By on November 13, 2019

Image: Ford Expedition Funkmaster Flex EditionBad product decisions cost auto manufacturers money, yet history provides us with many such examples. In today’s QOTD, we’re going to consider the best of the worst in poor automotive decision making. Present or past, anything goes in today’s inquiry. What vehicle makes you really wonder “what were they thinking?”

My example today is a questionable special edition, a topic which received its own QOTD a couple of years ago. Though TTAC reported it on it last year, yours truly was totally unaware of its existence until one appeared in afternoon commute traffic recently. Have a look:

You may recognize it as the Hyundai Kona, a subcompact CUV currently experiencing sales success. But it’s no ordinary Kona — it’s an Iron Man Edition. In traffic, the “IRONMAN” on the tailgate made me think it was a special edition similar to the old Ford Explorer, which represented the Ironman triathlon.

A Google search later that evening proved me quite wrong.

The text on the back is in fact Iron Man, as in the Marvel superhero. Hyundai debuted its special Kona last year at Comic-Con in San Diego. Iron Man is featured on the wheel caps, on the D-pillar, and in the headlamps. The hood says “MARVEL” on it, and the roof bears an Iron Man matte logo. There are also fender logos, side door decals, and embroidery on the seats to match. The package is finished in a gunmetal grey with ketchup-colored accents and roof. It’s garish, ridiculous, and in very questionable taste. Of course Hyundai has experience in this area, as they released the Walking Dead Edition Tucson a few years ago. And that Rare Ride came complete with bloody hand print decals. Yeesh.

What stands out to you as questionable automotive taste?

[Images: seller, Hyundai]

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91 Comments on “QOTD: Wondering What They Were Thinking?...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Padded landau vinyl roofs with little slit opera windows or portholes. Why did anyone want to look like Marie Antoinette riding in her coach screaming about eating cake?

    Runner-up: Fins a mile high that were billed as “lateral stabilizers”

    Yeah, I was born at night, but it wasn’t last night

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Yeah but both of those sold a ton. Those would be less “what were they thinking” and more “what were we thinking”.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      I pine for the return of opera/coach windows and tail fins.

      Hopefully once hybrid vehicles are the norm and MPG restrictions are no longer the primary determinant, manufacturers quit trying to make lighter and more aerodynamic vehicles and we can return to the days when stylists ruled.

      Bring back chrome, fins, long hoods/cowls, continental style trunks,opera windows and decadent (heavy) carpeting.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Ya know with all of the terrible automotive styling of late, would it kill them to throw in some opera windows? Like, why the hell not? GM has brought back sail panel emblems on some of the not-SUVs, can I get my opera window and light please.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    I always always surprised of the number of Eddie Bauer Ford Explorers – that was obviously a popular package, at least during the second generation.

    Has anything come close to that for popularity?

    I do like the Bullit Mustang, both versions, but the gun target on the latest is a little overkill for my tastes.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    No question here. The Funkmaster Flex.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    I think the Murano Cross Cabriolet has to be at the top of my list. Who was asking for that.

    Being in Europe in the late 90s to early 2000s the Fiat Multpla comes to mind though I did see quite a few of them.

    Currently the Lexus grill comes to mind but maybe that’s me…they seem to sell.

  • avatar
    kkop

    I applaud every automaker who is willing to step out of their comfort zone and produce something that doesn’t resemble a refrigerator or black box on 4 wheels. I would happily drive the Iron Man edition Kona to saves our country from the bland cookie cutter mentality.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      But it is a Kona with stickers…hardly groundbreaking

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        It’s more than just stickers. It has a unique color scheme (in colors you can’t get on other Konas), unique wheels, custom seats, an Iron Man key fob, unique gauges, a unique headlight pattern, different shifter, and different front/rear bumper covers & hood.

        Definitely an acquired taste, but it’s a fairly high effort for a movie tie-in car.

    • 0 avatar
      Lokki

      “ I applaud every automaker who is willing to step out of their comfort zone and produce something that doesn’t resemble a refrigerator or black box on 4 wheels.”

      Ahem…..

      Even the Sanrio Hello Kitty Smart car?

      https://carbuzz.com/news/crazy-smart-car-customizations

  • avatar
    71charger_fan

    I always felt the 2005 Dakota redesign ruined that model. I also thought the ’96 Taurus and ’92 Skylark to be a serious “WTF were they thinking” designs.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      You can thank Daimler interference for that. They had their own ideas about what an “American truck” should look like. And if you think the Dakota was bad, you might be surprised to know the 2004 Durango actually had an “emergency” redesign in the prototype stage because it was so widely reviled.

      Think about that. The ugly pigheaded anteater they released was an *improvement* over the original design.

  • avatar
    tallguy130

    I was teasing one of the guys at my local Hyundai dealership about that iron man Kona when I was getting my oil changed. Apparently Hyundai forced three of these monstrosities on them and the inventory manager nearly threw himself in front of the truck to prevent them from being off loaded.
    30k sticker for a car apparently marketed to those under 16. What were they thinking indeed..

    • 0 avatar
      Mike-NB2

      “30k sticker for a car apparently marketed to those under 16. What were they thinking indeed..”

      Ummm… Pontiac did a lot of that too. Many of their cars looked like what a 14 year old would doodle in math class but only a 40+ year old could afford them. But I shouldn’t poke fun at them; it obviously worked out quite well for good ol’ Pontiac.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    Mustang II King Cobra (Autogyro not included)

    https://i1.wp.com/www.curbsideclassic.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/1978-Ford-Mustang-II-10.jpg

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    How ’bout the Fiat 500 Gucci edition?
    https://www.motor1.com/news/39277/2013-fiat-500-gucci-edition-announced/

    It gets the J-Lo seal of approval!
    youtube.com/watch?v=X0IkmstjZes

    (OK, maybe the J-Lo part works.)

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    Long time ago, I know, but the Ford Maverick “Grabber” option comes to mind.
    The Pace car editions of the Corvette and the Firebird left me scratching my head.

    • 0 avatar
      Mike Beranek

      Those pace car edition ‘Vettes from the malaise era are fetching strong paper at auction. Many were preserved with very few miles, but even one that was driven carefully is worth almost double what a regular one gets. The black-over-silver two-tone paint is to die for.
      That being said, the paint job on the 1998- purple with screaming yellow stripes- was an acid trip gone wrong.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    The Chrysler 200 Carhartt edition is a standout for me. I almost get that they were leaning into the Detroit angle, but pairing a middling midsize sedan with faux premium pretensions to a company who specializes in work clothing was a bold choice. I’d completely understand a Carhartt-branded Ram though.

  • avatar
    cicero1

    BMW i3 – UGLY, ludicrously overpriced, and there is no way they made money on them. No reason they could not have made an electric X3.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    L.L. Bean Subarus were popular for a while in Charlottesville.
    A successful hair dresser I knew who drives a Cayenne Turbo S to his mansion now had a sharp FILA Thunderbird sharing space in his driveway with his Pagoda 280SL, AE86 Corolla notch-back, and a bunch of MKI Sciroccos when I was in high school.
    Bill Blass Continentals were common at one point.
    Didn’t someone try to counter the success of the Eddie Bauer Exploders by partnering with Orvis?
    A girlfriend’s sister picked up a Nautica Mercury Villager back in the day. It seems like FoMoCo was a frequent user of cobranding.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      Jeep did an Orvis edition of the original ZJ Grand Cherokee, around ’95 or so. As much as the Grand Cherokee was strong for Jeep, the Orvis never caught on.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Don’t denigrate the FILA T-Bird. A much underappreciated package.

      • 0 avatar

        Arthur still has his FILA jacket!

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        A Fila version cost as much as a Turbo Coupe at the time. Crack pipe.

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          I’m surprised it cost as little as a Turbo Coupe. My neighbor’s white FILA looked respectable in the company of his other stylish cars. A FILA with a 302 would be a pretty nice Ford. Survivor FILA Thunderbirds show up for sale fairly often, while I haven’t seen a sealed-beam Turbo Coupe since…possibly the ’80s.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          At that time would you ‘trust’ a turbocharged engine from Ford or their 5.0 litre V8? And ‘turbo’ had different connotations then, than now.

          No the FILA was the final iteration of the tradtional PLC. The ‘Turbo Coupe’ was a precursor of the future.

          From Hagerty:
          Powertrain choices included a 110-hp 3.8-liter V-6 and optional 140-hp 5.0-liter V-8. The Turbo Coupe was the performance model, aimed at imports like Audi Coupe, BMW 320i, Saab 900 Turbo, and Toyota Supra.

          Ford had offered a dreadful carbureted, turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder Pinto engine in various 1979–80 models. The 1983 Turbo Coupe debuted a much-improved version with port fuel injection and Ford’s EEC IV electronic engine controls. The resulting 145 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque didn’t shame the V-8 model but trounced the BMW 320i’s paltry 99 hp.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            FILA PLC? Ouch! That’s not fair. It didn’t have a fake convertible top, or fake wire wheels, or fake leather seats, or a fake wood dash, or white wall tires, or a fake radiator shell with a plastic hood ornament, or doors that would snap a kid’s leg when you parked facing up-hill. It was as authentic as PLCs were fake, and provided a fairly hopeful moment for people who hadn’t given up on Detroit.

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            2 door, V8, RWD, near luxury and the T-Bird name still had some retained value despite the abomination that was the previous generation.

            Heck even Wikipedia refers to this generation as a PLC. This was just a return to their original intent prior to the ‘gas crisis’.

            The ‘broughamed’ PLC’s were largely a result of Detroit falling behind in engineering and having to ‘sell the sizzle rather than the steak’.

  • avatar
    Wodehouse

    That 2006 Dodge Stratus R/T with the giant spoiler/wing teetering on the rear deck. That obnoxious wing was coupled with the most subtle lower body aero skirts to date. Was it an homage to a touring sedan race series, maybe?

  • avatar
    Menar Fromarz

    Ford “ Harley Davidson” trucks. Not that they are the pinnacle of tacky, although some are out there. It’s more the concept of a trim level named after a motorcycle company. But they sold a lot of them, probably way more than the bikes themselves.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    https://tinyurl.com/wpfjuvu

    Nissan 370Z 50th Anniversary Edition

    I actually have respect for the car (I like it better than a BR-Z or FR-S) but that’s a crazy looking homage.

    https://tinyurl.com/u7ebjpc

    I honestly think a broughmed up tribute to the late 70s model would have sold better.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    Ford Pinto Cruising Wagon:

    https://barnfinds.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/1978-ford-pinto-cruising-wagon_100374469_m.jpg

    Pretty tacky…but I would buy one today in a heartbeat.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Wasn’t Aztec itself dedicated to an angry Indian in war paint?

  • avatar
    gasser

    The worst GM decision years ago was when Cadillac replaced the original Seville with the grotesque humpback Daimler wannabe. (1980 or ‘81). It promptly cut their sales volume in half. So went Cadillac’s promising effort to get a younger demographic.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Cadillac nailed it with the original Seville, so of course they had to screw it up

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      MY80 for the bustleback Seville with the 368, 4.1 V6, and I think Olds Diesel. They screwed it up further by dropping the 368 for the 4100 in MY82.

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      I have heard that the 1980 Seville rear treatment was allowed as a ‘swan song’ by some esteemed designer. Wikipedia says it was Bill Mitchell: “The Seville’s ‘statement’ styling was one of the last vehicles designed by GM’s Bill Mitchell, appointed by Harley Earl in 1936 as the Chief Designer in the then newly created Cadillac design studio…”

      It must have been a good idea, because Chrysler copied it (sort of) with the 1981 Imperial, and then Ford followed with the 1982 Continental.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Ford and Chrysler copied it, because that’s what car companies do, good or bad they look over each other’s shoulder, because everyone wants to be first with something new, but no one will take the responsibility for something new that’s bad

        I don’t think the 2nd gen Seville was that bad, it’s just that the 1st gen was just that good. They should have stuck with the upright boxy style

  • avatar

    Pontiac G6 GXP, hideous Brian Nesbitt creation.

    Chrysler 300 LWB Walter P. Chrysler edition.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    I’m not sure how these trim packages are “Bad product decisions cost auto manufacturers money” These kind of trim jobs are cheap to produce, usually bring a margin increasing premium and can in the case of the product tie-ins bring in a customer that might not have considered the brand or model. Sure you might think some are of questionable taste, but if they are someone’s cup of tea, why not?

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    In no particular order:

    * Acura can opener front clip design language
    * Toyota Camry L rental spec penalty box
    * Chevy Malibu “classic” rental spec, an even worse penalty box
    * Subaru Baja, let’s take an Outback, make it non-functional, and charge more
    * Hummer H2 SUT, see Subaru Baja above
    * GMC Envoy XUV, an answer to a question literally no one asked
    * The engine in the FT-86, errr, 86, err Subaru BR-Z, errr…
    * The neutering of the original product plan for the Pontiac Fiero
    * Let’s create a quasi-luxury brand with Euro Fords and call it Merkur
    * Everyone hates the visibility out of the Camaro, so let us do more of the same for the move to the Alpha platform
    * Let’s invest all this money in getting the Alpha platform right, and give the ATS no usable backseat and a Malibu grade interior
    * Let’s take the Japanese Corolla, literally, and call it a Lexus, and sell it in the US
    * Honda Crosstour – all of it
    * Fish eyed Ford Taurus, we don’t need the best selling sedan in America nayway
    * People hate our CVT mated to our 2.5L 4-cylinder, so let’s put it in practically everything we make, why are sales down?
    * Let’s take the Australian VF platform Commodore SS-V, give it a stupid name, do no marketing for it, put the wrong US brand on it, provide no choice on options, and call it good – who cares about the praise the VE car got in the press and even Consumer Reports
    * Let’s cover up our emissions problems with software that cheats emissions tests, no one will figure it out

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      “ put the wrong US brand on it”

      Realistically what other brand could they put on it? Buick hasn’t had a compelling sports vehicle in my lifetime, GMC – nope, Cadillac is like that 44 year old dude living in his moms basement still trying to find himself.

      Otherwise spot on.

      As far as the H2 SUT, the prototype with the 5.5ft bed that came out around 2009 was a much better implementation of the idea. Though I have seen at least 1 SUT pulling a 5th wheel camper.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        You must be a youngin’ if Buick “hasn’t had a compelling sports vehicle in my lifetime.”

        87?

        GNX?

        Hello???

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          Okay one, I give you that, in the dark ages of the 1980s, Buick did surprise us with one treat.

          But I think it goes without saying none of the 4 RWD cars on the Zeta platform being produced 3 years ago today in Au, Would fit in Buick’s portfolio. EXCEPT, maybe the Park Avenue AKA Caprice, that China received.

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      * Let’s take the Japanese Corolla, literally, and call it a Lexus, and sell it in the US

      Do you mean Prius? I’m not aware of any Lexus badged Corollas, at least not in the US.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I spotted a Grandmaster Flash edition Expedition parked while leaving Construction Junction two Sundays ago, so there is at least one in my neck of the woods and its awesome.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I get a chuckle out of the stripper edition Aston Martin compliance car.

    Cygnet and Collette, I believe it was called. With pillows and tack.

  • avatar
    Car Ramrod

    YJ Wrangler renegade. Less useful off road with all of that tacky body colored fender mess. Somehow it’s the most valuable package now if in good condition.

    I guess the renegade is less cynical than all the Jeep special editions recently (see: call of duty, tomb raider, 1941, Willy’s edition and so on).

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I guess this is “what were manufacturers thinking,” not “what were consumers thinking.” So I won’t rant about subcompact SUVs.

    – D4-platform Taurus with less interior room than a Fusion.
    – Acura RLX pricing. They could have had a great Lexus ES competitor, but they chose to price it straight across from the BMW 5-Series.
    – Lexus CUV/SUV strategy. RX-L doesn’t cut it across from anyone else’s three-row product. GX and LX are both off-road trucks. They’ve left hundreds of thousands of sales on the table over the last decade by not having a proper X5/Q7/GL-Class competitor.
    – Buick Envision. Buick’s audience now all wants CUVs. They have a great three-row product in the Enclave. They’ve got a successful niche for “small but comfortable” in the Encore. But in between they screwed the pooch. Why did they bring over a mediocre Chinese-market two-row product and then severely overprice it? A properly engineered and priced product in that segment would save the brand.
    – Ford PowerShift. The concept of that transmission was garbage. There was no way to execute it acceptably. The idea should never have left the planning department.
    – BMW GT hatches. SUV/CUV buyers want SUV/CUV. Car buyers want low and sleek. BMW tried to split the baby. I think the slightest bit of research would have shown them that the product they needed was a car, like the Audi A7, rather than an ungainly thing that combines the worst aspects of car and SUV/CUV.
    – Honda Crosstour styling. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the Crosstour that better styling couldn’t have fixed. Imagine an Outback but with a buttery Honda V6. Killer product, right? But they made it so ugly that no one would buy it.
    – Mercedes-AMG A45/CLA45/GLA45. Did anyone really ask to pay $20k more for a WRX? Sales suggest no.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Lie2me–Whales are an endangered species and so are large suvs if you consider future EPA regulations on large displacement engines. The fact that Infiniti QX SUVs has a whale face that is appropriate. Same thought I wonder if you can get a whale of a deal on a preowned one after a few years.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      Whales aren’t a species and only some whale species are considered endangered. Large SUVs are as endangered as private jets and mega-yachts. The fascist plutocrats behind the climate hoax are not about to give up their G-classes and Range Rover Biographies.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      “Whales are an endangered species and so are large suvs if you consider future EPA regulations on large displacement engines.”

      As long as there are full size pick-up trucks there will be large SUVs

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Maybe but those plutocrats can make it harder for the rest of us to own large SUVs. While whales might not be a species but have you ever heard of “Save the Whales”. Anyway what I said was in jest but then I should realize that could be offensive to some. Sorry if you were offended. Agree that the Infiniti QXs front reminds me of a whale.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    Every time I see a 2010 up Camaro. I didn’t get it when they first appeared, and then in 2016, they upped the ugly. Sadly, it doesn’t appear that they will be making another generation, so they will never get the chance to screw it up ONE MORE TIME!

    I’m sure they would have, it’s what GM seems to do anymore.

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    Hyundai should revive the VW Trek edition idea and do a tie in with Kona Bicycles, all they need is a bike, a rack and some Kona pseudopod logos

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