 4.6 horsepower. Hyundai ended up giving affected buyers gift cards for various retailers valued from $50 to $225 or Hyundai shopping cards worth $100 to $325, depending on the severity of the amount of misstated horsepower.
GM’s Ignition Recall Delay
GM committed one of the ultimate gaffes in delaying the recall of millions of vehicles over the course of a decade, causing more than 100 deaths. The defect was an ignition tumbler that did not have enough holding torque to prevent the ignition from turning off.
Once the ignition turned off, the engine would die and the airbags would deactivate. In some cases, these combined to cause an accident and 124 deaths (as of 11/3/2015) were directly linked to this failure.
Takata Airbag Issue
Airbags are supposed to help you in a crash, right? Well, not if they hurl metal shrapnel at your face once they deploy. This is the issue that caused the massive recall of cars equipped with Takata airbags. So far, six automakers, including giants Honda and Toyota, are affected by the recall.
I do understand that errors happen, but what makes this a huge issue is the fact that Takata supposedly knew about this issue back in 2004, and instead of alerting its clients, the company secretly performed its own internal investigation. It wasn’t until 2013 that Takata announced the issue.
The Ford Probe
The Ford Probe wasn’t an overly terrible car, but it had some serious ill intent when the automaker originally released it. Ford initially saw the Probe as a profitable model, thanks to its borrowed platform from Mazda, and thought it would be a great replacement or the Mustang.
Luckily, revolts by Mustang faithful killed this plan, but the Probe lived on with very limited success. By today’s standards, the Probe is likely one of the better-looking cars of the 1980s and 1990s, but its looks were a bit too much buyers in that era. The Probe also ended up being more expensive than Ford thought, resulting in a high base price that many buyers were not willing to pay.
The Nissan Cube
Rolling-cube-like cars seem to go over pretty well in Japan, but in America, not so much. So it is no surprise that the Nissan Cube makes my list of unforgivable gaffes, as it was exactly what the American buyers were not looking for. It lacks power, has the aerodynamics of a brick, and just looks weird. What’s more, there are still a good bit of brand-new 2014 Cubes still available for purchase, which shows just how undesirable the Cube really is.
Hyundai and Kia Fuel Economy Overstatement
First horsepower then fuel economy. It seems that Hyundai and Kia just love overstating their numbers. In 2012, Hyundai and Kia admitted to padding their fuel-economy numbers, resulting in an extra 4.75 million metric tons of greenhouse gases being emitted. Hyundai was penalized $350 million ($100 million in cash, $200 million in environmental credits, and $50 million on reforms to prevent future issues).
Mazda Creating its Own Competitor
This gaffe hasn’t officially come to fruition yet, but it is well on its way. For decades, the Mazda MX-5 Miata has not had a true competitor. Sure, there were some cars that were similar, but none mastered the art of the lightweight roadster as well as the Miata. Well, that all ends with the latest-generation MX-5, as Mazda teamed up with Fiat in creating the platform for the new MX-5, which will result in a direct competitor named the Fiat 124 Spider.
What’s more, rumor has it that the 124 Spider will also have an Abarth version that will deliver around 200 horsepower, making the MX-5 seem seriously underpowered.
Cadillac’s Luxed-Up Volt
The years of Cadillac adding premium features to a random GM vehicle and calling it a “luxury car,” Like the Cimarron and Catera, seemed over. Well, this issue has reared its head again with the Cadillac ELR. The ELR isn’t quite as bad as Cadillac’s obvious badge engineering from the 1980s and 1990s, but the ELR is very closely related to the Chevy Volt. While I can live with its relationship with the Volt, its original base price of $75,995 — $41,810 more than the base Volt — is inexcusable.