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Back in junior high school, I had a buddy whose dad loved European cars. This was in the late-80's when most dads in the neighborhood were rocking big American luxury sedans. The first real experience I had with Audis was when his dad traded in his Volvo for an Audi 5000 CD Quattro. I lost my favorite car magazine to a bet because I didn't believe him when he told me his dad's car had a 5-cylinder engine. I thought all 4-door sedans had high displacement V8's, like any red-blooded Canadian kid in the 80's thought.
Recently, I stumbled upon this MotorWeek Retro Review of the quirky and awkward Audi V8 Quattro. I was curious why it wasn't dubbed a "5000" model. I enjoyed this retro review and it got me thinking more about the history of the Audi 5000/100 model.
At the beginning of the piece, Jon mentions that Audi is back on track after, "Years of negative publicity". This comment piqued my interest. I don't have any first-hand memories of dark times regarding Audis, but after some digging I quickly learned that, starting in the early-80's, the company became shrouded in controversy involving claims of unintended acceleration linked to a number of injury accidents. It's still not quite exactly clear what caused these incidents, or to what extent Audi was libel, but from what I have read it seems there was nothing actually wrong with the Audi 5000. That didn't stop CBS's 60 Minutes from airing a damning episode which devastated the company's North American sales numbers. It later became known that 60 Minutes falsely demonstrated the unintentional acceleration by having some "expert" pump air into the transmission. This, and a pile of class-action lawsuits, was enough to cause sales numbers to plummet from 75,000 units in 1984 to 12,000 in 1991. I'm still reading about this scandal, but here's a pretty decent summary of the story. One commenter on the Reddit forum claims the phrase, "I'm Audi 5000" meaning "I'm outta here", stems from this controversy.
Do you remember anything about this period of Audi's history? If so, leave a comment below.
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