Hammer Time: Daewoo. Worst. Automaker. Ever.

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang

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.

Steven Lang
Steven Lang

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  • Niky Niky on Apr 13, 2009

    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...

  • Stingray Stingray on Apr 13, 2009

    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.

  • Socrates77 They're pinching pennies for the investors like always, greed has turned GM into a joke of an old corporate American greed.
  • Analoggrotto looking at this takes me right back to the year when “CD-ROM” first entered public lexicon
  • Alan My comment just went into the cloud.I do believe its up to the workers and I also see some simplistic comments against unionisation. Most of these are driven by fear and insecurity, an atypical conservative trait.The US for a so called modern and wealthy country has poor industrial relation practices with little protection for the worker, so maybe unionisation will advance the US to a genuine modern nation that looks after its workers well being, standard of living, health and education.Determining pay is measured using skill level, training level and risk associated with the job. So, you can have a low skilled job with high risk and receive a good pay, or have a job with lots of training and the pay is so-so.Another issue is viability of a business. If you have a hot dog stall and want $5 a dog and people only want to pay $4 you will go broke. This is why imported vehicles are important so people can buy more affordable appliances to drive to and from work.Setting up a union is easier than setting up work conditions and pay.
  • El scotto I can get the speedometer from dad's 72 Ford truck back. I can't get dad back.
  • El scotto BAH! No dividers in the trunk for bags of onions or hooks for hanging sardines! Hard Pass.