Sixth-worst: 2003 Saturn Ion
Saturn got off to a good start. Many reporters trooped to Spring Hill, Tenn., in the late 1990s as GM showed off the new symbol of its ability to compete. Every company with the slightest connection to Saturn felt it had something to brag about. For instance, as a Miami Herald reporter, I visited because Miami-based Ryder Systems (R) provided logistical support for just-in-time deliveries.
By the start of the millennium, Saturn needed to be refreshed. Unfortunately, it came out with the 2003 Saturn Ion.
Oldham recalls that he drove one of the first Ions, at a GM press event. "I was astounded by how bad it was in every way. I said, 'I think this is the worst car I've ever driven and GM should be embarrassed,'" he recalled. "And history has proven me correct."
The Ion was uncomfortable and noisy and production quality was poor. It was tough to drive and had "a stupid interior to match," Edmunds.com said. "Kick it and your foot could get stuck in the gaps between the plastic body panels." Moreover, the competition was extremely tough at the time because Toyota (TM) and Honda (HMC) had excellent products in the small-car market.
Huffman said that Saturn, despite the buzz it created, was weighed down by GM problems. For instance, the plastic body panels "expanded and contracted at different rates, became brittle in sunlight, aged poorly, and looked worse when they began to crack."
Oldham called Saturn Ion "the second-worst car of the millennium." Saturn, once an inspiring symbol of the U.S. auto industry's ability to compete with the Japanese, shut down in 2009.