When the fuel shortage reached America in the early Seventies, Detroit didn’t know what the heck hit it. With line-ups full of slumbering land yachts and V8 muscle cars they were as well prepared to face the crisis as Custer at Little Big Horn.
Only instead of the Lakota rushing in on horseback, the Japanese swept the market with their ridiculous little cars that always started first time and did fifty miles to the gallon and were affordable and bits didn’t fall off. “Well, whaddaya know?” The Americans exclaimed. They’d learnt cars didn’t actually have to be rubbish.
Detroit responded to the foreign invasion with some of the most awful product planning of the 20th century. Ford Pinto, Chevy Monza, Chevy Vega, Chevy Chevette, all just cut-n-shut jobs that were downsized rear-wheel drive cars unsuitable for the compact market.
By 1980, General Motors at least seemingly learnt a lesson. The company invested heavily into an all-new automotive architecture to underpin front-wheel drive economy cars across the board, from Chevys to Buicks, via Oldsmobile and Pontiac.
GM’s X platform would prove to be a huge sales success at launch, before all the front-drive X-body cars started developing their well-earned reputation of awfulness. Among the worst was the Chevrolet Citation launched in 1980 to great fanfare as GM’s visionary answer to the imports.
Unceasing manufacturer recalls for the Citation most notably for dangerously unsuitable brakes, accompanied with customer complaints spanning transmissions problems, to suspension flaws and poor build quality spelt a rebranding necessary just four years later.
The Citation II that came along in 1984 couldn’t do squat to improve reliability and rescue the reputation of the name.
Chevrolet sold over 800,000 Citations at launch in 1980 and, disastrously, less than 65,000 by 1985. It was discontinued that year.