Volkswagen’s Audi division had no idea the third generation of the 100 (sold as the 5000 in the United States) would have such a tumultuous career when it presented the car to the press and the public in August of 1982. The 100’s career got off to a remarkable start on the Old Continent by taking home the coveted Car of the Year award in 1983, beating the Ford Sierra and the Volvo 760.
Highly aerodynamic in spite of its boxy lines, the third-gen 100 represented a big step forward from the previous generation and it was billed as a near-premium car aimed at the bottom end of the Mercedes-Benz and BMW lineup. It was launched across Germany as a four-door sedan, but a sleek five-door Avant-badged wagon and a more luxurious model dubbed 200 arrived shortly after. The lineup was expanded again with Audi’s famed quattro all-wheel drive system in 1984.
On a more somber note, the 100’s image was tarnished by a 60 Minutes report aired in November of 1986 that accused the car of accelerating by itself. Audi defended itself by explaining the unintended acceleration was caused by driver error, but allegations that its cars killed six people and caused 700 accidents nearly shuttered the firm’s North American operation. A report published by Bloomberg several years ago in the midst of Toyota’s unintended acceleration issue indicates Audi’s U.S. sales dropped to 12,283 units in 1991, down from a peak of 74,061 cars in 1985.
With the unintended acceleration issue settled and relegated to the history books, will the Audi 100 / 5000 become a must-have in collector car circles or will it never go back in up value?