Who said that the Car of the Year as innovative as might seem, can become a slow trouble maker on wheels? Well, the statistics prove that it’s quite possible and true. Let’s take a look at the Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare as MotorTrend's 1976 Car of the Year. Back in late 1975, both Aspen and Volare appeared as the real gem on the market, but they disappointed the customer.
Where did they miss their earned first winning spot?
Capital loss, bad timing model launch, economic crisis, and the passion for the big cars were just the prequel for the Aspen and Volare’s slow fail.
First of all, the capital loss in the previous years delayed the models' arrival on the market. Despite that, the 1976 Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare made their debut and seemed the right car for the times, with a mid-size space in a compact package, and instantly caught the admiration amongst reviewers and clients.
As modern compact cars, Aspen and Volare had sophisticating F-bodies, differentiated use of longitudinal torsion bars for the front suspensions. Nothing less than a compact setup that delivered nimble (for the time) handling and a plush ride. With a 360 (5.6-liter) V-8 engine delivering 280 lb-ft of torque, the car nearly chocked 170 hp at 4,000 rpm.
In no time they showed both safety and build quality problems. Hoods that didn't latch accurately, engines stalling on acceleration, seat belt tensioners failing, fenders rusting, suspension and brake, and leaky fuel hoses. Soon after their launch, both Aspen and Volare became the most-recalled cars in history.
According to Lee Iacocca, the F-bodies for the Aspen and Volare were a good idea, but the cars still needed another six months of development. The lesson is simple here having a good idea, isn’t enough in the car industry. A responsible automaker needs a great plan for its implementation. I guess, becoming the MotorTrend’s Car of the Year, in 1976 was the lack of competition that played its role in the decision.