The Ten Worst Cases Of Cost Cutting In Cars

Ever wondered why your car feels so cheap? It’s because your carmaker cut costs. Jalopnik Readers know the ten worst cases of auto companies skimping where it counts.  

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We here at Jalopnik love cheap cars. Expensive cars tend to be overcomplicated and heavy, laden down with unnecessary features. Cheap cars tend to be light and fun to drive, especially because they don't cost much to fix when you skid into a tree.

But we dislike when manufacturers seem to go out of their way to make their cars worse, only to save a few pennies per car. Sometimes it feels like a company is doing everything in its power to get you to buy the slightly more expensive model by making every piece of equipment optional. Sometimes you can tell when an important part was built by the lowest bidder.

There are tons of these cut corners, both big and small. We only had room for ten examples on this list, so please fill us in with any examples of cheapskate car design in Kinja below.

Photo Credit: Maruti-Suzuki

The Ten Worst Cases Of Cost Cutting In Cars

10.) No Full-Size Spare

Sometimes all you need is a donut to get you to the repair shop, but we miss the dependability of full-size spares. The problem is that today wheels are so damn big that they eat up way too much weight and space in the back of cars for manufacturers to offer them. More and more car companies are giving up on spares altogether.

Suggested By: CaptAFR, Photo Credit: Matt M 

The Ten Worst Cases Of Cost Cutting In Cars

9.) Porsche 996 With Boxster Headlights

Back in 1993, Porsche reported a net loss of $162 million, while producing fewer than 14,000 cars. So a new CEO took on Toyota-style production management and cut quality of all the cars, most visibly with the sinful new 911, which looked exactly the same as the entry-level Boxster from the front. Why? Because they had the same headlights.

Suggested By: Mers, Photo Credit: Porsche 

The Ten Worst Cases Of Cost Cutting In Cars

8.) Porsche 914 Plastic Fuel Lines

For all of its sturdy German reputation, Porsche has a bit of a history cheapening out on its cars. Famously, the 914 came with plastic fuel lines to save money. The plastic would get brittle over time and crack, leaking gas right onto the engine. Not great. 

Suggested By: 1973Porsche, Photo Credit: Joost Smeets 

The Ten Worst Cases Of Cost Cutting In Cars

7.) Faux Wood

No matter how hard any ‘near luxury’ car tries, fake wood never looks like anything but chintzy plastic. The same goes for fake carbon fiber in sports cars.

Suggested By: ejp, Photo Credit: Toyota 

The Ten Worst Cases Of Cost Cutting In Cars

6.) Who Needs Mirrors?

Just look over your shoulder, bro!

Suggested By: PhilaDLJ, Photo Credit: Maruti-Suzuki 

The Ten Worst Cases Of Cost Cutting In Cars

5.) Ford’s Plastic Intake Manifold

We loathe plastic engine bays with a burning passion, but we will admit that sometimes plastic components are lighter and easier to shape than metal ones. That wasn’t the case with the plastic intake manifolds for Ford’s ubiquitous 4.6 liter V8. These things exploded so frequently at 125-150k miles that owners took Ford to court and got a recall.

Suggested By: sammyjay, Photo Credit: agcoauto.com 

The Ten Worst Cases Of Cost Cutting In Cars

4.) Cheap Mustang Transmissions

Another notorious Ford skimp-out came with their 2011 Mustangs, which got cheap and faulty manual transmissions from China. Cars regularly wouldn’t go into gear, prompting a fruitless NHTSA investigation.

Suggested By: RXEight, Photo Credit: Ford 

The Ten Worst Cases Of Cost Cutting In Cars

3.) Blank Switches

If there’s a token sign of cutting costs in a car, it’s when you get a base model of a car and there are blank switches. They just remind you, every time you look at them, that you didn’t quite work hard enough to get the top of the line trim. Worst of all is when a carmaker offers a blank instrument panel, as described by reader zeppelin79.

In my 1976 LX Holden Torana the top model came with a tacho, the middle level had a clock instead of the tacho and the base model (mine) came with nothing- just a blank gauge with some markings around the outside and no needle or numbers. Maybe I have the Superleggera version.

Suggested By: The Scrambler, Photo Credit: Zeppelin79 

The Ten Worst Cases Of Cost Cutting In Cars

2.) GM’s Non-Opening Rear Windows

Back in 1975 GM updated their compact Chevy, Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Buick cars and made the rear windows on all the base coupes totally fixed to save money. At best, you could buy optional flip-out rear windows.

In 1978, GM went a step further and made the rear windows on all of their intermediate cars (sedans and wagons too) fixed with no option of flipping-out or rolling-down. This was not a good look for the supposedly ‘luxury’ Buicks, and seemed downright hateful of any poor bastard buying a Chevrolet.

Suggested By: ranwhenparked, Photo Credit: Buick/OldCarBrochures 

The Ten Worst Cases Of Cost Cutting In Cars

1.) The Pinto

Ford could have spent a few dollars more per car to fit a guard to keep the gas tank from hitting the differential in a crash. Instead Ford decided they could save money by paying out to the families of drivers who got in gas tank fires.

Suggested By: CobraJoe, Photo Credit: NHTSA