Why did Saddam Hussein cancel his order for 25,000 cars? Here is the story of the Malibu ‘Iraqi Taxi’

The international reputation of American automakers was simply shattered by successive oil crises from 1973 to the mid-1980s, with engines obstructed by regulations and plummeting quality.

It was so bad that Saddam Hussein, the overthrown leader of Iraq, broke the deal for 25,000 custom-made Chevrolet Malibus 1981s he had ordered after the first 12,500 GM cars were full of defects. 25 thousand vehicles, known as Iraq Taxi, remained in the port …

This 1980 agreement between GM and Saddam has its origins in a time when Iraq did not have a domestic car industry and needed durable car fleets for government jobs and taxi service.

Interesting guys like Saddam would choose something more interesting, but Saddam decided on the Chevrolet Malibu G-Body. This was probably because American products were in vogue at the time.

However, he could not get Malibu directly from the United States even if he wanted to. The US government was imposing sanctions on Iraq, claiming that the Ba’ath Party supported terrorism after Saddam came to power in a coup in 1979, although relations between the two countries were strained. heating up slowly for other geopolitical reasons.

It was therefore up to GM in Canada to negotiate the agreement for cars manufactured at the Ontario plant in Oshawa and shipped from the port of Halifax. GM would get its money, buy Iraqi taxis (more than $ 200 million at the 2020 price) and the Canadian government would get a small share.

In late 1981, everything turned upside down due to reported problems with the approximately 12,500 Malibu delivered to Iraq so far.


Desert climate users complained about Malibu’s inadequate cooling system, but GM had anticipated it.

Designed for fleet operation, the cars were equipped with high-strength cooling and suspension, improved air conditioning, crank windows, hardwood seats, a manual transmission and a 3.8-liter carbureted V6 engine with 110 horsepower. power.

Unfortunately, the Iraqi government claimed that the cars were completely useless. A number of reported construction quality issues and the famous clutch problem with the Saginaw three-speed transmission had put everything at risk.

Despite GM’s efforts to save the deal by sending about 100 mechanics and a group of executives to change their minds in the Iraqi government, Saddam was adamant. The cars remained parked in Halifax Harbor.

There were rumors that the Canadian government would have to buy them all for more than $ 100 million from GM, but GM had a plan for the cars.

Instead of selling them as vehicles for the Canadian government fleet, GM shipped the cars to dealerships in America for the lowest price. (Approximately 22,300 CAD (16,600 USD) at current price.

Given that all of these cars were scrapped at this port, it was obvious that this would be even worse than the $ 16,600.

However, the most interesting part of it all turned out to be useless in Iraq alone. New owners looking for a cheap new car realized that Iraqi Malibu taxis were small, solid machines.


None of this has been confirmed, but for decades there has been open speculation that Saddam canceled the deal just to save money as the horrific eight-year Iran-Iraq war escalated.

Like today’s Iraqis, Saddam cared a lot about American cars; Relatives of Iraqi soldiers killed in the war with Iran were reportedly sometimes receiving these Malibus or Oldsmobile Cutlass Cieras as payment for the death benefit.

In Canada, the Iraqi Taxi Malibu was especially favored for workers in GM factories. Demand was high and cars sold out quickly. What started as a job nightmare for GM probably ended better than the company expected.

Diary Star

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