The Black Sheep of These 10 Reputable Car Manufacturers

It’s never all fine and dandy – even for most renowned car manufacturers around. While they usually produce good vehicles (depending on what you consider to be good), every single one of these manufacturers has at least that one car they screwed up on. Call it the black sheep, the prodigal son, or simply a POS – it’s there and it affronts its badge’s hardly earned reputation. Some manufacturers have more than a few of such aberrations, but we’ve had to pick one. Heck, some Eastern Bloc car makers have never even managed to assemble a proper car. But that’s beside the point. The point is: here are the 10 prominent manufacturers and 10 cars which stain their otherwise sound name.

Maserati Biturbo

Years: 1981-1994

Maserati is now one of the most renowned car manufacturers in the world. Italian design, performance and luxury at their finest grace the brand. Maserati Biturbo – their line of sports grand tourers – erodes that reputation a little bit. It’s as black sheep as black sheep can get for Maserati. Twin-turbo V6 engines (first ever in a production car) with power outputs ranging from 150 to 246 horses were innovative at the time but obviously lacked potency. Cold start, strong lag, and tendency to catch fire were another major disadvantages of the engine. Bit it was the quality of materials and bodywork which ended up being the biggest disappointments here, though. Interior was plush all right, but not enough to justify the Maserati badge. Most of the body was outsourced and that nearly damaged Maserati’s reputation beyond repair. That’s why luxury brands produce expensive, refined vehicles. Because when they try to make an affordable one, the Biturbo happens.


Cadillac Cimarron

Years: 1981-1988

Cimarron is arguably the worst car Cadillac has ever made to date, and they’ve had their “moments”. It basically wasn’t more than the Chevy Cavalier with a make up. It was Cadillac’s first foray into the compact segment but that doesn’t justify the mess they’ve made with the Cimarron. There’s another “first time” for it here. It was the first time in more than 50 years that Cadillac was powered by the four cylinder, although V6 was offered as an option later on. So, generally poor execution, anemic powertrain, and pretty much everything else that could have gone wrong, have made this car one huge flop. That’s what happens when you try to rebadge an affordable compact into a luxury car. And GM’s J lineup wasn’t all that rebadge-friendly to begin with.


Lexus SC 430

Years: 2001-2010

It’s safe to say people really expected more out of Lexus when the SC 430 came out. It’s a plushy, refined car with interesting design cues (love them or hate them), I’ll give it that. Unfortunately for Lexus, that’s where the list of pros ends. Cons, on the other hand, go on and on. It had a thirsty 4.3L V8 mill, brand’s first ever retractable roof which additionally cut already limited trunk space, ride quality and handling befitting of a much cheaper car, and it was quite expensive too. Not what you’d have expected from the Mercedes-Benz SL’s competitor? It probably wouldn’t have been as criticized as it used to be, had it been a Toyota with half the price tag, but it wasn’t.


Pontiac Fiero

Years: 1984-1988

It was a close call since both Fiero and Aztek really dug deep trying to make an appearance on this unholy list. In the end we decided to give the “honors” to the fire catcher. You’ll agree that this is much bigger of an issue than horrendous design and somewhat cheap execution which are Aztek’s main “aces”. Well, you probably know it all. The Fiero was underpowered, overweight, and not nearly as interesting as it was supposed to be. But it’s the tendency to catch fire that had made it somewhat of a cult car (only in a bad way). Although fire incidents were mostly limited to the first model year and 2.5L four cylinder, other models weren’t spared as well. Most of the fires were caused by dripping oil coming into contact with the hot exhaust manifold. Full recall was only conducted in the late 1987 which was already too late. Fiero’s reputation was already cemented by then.


Aston Martin Cygnet

Years: 2011-2013

What did we say about rebadging affordable compacts into luxury cars? Well, this one’s even worse. Rebadged Toyota iQ micro car that had found its way under the Aston Martin wing. Only a handful things more awkward than that have happened recently. It was intended for the European market but failed miserably and was pulled after only couple of years. Who were the segments? Good question. People at Aston Martin probably still can’t give you the answer to that one. I mean, who would pay premium for the Aston Martin badge when they’re shopping for an efficient, cheap city car? Moreover, Cygnet only delivered 97 horsepower through 1.3L 4-cylinder engine. At least it was efficient returning almost 59 mpg.


Jaguar X-Type

Years: 2001-2009

Despite its more or less stellar reputation as the automaker, Jaguar never really offered the entry-level luxury car. Not until the X-Type, that is. Well, the X-Type didn’t really turn up to be a good call. People perceived it as a rebadged Ford (Blue Oval owned the Jaguar at the time) and never gave it a chance. And they really shouldn’t have anyway. It didn’t exactly deliver in the refinement part, and certainly not in performance bit. Between the turbo four Duratorq or small Jaguar V6s, the X-Type never delivered more than 228 horsepower. Not a figure a compact car should be ashamed of, but it was a luxury compact still.


Ferrari Mondial

Years: 1980-1993

Mondial came in six different versions during the 13-year long production run but all of them had one thing in common – they sucked. There are a handful of not so well executed Ferraris, but Mondial is definitely the black sheep of the family. It was underpowered with as little as 205 horsepower and as much as 300 ponies in the last year. But, it’s the mechanical issues that have earned it the bad reputation, actually. Most notably, the electrical issues. If you thought you smelled the burning rubber, it was likely the melting wires. Very little chance to actually burn tires with the mediocre power output it had.


Chevrolet Citation

Years: 1980-1985

This spot could have been reserved for the Vega, but we ended up leaning in Citation’s direction. It was intended as the Nova replacement (which it became), but it performed so horribly that the Nova nameplate had to be pulled back from well-earned retirement. That should tell all by itself, but let’s recapitulate. Citation either came with 2.5L Iron Duke or 2.8L V6. Most of them were unreliable and prone to breakdowns. Pretty much everyone who has ever owned one will testify to that. To add to the story, all of them seemed to suffer from different problems so it was a cat in a sack of sorts. Let it out and it’ll give you a nice scar. Furthermore, neither one of its X-car siblings fared much better. They had practically tarnished GM’s reputation in an instance.


BMW 7 Series (E65)

Years: 2001-2008

I don’t know what’s harder: talking about good or bad German cars. Former for there are simply too many and latter for the opposite reason. But digging out the black sheep of the BMW family wasn’t that hard. E65 7 Series takes the cake without a doubt, especially the early production models. I really don’t know why the Bavarians had to start saving on materials but the interior would simply fall apart after a few years. Not a good recommendation for luxury brand’s flagship lineup. Furthermore, they leaked oil and coolant like a sieve. And I dare you to try and replace a coolant pipe under the intake manifold. BMW even had to extend the warranty for the first two model years. Well, at least they’ve done something about it.


Ford Pinto

Years: 1971-1980

Nineties Explorer and Mustang II among others competed for this spot, but nothing beats Pinto. It was the absolute worst car Blue Oval has ever created, and with plenty of reasons at that. Lack of power, awful driving dynamics and ugly looks are only the tip of the iceberg made out of Pinto’s cons. Some cars were prone to catching fire, but not the Pinto. That one was prone to explosions. A spot between the rear axle and the rear bumper isn’t the best place for a fuel tank. But Ford engineers have learnt that the hard way. Blue Oval had to face more than 100 lawsuits back in the day and they were indicted on three counts of reckless homicide among others. All that happened in 1979 which explains Pinto’s relatively long lifespan given the circumstances.


Categories: List Articles

Nikola Potrebić
About Nikola Potrebić

Although driving a piece of junk, Nikola is a true car enthusiast. Precious few things move him as muscle cars do - especially those from the bygone golden era. Which makes him wonder; why wasn't he born a few decades earlier? Well, at least he's been able to enjoy the likes of Pontiak Aztek, Fiat Multipla, and their "lovely" coevals this way - right? (sigh)