QOTD: What Dead Car Brand Absolutely Deserved to Die?

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

Last month, I brought to you a Question of the Day about resurrection; saving something from an untimely death. Naturally, we were talking about car brands — specifically, which dead brand you’d select to bring back to life in a modern world, with a modern lineup.

In the well-established TTAC interest of balance, fairness, and equality in all things, now we ask the opposite question: Which car brand deserved its death?

I don’t want anyone to claim the beloved Eagle (my answer to the resurrection QOTD) deserved its death at the hands of Chrysler, which was committed only to Jeep for the production of new and exciting utility vehicles. Consider if you will, the following as an example of a brand meeting a timely and deserving death.

Pictured above is a Sterling 827, part of the oft-forgotten and rather awful Sterling offerings which graced roughly 135 Sterling dealerships for the brand’s 1987 launch. Austin Rover Cars of North America (ARCONA) was the distribution force behind the vehicles, but interestingly was not owned by Austin Rover Group. ARCONA was created by successful American auto dealer Norman Braman, with business conducted in the United States by Raymond Ketchledge.

A total of two models were offered during the brand’s brief history — the 825 sedan and 827 liftback seen above. Underneath the Sterling badges lies a Rover 800, which was created from a Frankenstein amalgamation of Acura Legend mechanicals and Rover build quality and electrics. At the time, Honda was in a partnership with Rover, and the two companies jointly developed many cars together. Mostly, Honda provided some of their existing basics underneath, and Rover developed the electrics and what you saw on the outside. Everything was put together in Merry England.

And indeed all was merry in the first year, as Sterling racked up over 14,000 sales in 1987, with only the 825 sedan available. But JD Power quickly placed Sterling at the bottom of its reliability survey, while the Acura Legend was near the top. Electrical issues, shoddy paint, rust, and interior trim problems abounded.

Rover took action in an attempt to correct the issues, but US consumers had made up their minds about the Sterling brand. It didn’t help that at the time the British pound was strong compared to the U.S. dollar, and the venture was losing money hand over fist. After just four years, Sterling withdrew from the United States, quickly selling off the remaining 825 and 827 models in 1991 and into 1992.

Good riddance, poorly built junk! What’s your pick for the car brand which deserved its death?

[Source: Hemmings]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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  • Lon888 Lon888 on Jul 13, 2017

    Studebaker. Even though they had the brilliant designer Raymond Loewy and some brilliant engineers their build quality was horrible (even by 1950's and 60's standards). Too bad the Avanti was so far ahead of its time.

    • JustPassinThru JustPassinThru on Jul 13, 2017

      I agree they needed to go; but the reason was, they were committing murder-suicide - killing off their flagship product and hoping to drown the dealers in the process. The Avanti was NOT brilliant except in its styling. It was a Fiberfab kit-car Lark, with some engine hop-ups. It was the singular brainchild of Sherwood Egbert, their short-time head with an equally singular name. Egbert, remember, was hired as Studebaker was madly diversifying - he came from McCullough and he was essentially hired to wind down auto production. Never said; but with Studebaker pouring their Lark profits into purchasing Onan and Gravely and STP...it was obvious where the board wanted to go. Egbert was a managing whiz who knew nothing of automobiles. But, once at Studebaker, he became a born-again pistonhead. Why the board okayed the Avanti, we'll never know. We do know that what enthusiasm they had for it, didn't last through UAW contract talks, which were the tipping point on the decision to close South Bend. Nor did their enthusiasm for Egbert last long, as he was sacked while on medical leave for cancer. Studebaker was the best illustration of what happens when bookkeepers and bean counters with no interest in the product, take control of a corporation.

  • Namesakeone Namesakeone on Jul 15, 2017

    Daewoo. Cheap cars that were still overpriced.

  • DS No for 2 reasons. 1-Every new car pipelines data back to the manufacturer; I don't like it with domestic, Japanese and Euro companies and won't put up with it going to Chinese companies that are part financed by their government. 2-People have already mentioned Vinfast, but there's also the case of Hyundai. Their cars were absolutely miserable for years before they learned enough about the US market
  • Theflyersfan Well, if you're on a Samsung phone, (noticing all of the shipping boxes are half Vietnamese), you're using a Vietnam-built phone. Apple? Most of ours in the warehouse say China, but they are trying to spread out to other countries because putting all eggs in the Chinese basket right now is not wise. I'm asking Apple users here (the point of above) - if you're OK using an expensive iPhone, where is your Made in China line in the sand? Can't stress this enough - not being confrontational. I am curious, that's all. Is it because Apple is California-based that manufacturing location doesn't matter, vs a company in a Beijing skyscraper? We have all weekend to hopefully have a civil discussion about how much is too much when it comes to supporting companies being HQ-ed in adversarial countries. I, for one, can't pull the trigger on a Chinese car. All kinds of reasons - political, human rights, war mongering and land grabbing - my morality is ruling my decisions with them.
  • Jbltg Ford AND VAG. What could possibly go wrong?
  • Leonard Ostrander We own a 2017 Buick Envision built in China. It has been very reliable and meets our needs perfectly. Of course Henry Ford was a fervent anti-semite and staunch nazi sympathizer so that rules out Ford products.
  • Ravenuer I would not.