How Well Do You Know European Automaker Flops and Failures?


By: Ian Fortey

7 Min Quiz

Image: Wiki Common by Pazza328

About This Quiz

It would be statistically unlikely, if not downright impossible, for any carmaker to make great cars all the time. No one can do it. Even automakers like Ferrari, known for the sleekest and most luxurious rides on Earth, have a Mondial 8 in their closet somewhere. And maybe it's good to make mistakes now and then so we can better appreciate our successes. Of course, when an automaker has a failure, it's usually to the tune of millions of dollars, but it's still a lesson learned. At least we hope it is.

As much as we might associate European automaking with style and luxury — with images of the Lamborghini Gallard or the Aston Martin DB5 coming to mind — it's worth noting that for every DB5 James Bond drove, there was an Aston Martin Arna no one wanted to drive. For every Lancia Stratos that looks great in a showroom, there's a Lancia Scorpion in a scrapyard somewhere. For every Ferrari, Bentley, BMW and Mercedes, there was a Yugo. There were a lot of Yugos. 

If your passion for cars includes not just the best of the best but the worst of the worst, then let's find out how many of Europe's biggest mistakes you can remember. Take the quiz and see!

Which of these failed to meet U.S. safety standards?

The Volkswagen Thing was a mistake on any number of fronts. It was dropped from the U.S. market when it failed to meet safety standards for reasons like the front passengers were far too close to the windshield glass. It also lacked even basic amenities. The windows didn't roll down, and there was only one windshield wiper motor, so a small rod connected the second wiper to the first.


Which of these cars was heavily critiqued for having four seats?

The Ferrari Mondial 8 could have been a much more popular model than it was, but the fact it was released as a mid-engine four-seater that had scaled back performance compared to what you'd expect from a normal Ferrari caused it to suffer.


The engine of which of these cars was notoriously awful?

By all accounts, the MG MGA was a good car. Then they tried to soup it up as the MGA Twin Cam, and it was riddled with problems. If the engine wasn't treated with kid gloves at all times, it would overheat, burn oil, leak fluids, burn pistons and rattle to pieces thanks to a faulty carburetor.


Overheating was a major reason for which vehicle's failure?

The Triumph Stag was riddled with mechanical problems that made it a failure. The water pump was above the engine so that when it heated up, coolant would bubble out. In addition, the iron and aluminum engine parts were susceptible to corrosion and a handful of other issues.


In Europe, they just called this model "5." What is it?

The Renault 5 was sold in North America as the Renault Le Car, which means "the car" in English. It was meant to compete with things like the VW Rabbit, but it only managed a staggeringly bad 51 horsepower when it was imported to the U.S. While the model was a European success, it was a dismal failure in the U.S.


Do you know which of these cars was mostly just a rebadged Ford Contour?

Jaguar turned the Ford Contour into the X-Type by making a few cosmetic changes. It sold about half of what was projected and suffered a blow to its reputation when drivers realized they were basically being scammed into paying Jaguar prices for a Ford.

Advertisement once called this "the worst car Canada ever saw." What was it?

The Vauxhall Viva was imported to Canada from the U.K. and renamed the Firenza. The cars were plagued by engine fires and brake failures which, as a result of labor strikes in the U.K., often couldn't even be repaired due to a lack of parts.


Which of these cars was discontinued due to poor sales?

Daimler resurrected the Maybach brand in 2002 to make these overpriced luxury cars with a starting price of $366,000. Expected sales per year were 2,000, with half coming in the U.S. The best sales year in the car's history saw 244 of them sold in the U.S.


Do you know which car failed because of the six figure price tag?

Technically speaking, the VW Phaeton was a good car. The problem was that VW was known for economy cars, and the Phaeton was an extravagant luxury car that cost over $100,000. No one was buying it, literally and figuratively, and the car was soon forgotten.


Do you know which car had numerous design flaws, from leaky sunroofs to boiling engines?

The Triumph TR7 was criticized right out of the gate for its unattractive design, but the fact nothing worked on it was what killed it. Electronics failed, the foldaway headlights often wouldn't open, the drive chains would snap, and one owner said the rear axel fell off.


What car was a modified Rover 800?

The Sterling 825 was a collaboration between Rover and Honda. It was plagued by electrical issues and even had issues with its paint peeling off. Wood trim would fall off because it had only been glued in place. The car became a commercial failure.


Which car was made from recycled cotton?

The Trabant P50 enjoys the success of having sold over 3 million units, mostly in Communist countries. It also has the distinction of being garbage ... literally. Recycled Soviet cotton was mixed with East German resin to make the body of the car, including the hood, roof, trunk and doors. It had 18 horsepower, belched horrible pollution, and fell apart constantly.


Do you know which of these cars was originally going to be called a Corvette?

The Renaut Dauphine may be one of the most staggeringly slow cars ever made. While today's best supercars can reach 60 miles per hour in under three seconds, the Dauphine took an incredible 32 seconds to get there. And that was if it didn't rust first.


This car is iconic in Russia. What is it?

The Vaz-2101, also known as the Lada Riva, is likely the only car that had over 10 million units produced but is still arguably a failure. When it was exported outside of the Soviet Union, it was met with near-universal disdain for its poor quality. Jeremy Clarkson once called it the worst car in the world and remarked that pressing the brakes caused it to speed up. Joke or not, there's no way this was a good car.


Which of these cars had serious problems with corrosion?

The Maserati BiTurbo is one of those strange cars that was both very successful for a time and a horrible failure as well. They sold well and performed well, at first. In time, however, they fell victim to non-existent rust-proofing. Internally, hoses, wires and everything else would degrade and rupture after only a couple of years.


Do you know which car listed carpeting as one of its standard features?

The Yugoslavian-made Yugo is infamous in automotive history as one of the single worst vehicles ever produced. They were known for having massive failures from malfunctioning engines to faulty electrical systems to pieces just falling off. The joke was that you go nowhere in a Yugo.


Which car sold 645 units in 14 years?

The Aston Martin Lagonda was meant to be a luxury sports car. It suffered from not just an ugly appearance but overwhelmingly bad electronics and a very high price tag. The car was decked out with the latest electronics available in the '70s, but they would routinely fail almost immediately.


Do you know which of these had only three wheels?

Built on the Isle of Man, the Peel Trident was an ultra compact car that had a serious issue with the top. The Plexiglass bubble top was essentially a magnifying glass. That meant driving it on a sunny day could be an excruciatingly hot experience.


"Top Gear" has destroyed several of these cars as a joke during the show. What is it?

The Morris Marina was rife with issues from the start. One of the big problems was poor suspension that led to understeering. During test drives, the car would end up on the wrong side of the road during sharp turns.


Which car failed because it had only two bearings supporting each camshaft?

Facel was a French company known for sports cars when it tried to make a more consumer-friendly vehicle for the masses. The Facellia was poorly engineered and frequent engine failure effectively ruined not just the car but the entire company.


Large numbers of which vehicle were recalled due to poor rustproofing?

The Lancia Beta seemed like a good car at first, until corrosion issues rendered large swaths of them rust buckets. Rumor had it that the car was made with cheap Soviet steel, but that was never proven. Regardless, they rusted and rusted badly.


"Top Gear's" James May called this the ugliest car ever built. What is it?

The Triumph Mayflower was designed to appeal to American drivers, but it did not meet the mark. Underpowered and incredibly heavy, it could only reach 63 miles per hour. Numerous writers have described it as one of the ugliest cars ever, as well.


A square steering wheel was one of the gimmicks of which of these cars?

The Austin Allegro was sold with a square steering wheel that the manufacturer insisted was both avant-garde and high tech. In 2008, it was voted the worst car in British history by iMotormag. It was also infamous for poor quality engineering overall.


Which of these was the first European car with the engine block and cylinder cast in aluminum?

The Hillman Imp was praised for its design initially, but some serious problems soon arose. The manufacturing team in Scotland was not made up of skilled automakers. They were shipbuilders, and the result was a poorly manufactured car that had poorly fit panels and an engine that overheated constantly.


Do you know which of these was the first Communist-built car sold in America?

Skoda beat the Yugo to the American market by several years when it introduced the Felicia in 1959. The car fared poorly because of high import fees and the fact no one was advertising it, not to mention that it was average at best.


Poor engine performance compared to V8s killed which car in the U.S.?

The Austin A90 Atlantic was built specifically to appeal to the U.S. marketplace but vastly underestimated American tastes. While it looked great, the car was equipped with an underpowered 4 cylinder, 2.7 liter engine. Only 350 were sold in the U.S.


This car was also called the Strada in an effort to distance itself from a bad reputation. What is it?

The Fiat Ritmo was an underperforming vehicle known for poor design quality and a massive, ugly roll bar. It was sold as the Strada in America, but Fiat had released so many poorly received vehicles before it, that few were willing to risk a chance on the Strada. Within a few years, Fiat stopped selling cars in America.


This car was called the "Plastic Pig." What is it?

The Reliant Robin enjoyed some success in the U.K. but mostly by accident. A loophole in definitions saw it fall under the motorcycle category because it only had three wheels. So for a time, someone with a motorcycle permit could drive it. It was also taxed less than a regular car. They were also prone to rolling over, which the show, "Top Gear," faked to make it look even worse than it was.


This car was just a Tata Indicator with a different name. Do you know what it is?

Rover wanted to make a smaller car to appeal to city drivers in Europe, but the company was in financial trouble and couldn't develop their own. They brokered a deal with the Indian company, Tata, to essentially resell the Indicator with tweaked suspension and a new nose at more than double what a Tata cost. It didn't go over well with drivers.


Do you know which car was based on an earlier model called the Espace?

The Renault Avantime was a luxury coupe based on a minivan design. The cramped space it ended up providing was not highly desired by drivers and under 9,000 units were sold, making it a massive failure for Renault.


Which of these was known as the Montecarlo in Europe but rebadged for the American market?

The Lancia Montecarlo couldn't be marketed under that name in the U.S. because of the Chevy Monte Carlo, so Lancia chose a new name, the Scorpion. When altered to meet American specifications, it could only muster 81 horsepower. In two years, they sold only 1,800 or so of those cars.


Steering wheels that came off in your hands is one reason which of these cars was recalled?

The Renault Fuego was steeped in irony. Aside from removable steering wheels that were never meant to be removable, it also had a bad habit of bursting into flames, something which the name "Fuego," which means "fire" in Spanish, really goes well with.


Which of these was a shooting-brake style car?

The Jensen GT was a toned-down version of the Jensen-Healey roadster. A shooting-brake is a type of car body style that dates back to the 1800s when parties of hunters were transported in horse-drawn wagons along with their gear. Unfortunately, no one wanted to go shooting in the Jensen GT.


MSN Autos called which of these the most disastrous car ever made?

Nissan teamed up with Alfa Romeo to make the Arna but in the opposite way people wanted. Instead of European styling and Japanese engineering, it was the look of a Nissan with the unreliable technology of Alfa Romeo. Notoriously glitchy and hard to drive, it failed very quickly.


Do you know which of these 2011 models was just a renamed Toyota iQ ?

Carmakers have to meet fleet standards for emissions. That means every car they make must meet an average emission level. To reach those standards, Aston Martin rebranded a Toytota/Scion iQ as the Cygnet so they wouldn't have to change any of the other cars in their fleet. That gave it an Aston Martin price tag as well, even though nothing about the car was different. That went over poorly with buyers.


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!