What's the Worst Car of the Millennium?
Tom and Ray's End of the Millennium Lifetime Achievement Awards
We thought that it was only appropriate, here at the end of the millennium, to give out a few awards to those individuals and companies who have achieved a certain status.
Here, then, are our first annual Official Car Talk Lifetime Achievement Awards.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD FOR DEGENERATIVE UGLINESS:
Winner: Ford Motor Company
Ford--for the Thunderbird. In 1956 Ford had probably the perfect, most beautiful car you could make. The Thunderbird was fabulous. But over the course of the late '50s, and especially the '60s, even more so in the '70s...and the '80s too...Ford turned the Thunderbird into the ugliest thing going. Originally, the Thunderbird had everything--character, beauty, charm and pizzazz. And when Ford was done with it, it had no personality left and nobody would buy it...and they had to kill it. And now, of course, Ford is starting all over again. The 2000 Thunderbird is out. It's beautiful--and what does it look like? The '56 Thunderbird. So, for screwing up for 40 years, Ford gets the Lifetime Achievement Award for Degenerative Ugliness.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT FOR PRODUCT STRATEGY:
Winner: American Motors Corporation
AMC brought us the Pacer. This car was aerodynamically ugly 15 years before its time. And we can't forget the Concord: four-wheel-drive ugly hybrid car/wagon--and 20 years too early. Or the Metropolitan: ugly, but it got 30 miles to the gallon in 1959--when gas was four cents a gallon! Just what was AMC thinking? Then, later, when the Arab oil embargo finally did hit, AMC brought us the Matador, a huge hulk with a V8 engine--and ugly, to boot. Finally, there was the Alliance. Just as the French were making their last gasp on American soil, AMC decides to team up with Renault. Of course, the Alliance was, like so many other AMCs, also unmitigatedly ugly.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD FOR SMOKE AND MIRRORS:
Winner: Lee Iacocca
For the entire decade of the 1980s, Iacocca's Chrysler Corporation made basically one car--the K car. They called it the Aries...and the Reliant. Then they put a huge cardboard box on it and called it a minivan.
Iacocca had people thinking that Chrysler made seven or eight different cars! And it was one lousy car! He did the same thing when he worked for Ford. His first foray into the smoke-and-mirrors arena was the Mustang--a great car. And what was it? A Ford Falcon. Lee saw the way that car sold, and he said, "Hey! I can make a career outta this!" Well, good for you, Lee!
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT FOR SMOKE WITHOUT MIRRORS:
Winner: General Motors in the 1980s
General Motors also made one car and gave it four or five different names. But they weren't as clever as Iacocca, so everybody knew that a Chevy was the same as a Buick, which was the same as an Oldsmobile...which was the same as a Pontiac. GM really cheaped out. What other company could change a taillight and rename a car? Congratulations, GM!
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT FOR MOST PERSISTENT UNACKNOWLEDGED MALFUNCTION:
Otherwise known as THE OSTRICH AWARD
Winner: General Motors
General Motors wins for GMPSS--that is, General Motors Power Steering Syndrome. For about a dozen years, the steering racks on GM cars would refuse to turn to the right, or the left, in cold weather. And GM, in a demonstration of incredible persistence and stick-to-itiveness, for a dozen years said, "Steering problem? What steering problem?"
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD FOR INCREASED MANAGEABILITY:
Winner: Roger Smith
Congratulations to Roger, who successfully reduced GM's market share from an unwieldy 50 percent down to a manageable 29 percent. Good work, Rog!
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD FOR DENIAL:
A Swedish car that you can't drive in the snow? How did Volvo manage this for so many years? Very impressive!