Some cars gain admiration and capture headlines for all the right reasons, but some vehicles become infamous due to unforeseen problems. Let’s look at some of those cars and the associated circumstances that have caused car enthusiasts to raise their eyebrows.
The Ford Pinto
Since gasoline is highly flammable, it could be argued the mere act of sitting in a gas-powered car is dangerous enough in itself. However, car manufacturers usually take proper precautions to keep fiery explosions from happening. Then, if problems occur, they’ll fix the issues. However, that’s not what happened with the Ford Pinto.
Marketed as a car that directly competed with small Japanese vehicles that were dominating vehicle sales figures, the Pinto was cheap and lightweight. Unfortunately, it also caused deaths due to fuel tank faults. From 1971 through 1976, the car had a rear-mounted fuel tank.
When the car was still in development, engineers uncovered problems with the fuel tank that posed fire risks and proposed ways to fix them. However, executives decided it would cost more to fix the issues than to pay out damages, and the faulty car went into production.
As many as 180 people died from the defective fuel tanks, and Ford’s reputation got damaged. The bad image lasted a while, but Ford has restored its reputation for building consistently safe cars.
The Tucker 48
There were only 51 Tucker 48 cars made, but they’ve captured just as much interest as more widespread vehicles. Engineered by Preston Tucker, this car generated a buzz because it was the first new model to come out after the Pearl Harbor disaster put a stop to automotive manufacturing.
Tucker claimed he’d been working on the car for a decade and a half and ran full-page advertisements promoting the car’s revolutionary features. Tucker took his prototype on a tour, but the car began to have problems that made it clear something was wrong. Eventually, it became evident Tucker was selling promises he couldn’t keep, In 1949, the Securities and Exchange Commission shut down Tucker’s company for fraud.
The Audi 5000
In 1982, Audi introduced its 5000 model, meant to help the brand break into the American luxury market. The plan seemed to work well. However, a 1986 news segment on “60 Minutes” contained interviews from car owners who claimed their that Audi 5000s unexpectedly accelerated.
Audi insisted that driver mistakes caused the problem, but the company exacerbated fears by running condescending advertisements. In the end, tests concluded the positioning of the gas and brake pedals caused people to sometimes hit the wrong one. It was also revealed that the car featured on the “60 Minutes” segment was modified by a television crew to cause sensational results.
Even though Audi was not in the wrong, it took the company nearly two decades to return to the sales levels it saw before the debacle happened. Today, this case study is viewed as an excellent example of how news isn’t always true.
These are just three of the many scandalous cars throughout history. The lessons we learn from them are still valid today.