The C3 Audi 100 was sold in the United States badged as an Audi 5000 … until the “unintended acceleration” nightmare nearly killed Audi in North America and the company decided, after a few years of abysmal sales numbers, to go ahead and call this car the 100 over here. Because so few were sold, the 1989-1990 Audi 100s are very, very rare these days.
Here’s one that I spotted in a Denver-area yard a couple of weeks back.
The Audi “Unintended Acceleration” debacle of 1986, which whacked American Audi sales by about 75% within a few years, makes the 1982-86 Audi 5000 an historically significant Junkyard Find. The 60 Minutes piece about the 5000’s allegedly malevolent behavior turned the car’s image from masterpiece of aerodynamic science to bloody-clawed multiple murderer, with predictable effects on resale value for existing cars. This means that the 5000 of the Unintended Acceleration era that managed to stay on the good side of The Crusher until 2012 is a survivor of astonishing tenacity.
[Note: This piece first ran in May 2007. It seems particularly relevant again in light of the current Toyota unintended acceleration (UA) situation. But please note that the circumstance that caused the Audi UA may, or may not be very different, depending on the circumstances. In the early eighties, electronic gas pedals and complex engine controls and other interfaces such as with ABS/brakes were still on the horizon. Nevertheless, the rules of physics have not been repealed. And an unknown percentage of Toyota UA events undoubtedly are the result of pedal misapplication. Audi’s near collapse in the American market after this incident remains a painful lesson in the power of the media, the slowness of the NHTSA, and the critical PR choices manufacturers make in the wake of a crisis like this. PN]
When I first heard about the Audi “sudden unintended acceleration” segment on CBS’s 60 Minutes in 1986, I knew instantly that they were blowing smoke. Literally.