What Is The Automotive Mendoza Line?

Ronnie Schreiber
by Ronnie Schreiber
what is the automotive mendoza line

It’s not clear exactly just which weak hitting infielder named Mendoza unwillingly gave his name to baseball enthusiasts’ term for batting mediocrity or who coined the phrase. It’s also not clear if the line is Bob Uecker’s .200 on the dot, career minor-leaguer Minnie Mendoza’s .188 in 16 at bats for the Minnesota Twins in 1970, or Mario Mendoza’s .215 after nine years in the bigs. It’s most likely the latter, attributed to Hall of Famer George Brett. Either way, Wikipedia tells us that the Mendoza Line is the cutoff point below which it is hard to justify keeping even an outstanding defensive player on a Major League Baseball roster.

The term came up during a broadcast of a Detroit Tigers’ game and it got me thinking, what is the automotive equivalent to the Mendoza Line? What car is the benchmark for motoring mediocrity? A car that would be on your list if a friend asked for suggestions, but would also be at the bottom of that list.

Remember, we’re not talking terrible here. People often confuse “mediocre” with “bad”. Websters tells us that mediocre means “of moderate or low quality” and gives one synonym as “so-so”. Low quality, not no quality. The “med” part is from the Latin for middle, and “ocre” is related to edge. A full etymology probably means “the [lower] edge of the middle”.

So what car, currently sold new, would you consider to be the lower edge of the middle, the worst car that still is worth keeping on the roster in the garage? In keeping with Mario Mendoza’s good glove no hit reputation, it might be a car that has good handling but poor straight line performance, or a car with good performance but has an interior that seems cheap. Or, it could be a car that is not a class leader in any category, having no real commending aspects but also no disqualifying dings. So what’s your current benchmark for so-so cars?

By the way, while some think that the term disparages Mario Mendoza, it should be noted that he himself was at or above the Mendoza Line, since he did have a fairly long career in baseball. At least he’s remembered for staying in the major leagues, unlike Wally Pipp (who actually had a longer, more successful career than Mendoza before history made him a footnote to Lou Gehrig’s career).

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  • Conslaw Conslaw on Aug 05, 2013

    The Chevrolet Malibu, because anything with bigger negatives isn't really "a contender" and would not be the equivalent to a big league player. The Malibu isn't the best at anything except maybe interior noise. Yet, even its most commonly mentioned weak spot, back seat room, is not nearly as bad as some other cars past and present.

  • Rudiger Rudiger on Aug 05, 2013

    1. Mitsubishi 2. Dodge 3. Nissan 4. Chevrolet

  • Zerofoo "Hyundais just got better and better during the 1990s, though, and memories of those shoddy Excels faded."Never. A friend had an early 90s Hyundai Excel as his college beater. One day he decided that the last tank of gas he bought was worth more than the car. He drove it to empty and then he and his fraternity brothers pushed it into the woods and left it there.
  • Kwik_Shift There are no new Renegades for sale within my geographic circle of up to 85 kms. Looks like the artificial shortage game. They bring one in, 10 buyers line up for it, $10,000 over MSRP. Yeah. Like with a lot of new cars.
  • Ribbedroof In Oklahoma, no less!
  • Ribbedroof Have one in the shop for minor front collision repairs right now,I've seen more of these in the comments than in the 30 years I've been in collision repair.
  • Tassos And all 3 were ordered by Fisker's mother. Seriously, given Fisker's terrible record of Failure in the past, only an utter loser, (for example, VGhost or Art Vandelay?), looking for a BEV terrible enough to be a proper replacement of his 11 mile range Fiat 500E, would order one of these. (apart from Fisker's mother)