By on April 9, 2009

I used to fly in to do an old auction out in Baltimore. It was a strange place reeking in decrepitude and there were a lot of weird things out there. A 130,000 mile Saab 9000 with no registered owner, ever. A couple of Peugeot 505s with huge attached bumpers that were used to push non-running junk through the block (apologies to Paul Niedermeyer). Oh, and about 300 Daewoos rotting away in no man’s land.

The cars were the product of a bankruptcy. The company that relieved Hyundai from being the worst automaker in North America during the late 1990s went way under by 2002. In only five years, Daewoo had rightly earned one hell of a terrible legacy. A sales network made up of college students—“Hey, dudes! Buy my car!”—and a car line-up with more defects than an “Ernest” movie. Daewoo would eventually give America the worst automotive lineup since . . . well . . . Hyundai.

Daewoo’s entry level car was the Lanos, a car so wretched it actually exceeded the lemon-esque aura of the Hyundai Excel and Kia Sephia. After Daewoo went under, it would, to paraphrase Bill Shatner, “boldly depreciate to price levels no modern car had ever gone before.” The car offered 105 horsepower out of its 1.6L engine, but no one really cared—unless the anti-lock braking system failed. Which was often. The “Check Engine Light” came [on] standard along with interior parts that were cheaper than a Tata Nano. These days most “buy here, pay here” dealers won’t finance these cars because parts are so scarce and liability issues are so rampant.

[As an aside, some Georgia real estate builders are having limited success by offering a free entry level Daewoo (Chevy Aveo) for gullible new home buyers. I wonder if repossessed trailer liquidators would ever offer a used Lanos for free along with a doublewide. Unfortunately this promotion would probably fail since most buyers would actually expect the Lanos to run on its own power.]

The Daewoo Leganza was competitive with a Toyota Camry . . . from 1986 . . . well, not really. The surfaces were knock-on-wood hard and about as cheap as the Neon’s. Dashboards can literally become unglued through Southern heat; the few leatherette seats would eventually decompose faster than Jimmy Hoffa in a New Jersey swamp. (They probably inspired the song “Warm Leatherette.”) The Leganza was a wretched vehicle that should have been rejected from our shores for its sheer utter crapiness.

But the absolute worst of them all was a turd that went by the name of the Daewoo Nubira, a car no doubt named after a Korean bowel movement. Most Nubira owners never got a chance to change their timing belts; they would literally snap off before they were due. As a result, most Nubiras that I see at the auctions have amazingly low miles on them and never, ever, a working engine. The rest of the car was an exercise in automotive immobility, including wheels made of such cheap steel they would regularly go out of round. And I’m thinking electronics that were designed by Dear Leader Kim Jong Il during one of his “off” days.

In times since, Daewoo has actually produced a slew of far better vehicles. Unfortunately, they are still two or three generations (or four) behind the market leaders. Aveo, Reno, Forenza, Verona, whenever “cheap” is demanded by an uncompetitive car manufacturer, the remnants of Daewoo are still out there producing crap . . . or mediocrity. Hopefully, for the sake of our dwindling natural resources, they won’t be doing so for much longer.

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53 Comments on “Hammer Time: Daewoo. Worst. Automaker. Ever....”


  • avatar
    toxicroach

    If all the Daewoos are so useless, who is buying them at auction, and to what purpose?

    Sounds like they would be more valuable if you just melted them down and turned em into paperweights.

  • avatar
    jpc0067

    Two points: I think Kim Jong-Il is now known as “The Great Leader” like his father Kim Il-Sung was; and

    Jim Varney, despite the Ernest movies, was a pretty gifted entertainer.

    Never before have I see the two associated in the same article (though no doube Kim Jong-Il is a tremendous fan of the Ernest movies), so, well done as usual.

    There is no doubt that a Daewoo makes a Hyundai look like a Lexus.

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    THere is always a market clearing price for shit…

    I’d imagine on the Daewoos its junkyards: Strip whatever parts might have some remote value and melt the rest down for the steel.

    “$50, and I won’t change you for the gas to haul it away”

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    Pardon me, but isn’t the Chevy Cruze a Daewoo-led project?

    Hmmm…me thinks caution is in order.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    I still see a couple of Daewoo Nubiras around town, and it amazes me. Both that someone would buy one of these turds on wheels (then again people bought Yugos in the 80’s), and that these two are still running.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    And this is the company that GM has tapped to do the bulk of it’s design, engineering and production.

    Awesome.

  • avatar
    26theone

    When you say Daewoo, you mean GM Daewoo Auto & Technology co of which GM is the majority shareholder?

  • avatar
    mtypex

    I’m confused why Walmart wants to sell Chinese cars. They could work with Daewoo instead, if it wasn’t part of the decadent GM empire.

  • avatar
    pfingst

    Shortly after their bankruptcy, a lot of Daewoos ended up in rental car fleets, which is how I experienced one. Steven is right, the Nubira was the biggest POS I’ve seen since the Yugo. It reeked of cheap, the interior materials were hard, brittle, and flimsy, and the doors and trunk sounded like tin cans when you closed them. During the three days I had the car I referred to it as “the tin can.” Good riddance.

  • avatar
    Billy Bobb 2

    American Suzuki is married to these pieces of shit until 2015…thanks, “America’s Best Warranty”!

    7yr/100K Powertrain coverage on fuckin’ Veronas and Forenzas…GMDAT broke…BWAHAHAH!

    I’ve seen Forenza’s on their their fourth Automatic Transmissions still lurching and banging on downshifts…Veronas that have had 3 engines replaced to cat breakup and ingestion… what effin’ garbage.

  • avatar
    davey49

    I still see a few roaming around here.

  • avatar
    ttacfan

    I believe the Lanoses (Lanai?) of that vintage are still assembled in Ukraine and sold as Chevrolet Lanos. I remember reading Ukrainian reviews from ’98-’99 and it looked crappy even comparing to post-Soviet cars built in Russia. Higlights of the Ukrainian Chevywoo: naked metal trunk, seatbelts attached to the B-pillar with screws, where adjustable mechanism was supposed to go, etc.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Steve, I’m glad the 505’s were still being productive. Talked to a 505 owner yesterday who was taking the train to pick up another 505 wagon in Washington state. The problem is, I can’t find any 504 or 404’s for the Curbside Classics.

  • avatar
    Hank

    A mobile home dealer in Texas used to offer a new Yugo (in your choice of color) for $1.00 with a new mobile home purchase.

    Another dealer showed ’em up, though. They offered a free can of pork ‘n beans with purchase.

    I kid you not.

  • avatar
    tced2

    I had the privilege(?) of riding around in the back seat of the Pontiac Le Mans (nee Daewoo) thing for about a week in Brazil in the mid 90’s. It was ok – at least the air conditioning was functional.

  • avatar
    menno

    Stephen, you’ve obviously never seen an FSO (aka Polski Fiat aka “Poxy Fiat”) from Poland.

    1961 Fiat 1500 chassis and OHV engine married to a 1966 Fiat 125 body (minus the nice headlamps), built in a communist state by drunken Poles.

    All the way through the 1980’s.

    A pal of mine had one when I lived in the UK. It constantly broke. And when I mean constantly, I mean about every other day. Literally.

    He sold it on and the thing became a lawn ornament in Ipswich, Suffolk for the next owner, who left it there for oh, about 5 years.

    Hell, it may still be there for all I know, and that was over 20 years ago now.

    As for the Daewoo Nubira, yes, General Motors did buy up majority interest in the company for a song in 2002. Nubira means the equivalent word to the English phrase “It’ll get you there.” In other words, it is what many “car guys” constantly CLAIM that they’d like to be able to drive due to the ever arching complexity of modern cars; it’s a modern-day Model A.

    I know; we bought a 2002 Nubira in 2003 for $7800 “not new, we don’t have a franchise” at a Ford-Hino dealer in northern Ohio; the MSRP was $14,800. That’s 47% off. The dealer was the biggest I’d ever seen and they had some 300 Daewoos that they obviously snagged very cheap off the bankruptcy sale. I found the car online.

    Yes; the interior is cheap. It’s a modern-day Model A, remember? Yes; as ALL cambelt engines, you have to actually change the cambelt ON TIME. But for those mocking the Nubira and Leganza? Guess who builds the engine for GMDaewoo? It’s GMHolden, the manufacturers of the (in)famous GTO and now G8. The automatic transmissions are ZF. So if they are junk they are junk made by the manufacturer of BMW automatic transmissions.

    The 2002 Daewoo Nubira is still in use by our youngest son; it’s had it’s cambelt changed and had brake pads, and over the years has only had a couple of minor problems, never left anyone stranded, is reasonably comfortable, powerful enough to perform well in traffic (0-60 in less than 11 seconds with automatic), has been FAR more reliable than the 1997 Chevrolet Cavalier or 1999 Dodge Neon automobiles which preceded it in our garage – all in all, I think this trashing of Daewoo is just a tad unfair. Perhaps we only got “a good one” but I have to say I still see plenty of them running around.

    As for resale value, look at what happened to Edsel, Studebaker, Hudson, Packard, etc., after they quit selling cars in this country. You could buy Studebakers for a few hundred dollars when I was a kid in the 1960’s. My parents needed a 2nd car in 1964 and bought a 7 year old Studebaker for $65. They got a 1960 Studebaker Lark 2 years later, for about $200 (in much better condition; for one thing, unlike the 1957, it wasn’t painted in housepaint).

    Ironically, GMDaewoo yanked the rug out from under Daewoo sales (which did have dealers from about 2000 onwards, by the way; they gave up the idiotic idea of having college students sell cars). Then part-owner of GMDaewoo, Suzuki, sold the cars from about 2004 through the 2008 model year. The Suzuki Verona (which replaced the Daewoo Leganza) had a Porsche designed inline six mounted transversely under the hood. This car as well as others, were also sold in Canada and Mexico under the CHEVROLET brand.

    Plus the Aveo and Pontiac G3, it is? – are GMDaewoo, too.

  • avatar
    NN

    Mr. Lang, you are spot on here. For amusement sake (and only that, I swear), I test drove a black Lanos (with red leatherette interior!) back in college right after bankruptcy at a Ford dealership. Car was brand new, and as soon as I started it, the Check Engine light came on–and stayed on through the drive. the poor shmuck salesman was crammed in the back seat, knees in his chest, telling me he’d give me a really good deal. The car vibrated and drove like it was already 10 years old.

    Daewoo’s are still crap. I got 20mpg in a rented Aveo once. 20mpg in an econo-car!

    GM is going to shed Opel and rely on Daewoo for all their car development. You know that they won’t spend the money to hire decent US engineers to replace what’s at Opel. GM’s bigger trucks/SUV’s and a couple platforms that actually do involve still-employed US engineers (CTS, Corvette) will probably remain pretty good. Everything else will be Daewoo. That is why in the long run, even if they emerge from bankruptcy intact, they will fail again. Mark my words.

  • avatar
    buzzliteyear

    A couple of items:

    –One of the unintended consequences of the Daewoo using college students to market their cars is that those students ended up owing income taxes on the ‘benefit’ of getting free Daewoos to drive.

    –There is an auto body shop in my neighborhood that claims to be an Authorized Daewoo Service Center. If any of the B&B happen to be in need of such a facility, I will investigate further….

  • avatar
    tced2

    @NN
    I have always theorized that GM had poor US staffing. There were platforms coming from everywhere but the US. GM couldn’t develop a 6-speed front drive transmission by itself (partnered with Ford). This is the company that developed the automatic transmission! And now they can’t do a state-of-the-art design.

    This all told me that their (US) engineering organization was hollowed out.

    More of the end of the domestic auto industry.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    My sister’s friend had a Daewoo that she got new. I always laughed when I saw her driving it, because the body sat at about 15 degrees to the direction of travel.

  • avatar

    Daewoo’s are still crap. I got 20mpg in a rented Aveo once. 20mpg in an econo-car!

    I rented one once and got 32. Must have been something wrong with yours.

    John

  • avatar
    dolometh

    i thought it was great that the lanos got a shout out in “pineapple express”

  • avatar
    npbheights

    I test drove a new Leganza once back in the day just for the hell of it. The salesman was really nice. The car was full loaded, leather, wood grain, etc. I had a black BMW 5 series with 18’s (before everyone had 18’s) and M5 bodywork. He really wanted the car for trade. I obviously said no thanks.

  • avatar

    awwww….. Worst Ever ????
    There’s no end in the race to the bottom, but wouldn’t you rate the Nubira higher than a Trabant? The cardboard refrigerator carton masquerading as a car? The only car that smokes when new and can not only be fueled with bituminous coal, but lignite as well! As when it finally dies (how could they tell?), you can put it on the compost heap!

  • avatar
    highrpm

    No doubt these vehicles are not Honda durable. But worst ever? Like others have mentioned, the engine and trans are not Daewoo products. GM and ZF mostly. The electronics are mostly Bosch, at least on the Lanos I bought for resale.

    My impression of the Daewoos is that they were a generation or two behind in development behind even a Hyundai, and they felt cheap. But the Lanos at least was small and light.

    Let me throw out some real clunkers for you – Dodge Omni, Chevy Vega, first gen Rabbit. Comparatively, the Daewoos were nicer.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    A lot of great responses. The original title of this article was, “A Dae-What?!” but if we’re going to compare ‘worst ever’, we have to do it vis-avis their contemporaries.

    The Omni and Rabbit had the Chevette, early Escort, Justy, and several glorified tin cans made by second-tier Japanese manufacturers. The Omni was actually a relatively durable vehicle in it’s later years and a Rabbit diesel is still a very sought after vehicle for VW diesel enthusiasts.

    The Vega was pretty crappy for it’s time… but the Opel Kadett, Fiat, and other under-engineered garbage were fairly common in the 1970’s.

    What sets the Daewoos apart is that most manufacturers in the North American market were selling relatively reliable vehicles by this time. The Daewoos simply were not… and the material quality was absolutely bottom of the barrel. Yet they still often asked for an equivalent price or even a price premium for some of their products.

    Compared to the competition, the Daewoos were pure garbage. It’s no accident that the parts and parcels that were once Daewoo are now making many of the most uncompetitive models today.

  • avatar
    ttacfan

    Car platforms sometimes have unexpectedly long lifetimes. The Ukrainian Daewoo Nexia from late ’90th was based on the Opel Kadett E from ’70th-’80th. This is the same platform as Pontiac LeMans.

    The Lanos is actually the step up from it. I just visited the web site of that Ukrainian car factory and the Chevy Nubira is listed as their top of the line model.

  • avatar
    Areitu

    I’m not sure how true this story is, since I heard it from a friend, who heard it from his friend (who allegedly experienced what I am about to tell).

    He wandered into a car dealership and a slick car salesman put him in a $14,000 Daewoo (this was after they’d withdrawn from the US) that night, and the car was insured, etc accordingly. One day, he gets into a minor fender bender…the headlight was broken and he proably needed a new bumper cover. The insurance company simply totaled the car, on the grounds that since Daewoo wasn’t in the US, the parts could not be replaced, and so on.

    Aside from that…we still get Daewoos. In the form of Suzukis.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    While there may have been worse cars outside of North America, the premise of the article was worst car IN NORTH AMERICA. Yes, I’ve heard horror stories about some of the cars produced in Eastern Europe, but they were not for sale in North America (Yugo excepted and that was well before Daewoo came along). It is pretty amusing to read a defense of Daewoo, so keep them coming. :-)

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    Speaking of the rebadged Aveo, there’s 617 days’ supply of the Pontiac G3 on the lots.

  • avatar

    Every time I pass a Daewoo on the road, I think 2 things…

    “Why?”

    and

    “I’m sorry for you.”

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    menno:
    In other words, it is what many “car guys” constantly CLAIM that they’d like to be able to drive due to the ever arching complexity of modern cars; it’s a modern-day Model A.

    As one of the guys you refer to, I must protest. The Daewoo Nubira is no Model A. I once owned one of those cars. Simple, yes. Inexpensive? Yes. Cheap? Absolutely not. I think the Model A may have been the most durable car ever built. It would not surprise me that there are more Ford Model A’s (built from 1928-1931) registered and operating today than there are Daewoos, at least here in the States.
    I think the analogy you are searching for is the Kaiser Henry J. There was a car that was simple AND cheap. No, wait. They were pretty decent as far as running gear was concerned. OK, maybe the Vega. Simple, cheap and with a short lifespan, always leaving the owner to wonder whether the body or the engine would go away first.
    I am happy for you that you are having a good ownership experience with your Daewoo, but from what I gather, you do not have a lot of company.
    Note that the point of the thread was not “What a great, underappreciated car the Daewoo is. They all run 200k miles and never use a drop of oil. Yessir, simple, durable and the best kept automotive secret out there” – If this were true, then I’d buy 4 of em.

  • avatar
    shabatski

    I love Daewoo, but only because they paid a trip for me to tour South Korea and see their auto and boat building facilities (which were both pretty impressive)… Of course their cars, not so much.

    I had the privilege of being apart of their college sales program and drove a Leganza CDX (top of the line) for 3 months. Of course during the driving experience I learned I could not live with myself if I ever convinced a friend or family member to buy one, so I just drove the snot out of it.

    And that was the closest I’ve ever been to being a car salesman.

  • avatar
    chaunceyjb

    I’ve not had one of these cars, but my mechanic has 3 that he bought because he could buy them so cheaply. He has had no problems that he couldn’t easily fix. I have had over my lifetime a number of these so called clunkers. I liked them all, including a Plymouth Horizon (same as the Omni), and a hand-me-down Vega. They all beat walking to work. I liked the looks of the Vega a lot. And the Horizon, while a bit rough compared to other vehicles of the time, gave me 200K trouble free miles. It also had the best heater of any car I’ve ever had. One of my present cars is a 2005 Neon. It’s a great car and is light years ahead of the Horizon.

    As far as I’m concerned there are far too many crybabies in this country. Every car I’ve ever had was better than the one before it. Cars now are far more dependable, far more comfortable and far safer than they every were. It is astounding to me to read this garbage by people that have never worked on a car and are simply regurgitating what some other mouthpiece has said.

  • avatar

    Very interesting to learn in how many permutations Daewoo made its way (down).

    In Germany, Daewoos are sold under the Chevrolet label for some years now, together with the HHR (c.f http://www.chevrolet.de/modelle/modelle-ueberblick.html).

    For Paul Niedermeyer:
    For pictures/locations of 404’s / 504’s in Europe have a look at http://www.mobile.de/home/index.html and search for the current offers on this models. Especially nice: A Peugeot 404 Superluxe Injection Coupé. Perhaps it’s easier to photograph them here?

  • avatar
    oldyak

    gee..why did I instinctively know that G.M. would be blamed for this too…..
    along with global warming and obesity…
    Give me a break already!
    Damn,my granddaughter brought home a less than perfect report card,I guess that’s G.M.`s fault too.
    some of the ‘best and BRIGHTEST’ couldn’t be used after the sun went down…for which I’m sure can be G.M can be blamed!
    These tie ins are like linking lack of sleep to ….damn G.M.

  • avatar
    cnyguy

    Oh, I don’t know… I know of one Pontiac Daewoo LeMans that lasted for close to 300,000 miles before the New York State road salt claimed it. The car received regular service and the owner replaced stuff as it wore out (mostly front struts).
    As a former mechanic, it has been my experience that ‘entry level’ cars don’t always die young becuase of poor design or material. They are killed by ignorant owners who don’t service the car and/or drive it like they stole it. For example: he Mercury Lynx and the Ford Escort were identical cars, but the Mercury tended to last longer because older adults bought them and didn’t beat the daylights out of them like young kids who bought Escorts did.

  • avatar
    obbop

    Worse than a Plymouth Cricket?

    http://www.allpar.com/model/cricket.html

  • avatar
    menno

    Ford Model A: (1928-1931, RIP) Splash lubrication (not even an oil pump), long stroke and 3 crankshaft bearings; i.e. rough as a cob. No rubber motor mounts; the engine is attached to the frame. The body is made up of wood under the metal. Crashbox transmission (not even synchromesh, never mind automatic). Mechanical brakes (constantly going out of adjustment, which essentially means “throw out an anchor and pray”).
    Solid front and rear axles with leaf springs and no damping. Fuel tank above the driver and front passenger’s knees in the firewall (aptly named, in an accident). “Air conditioning” means opening a vent and sweating in the heat. No heater. Metal dashboard, interior “trim” and horsehair stuffed seats. Reliable? Only because every other dealer in town was a Ford franchise and you could pick up the many needed replacement parts for cheap. Servicing was not scheduled in the thousands of miles, but hundreds. Top speed, if you were foolish/insane enough, was about 55. If you wanted a radio in the car, it cost the modern equivalent of about two thousand dollars and took hours to install. It was AM only, as well. Oh yes, the vacuum windshield wiper (singular, I believe) stopped when you went to pass anyone else (engine vacuum dropped). It was considered extremely lucky to get 50,000 miles between engine rebuilds. Oh yes, the engine did not even have an air cleaner. Pollution equipment? Not a single thing. But there was a road draft tube which polluted the air more in one drive than a modern car does in a year. Literally.

    Daewoo Nubira: (1999-2002, RIP) Dual overhead camshaft 16 valve engine with fuel injection (built in Australia by GMHolden), ZF overdrive automatic transaxle with lock-up torque convertor, 5 main bearings, catalyst, fuel injection. All independent suspension and front wheel drive. Reasonably good crash ratings, air bags in both front seats. Modern unit construction body of galvanized steel. Fuel tank in the safest place; under the rear seat, protected by the rear wheels and suspension. Four wheel power disc brakes with dual circuits and a mechanical emergency brake. Power assisted rack and pinion steering. R134 air conditioning, AAND a heater as well as defroster. Dual rearview mirrors on doors and a rearview mirror in the car with dipping (how many American “branded” cars didn’t even have these features standard until the 1990’s? Plenty). AM/FM/Cassette stereo system. Padded instrument panel, collapsible steering column (NOT your sternum, as in a Model A – assuming you weren’t thrown through the windshield – at least the Model A introduced the first auto safety feature; safety glass for the windshield instead of plate glass…). Reasonably good reliability, assuming the driver has intelligence enough to read the owner’s manual and actually change the oil, check fluids, drive with a little common sense and actually change the damn cam belt before 60,000 miles or 5 years. The front windows were even electrically powered (rears, crank). The backlight has an electric heating grid (again, how many American branded cars had this as optional at extra cost right up until the 1990’s? Plenty). Multiple speed and delay-wipe electric windshield wipers AND washers, no less. Oh yes, carpeted interior. And door padding. No metal. It’s also capable of over 100 mph (if you are stupid or insane enough to drive that fast on the crowded roads of the day).

    Yep; the Nubira has a cheap and cheerful interior; it has no pretence to anything other than a lower priced Asian import, with plenty of extra features available (the CDX variant had leather upholstery and alloy wheels, rear power windows and upgraded carpet.

    I’ll defend a Nubira all day long against a Model A. And I’ll second the comment that most people are so spoiled that they diss a perfectly serviceable, low cost vehicle because it’s not made by a “fashionable manufacturer” or doesn’t do 0-60 in 6 seconds, or isn’t flash or whatever.

    It certainly wasn’t the South Korean’s fault that there was an Asian economic melt-down around the turn of the century; they were screwed, glued and tattooed just like we all are as of 2009….

    However, GM diddled around and kept putting off buying the bankrupted Daewoo until they picked it up for a song and screwed over the South Korean banks….

    Best purchase GM ever made, in one sense.

    Without GMDaewoo, GM apparently wouldn’t be able to design and engineer anything except big Stupid Utility Vehicles and American (over)sized pickups.

    Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, folks!

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      Comparing a Daewoo Nubira to a car designed in the 1920’s is ludicrous. That’s like comparing a ’57 Chevy to, let’s see, 70 years earlier, a horse and buggy.
      I will grant you that yes, a Nubira is certainly superior to a Model A. But just a tad or two inferior to everything else in the North American market at the time it was available for purchase… which is the point of this article.

  • avatar
    partsisparts

    Lanos,Leganza, and Nubira? The names of these cars sound like they are diseases!
    Imagine your doctor telling you ” I am sorry but you have Nubira. The good news is we can treat it.”

  • avatar
    ttacfan

    617 days of G3?

    I just saw an ad of a local dealer. G3 at $16,999 and Vibe at $15,999.

    ???!!!

  • avatar
    obbop

    “Lanos,Leganza, and Nubira? ”

    Sounds akin to Nigerian cities where the scammers dwell.

  • avatar
    menno

    Ital Design, which styled the Leganza for Daewoo (before GM absorbed it into the dying Borg), “helped” Daewoo with Leganza as a name. It is supposed to sound like L’elegance or some such thing. Nubira is a Korean word, apparently, which means “It’ll get you there.” (Perhaps at least one car company at one point, had some humility. Refreshing?!) Perhaps it could also be translated to something like “reliable enough to get you where you need to go”, I don’t speak the Korean language.

    But yes, having names which sound acceptible to all languages is something all car companies should strive for. Daewoo was on a very fast learning curve, but behind the curve on that for sure.

    Then again, Honda insisted on selling their A-class car in the US as the Fit, instead of using their much cooler alternative name for it, Jazz.
    Every time I see one, I think “seizure”. (I had a beloved cousing with epilepsy, now dead from complications of same). I even wrote to Honda and said “c’mon, guys; use Jazz” and said why. Obviously, to no avail. So Daewoo is not alone in picking odd names.

    Besides, how stupid is it to have a jumble of letters and/or numbers for car “names” anyway?!
    Don’t know about you, but my eyes glaze over when I see a list of the Lincoln or Cadillac line-up. I could not care less about learning which one is which. Names are engrained for us in our human heads, not combinations of letters that a 3 year old might dump out of their toy box at random.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    Menno, c’mon, lets see a little love for the A. You have effectively shown how one of the best low-price cars of the late 20s is not as good as one of the worst low price cars of the late 90s. We can agree that auto technology has come a long way in 70 yrs.
    I could quibble with some of your facts (the A had Houdaille shocks, best you could buy at the time, and an electric wiper, not vacuum.) But most of its failings were equally applicable to even the most expensive cars of the day, including 50k mile engine rebuilds. This wasn’t Henry’s design, it was the metalurgy of the era.
    Like the modern Nubira, there were lots of “brittle” high maintenance cars built in the 20s that were generally unloved but could, with care, give decent service to the hearty souls that loved and appreciated them. But the A was not one of these cars.
    If we have to pick a modern analog to the A, I would nominate a late 80s-early 90s 4 cyl Accord. Simple, durable and widely loved, or at least, respected. I will guarantee you that there are not 300 low mileage examples of these sitting unwanted on some auction lot somewhere because nobody wants them.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Menno… you have some very good points. The underlying architecture for the Nubira isn’t very bad for the Nubira… on paper. But one of my own peeves is when folks compare cars of the past to cars of the present. They’re two completely different vehicles from two completely different eras. And with that come different standards and peer comparisons to evaluate these cars.

    The Nubira had a nasty habit of camshaft failure BEFORE the 50k mark. I had two 2002 models a couple of weeks ago that each had the same failure before that point in time. During the 2003 thru 2006 period I would frequently see Nubiras at the impound and inop auctions because of this defect. Since Daewoo was defunct, the owners had no recourse.

    ZF automatic transmissions are a mixed bag. Some of them are truly state of the art. Others, such as the one in this car and the late Peugeot 405 were absolute basket cases. The LeMans is a completely different model and as I recall, it had very strong European and American input before it’s launch into the North American market. It was designed to a much higher standard. The Nubira was primarily a Korean and developing world vehicle that Daewoo wanted to bring to the states to compensate for their fantastic plant overcapacity at that time.

    On a price, quality, and design perspective it was as uncompetitive in this market as any other vehicle made for North America with the sole possible exception of the lowly Yugo. I wish that wasn’t the case. We desperately need more simple and affordable cars here in the US. But the Nubira and it’s stablemates were neither nor.

  • avatar
    menno

    JP, Steven,

    Wow. We must have really gotten lucky with the Nubira we bought, then.

    By the time I got it in 2003 (after it’d sat around for over a year), I had given up on Detroit manufacturers completely after giving them chance after chance for literally, 30 years.

    We’d bought a new 2002 Hyundai Sonata, and were giving our 2nd car, a 1999 Dodge Neon, to our college age son. I didn’t want a used POS, but our budget was very constrained.

    $7800 for a virtually new car was no joke – but I seriously and I mean REALLY seriously knew we were taking a big chance.

    Sometimes gambles pay off. Not very often, though…

    We’re on our 3rd Sonata and 2nd Prius, in 7 years.

    The Prii have been virtually trouble free over a total of 74,000 miles between them; the ’02 Sonata was not completely trouble free (nor was the ’02 Nubira) but damn close and also a damn sight better than virtually anything we’d owned with Detroit badges on it – ever. The 2007 Sonata was been virtually trouble free. The 2009 Sonata is only 4 days in our hands – but wow. It’s nice.

    Nicest car I’ve ever owned, bar none, since 1973.

    The Nubira is in the hands of our youngest son and now has about 75,000 miles on it. Knock on wood. Yep; cambelt has been changed.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Glad to hear it menno. I used to love old Peugeots so I completely understand the ‘pearl amongst the swine’ opinions that can come with having an unpopular vehicle.

  • avatar
    FromBrazil

    @menno and Steven Lang

    Boy, I do understand of having little loved cars and defending them. My experience w/ Fiat. I was one of the early believers (in terms of our market)after I gave my 1st car (a Fiat Uno w/ a lovely 1.5 L alcohol engine, that would fly) hell and everything after (including a serious accident) and it just came back asking for more. 20 yrs later they are market leaders down here, and yes, now ask absurd prices for what comes standard on other cars. So for me now, I’m tending to become a Renault buyer. Same situation as Fiat 20 yrs ago, few believers, exceptional feature level for price. But guess that’s what I am then, don’t go paying crazy bucks to what others offer for less. Could care less for fashion.

    So, if I were in NA I’d probably have picked up a Daewoo. And since I do my maintenance religiously (totally understand and nowadays, so does the market, though always a problem in market when others don’t and the newcomer does – I’m talking of the cam belt, yes, disturbing but has advantages, though in Fiats and Renaults for safety’s sake they are changed at the 25k mile mark), would probably be a defender by now.

  • avatar
    menno

    Steven, when I lived in the UK, I bought a used Peugeot 505 and loved it. Then a milk tanker lorry (truck) whacked it. (Roads are very thin, one slight miscalculation and you’re toast). Thankfully, nobody was hurt (except my pride and my Peugeot which I had to total out). I’d just paid it off, too.

    I’ve always wanted a 404 – never managed to get one.

    FromBrazil, my habit of buying off-beat cars seems to run in the family – my uncle would buy Hudsons back in the 50’s and 60’s because they were dirt cheap used; he then moved to Corvairs in the 60’s and 70’s. He was a mechanic and figured – why spend big money on a necessity? It’s not like he had any money to spare; he was never ever anything remotely close to wealthy and lived in an unfinished house (the basement, actually) until after he retired from working self-empoyed at a sawmill.

    The sawmill had a 1953 Buick inline 8 with Dynaflow, running a blade 3 metres across. He built the governor and entire rig except the saw blade (and of coure, engine/transmission), himself.

    My father did the same in the 1960’s and we had several Studebakers as 2nd cars; for primary cars, my dad stuck to major makes.

  • avatar
    FromBrazil

    You and your father seem like wise men. I don’t understand why somebody puts down so much money on a…say a BMW 3, when as much of a car or more can be had for less in the guise of a Ford Mondeo, Renault Laguna or Alfa Romeo. And it’s not like the last 3 mentioned are not prime/major makers (don’t want to be accused of flaming, but maybe these brands aren’t German or Japanese and therein lies the problem for the majority as they are scared shitless of buying away from the norm and the dreaded depreciation. NO,I just negotiate well and get a good discount that when I sell I recover. No never did a bum deal w/ the so-called “alternative” brands).

    Or maybe an American example, pay those extra bucks for Civic or Corolla when Focus or SOnata (is it the Sonata? Sorry, sometimes I get confused) can be had for serious money less. And normally you won’t be giving up any comforts, probably you’ll be gaining more than a few for less. To my eyes and i seems to me to your eyes too menno, more for less just can’t be beat.

  • avatar
    niky

    Ah… the Forenza… I remember the first generation of rebadged Chevrolet Optras (Forenza)to hit our shores. Engines blowing up due to octane incompatibility… fuel economy to rival a Ford Expedition… handling inert beyond belief…

    At least they fixed the economy (somewhat) with the current ECU upgrade, but I have never driven a gasoline powered vehicle slower than one of these lemons…

  • avatar
    Stingray

    Daewoos were the choice of taxi cabs here in Venezuela. That, to me, speaks LOTS about a car reliability. If a car behaves poor in that area, taxi drivers just don’t buy them, no matter how cheap they are.

    The Cielo especially. A face lifted Opel Kadett (FWD). And they’re still running, with 500K kms on them.

    Lanos and Nubiras the same. And the Nubira is a very comfortable car.

    A coworker has a Nubira. The engine, save for the aluminium intake manifold, is the same as the Aveo.

    The Aveo is built on the same platform of the Lanos

    The Forenza idem on the Nubira.

    You want to see a craptastic interior… buy a car built in Brazil. The previous gen VW Gol was a fantastic POS in that area.

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