The Oldsmobile Cutlass once topped car sales in this country. However, in 1979, GM introduced a diesel version that proved very uneventful. At this point, GM was not comfortable with diesel technology and should have halted production until development was better prepared. This lack of knowledge produced a car that never ran correctly. Power was poor and many 1979 Cutlass vehicles broke down after a short period. GM suffered a “warranty disaster” as numerous engines needed to be replaced. After all of this trouble, consumers were afraid to try any other type of diesel vehicle. Even though technology has advanced, many Americans are still weary of diesel engines.
The 4.3 liter V8 diesel engine had a bad reputation from the start. In fact, GM promised to replace any failed engine with a more popular and reliable Goodwrench 5.7. However, this engine was a disappointment as well and only produced 125 horsepower. The rest of the car’s construction was typical of the 1970s and included drum brakes and a live axle suspension.
Many people were disappointed by the interior and exterior design as well. The Cutlass was meant to be a middle-class, luxury vehicle, yet nothing was added to make the car special. For instance, there were plain hubs on the tires and no fancy paint trim to adorn the vehicle. Inside, there was no standard air conditioning, and other features lacked.
Very few owners could justify the high $10,890 price tag, except to explain that the car was a prime example of GM’s unique innovation. It was hard to defend a car that often needed an engine replacement and could barely get out of its own way. In the end, many people considered the 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Diesel as a top candidate for the list of the worst cars ever produced. This may be why production was limited to one year.
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