Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Autocide Part II - Out with the old

So, in my last post, I addressed all of the new makes that sprung up during the last 30 years.  Now I will talk about the brands that have been sent out to pasture.  Not only will I talk about the brands, I will talk about some specific models that I am sad to see go (and maybe a few that I am happy to see gone).

Oldsmobile - I am starting here because the first car that was truly mine was an '86 Cutlass Supreme Coupe that was Banana Creme yellow with the partial tan vinyl top and tan interior.  I loved that car and still miss it today despite its problems.  Oldsmobile fell prey to becoming a brand without a true identity.  Pontiac was the sporty brand, Buick was the golfer's car (eg - older people).  Chevy was value and performance, while Caddy had the high-end market.  Oldsmobile was flipping somewhere between Pontiac and Buick for a while before it was finally killed.  The 442 in its true form will be missed.

Saturn - Saturn had a good run and was becoming a great platform to bring euro styling to the states with the Opel models.  Unfortunately, they weren't selling.  Maybe it was Saturn's former image, but they were very nice models in the Aura and Astra.  The model that will be missed the most is the Saturn Sky.  This sporty 4-cyl two seat convertible had more of a edge to it than the Miata in styling.  It would have been a good model to move to Chevy when Saturn was shut down.

Geo - Not really missed, not much more to say here than I already did.  It served its purpose for the time, but GM needed to step away from Geo.

Hummer - The H1 was a hulking beast of beauty.  Even the H2 had its charms.  The H3/H3 SUT were REALLY pushing the brand to far though, so in that sense, it is good the brand died.  The downfall was caused by gas prices, and its image.  Maybe its own popularity was its demise.

Pontiac - In my opinion, this is the greatest loss to the GM family.  Pontiac had some great models.  Sure the GTO was a bit of a flop, but the G8 was taking off.  In its time, the Grand Prix was a great car.  The Grand Am was a bit weak, but the G6 was a great replacement for it.  The Pontiac Solstice was like the weaker cousin to the Sky in styling, though.  Pontiac even had a great opportunity to bring back the Firebird based upon the new Camaro, but the brand didn't survive.

Plymouth - Other than the loss of the rightful brand for the Barracuda, Plymouth's loss wasn't that big a deal.  Plymouth was slotted between Dodge and Chrysler and was just "badge engineering" at its worst. Sure the Prowler came out as a unique model, but I was not a fan.  The PT Cruiser was being designed to be a Plymouth, but since the brand was dying anyway, the moved it to Chrysler.  Shame it didn't die with the Plymouth brand.  It's success lead to horrible things like the SSR and HHR from Chevy.

Eagle - Ok, so maybe Plymouth wasn't badge engineering at its worst....Eagle takes that cake.  It shared models with Mitsubishi mostly and some vehicles were common across even more than those two.  This is another brand that will not be missed.

Mercury - The most recent of the brands to go away, Mercury found itself in much the same boat as Plymouth.  Were they supposed to be nice Fords or cheap Lincolns?  They were mostly badge engineered with a few unique models coming out (such as the Mercury Cougar in the 90s).  Sales were slumping and Ford eventually killed the brand.  The last Mercury to roll off the line was a Grand Marquis.  Another brand bites the dust.

Well, that about rounds this up.  I hope you enjoy these posts as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Autocide - The end of another brand

I was reading an article on Autoblog about the last Mercury to roll off the production line, and it made me think about the car makes I have seen come and go just during my lifetime, so this blog post is dedicated to those brands that started and/or ended since 1980.  I am going to do it in the reverse of the normal "out with the old in with the new" for reasons that will become obvious.

In with the new
There are a lot of brands that have started since 1980.  Some good, some bad, some just there.  I am only going to address the mass market manufactures, so don't ping me for leaving out Tesla and Fisker.

Eagle - Badge engineering at its finest.  Not one Eagle was actually just an Eagle, they were all Mitsubishi, Plymouth or Chrysler products re-badged.  This is a big reason it is also on the "Out with the Old" list.  The Eagle Talon was a nice looking car, but that is because it was really an Eclipse.

Geo - GM's answer to cheap, small imports.  The Geo Metro, Prism and Tracker were all over the place in when I was in high school.  The joke with the Metro was, I think I sold TVs larger than that at K-Mart when I was 16 (keep in mind, flat panels didn't exist back then).  As America's obsession with SUVs exploded, the brand was canned.  GM did keep the Prism as a chevrolet though as an entry level model for a few years.

Hummer - A way for GM AM General to try and earn more money off the vehicle built for the Military, and later bought out by GM.  First exclusive to the rich (such as the Govenator) GM eventually rolled out smaller models, the H2, H3 and H3 SUT.  Eventually, it fell pray to high fuel prices.

Saturn - GM tried to re-invent the car company.  No pressure sales and a "family" atmosphere.  They were plastic cars that were really hard to dent.  The brand started to fade away until it was reinvigorated with models such as the Ion, Astra, Aura and Sky.  The Astra was a re-badged Opel that brought some Euro-style to the brand while the Sky had such good styling, it made it overseas as the Opel GT.  GM had planned to close down Saturn in a few years anyway, but shuttered it early during the financial crisis. (more commentary to come on GMs choice of brands to shut down.)

Acura - Honda decided to make an up-end model for the US market and Acura was born.  Built largely on international Honda models (a trend that continues today) it has still been a successful brand.  The current Acura TSX is the same car that Europe sees as the Accord.  Unfortunately, that Accord doesn't meat the demographic (mostly size) needed for the US Accord, so we get over-charged for it since it has an Acura badge on it instead.

Infiniti - Nissan's Luxury brand with some nice models over the years.  Similar in concept to Acura though, the models we see over here (like the G35/G37) are Nissans over in Japan (Skyline).

Lexus - High-end Toyotas with euro stylings.  the IS300 is an amazing looking sedan.  While Lexus was originally just luxury, it has become more sporting in nature now.  Out of Acura, Infiniti and and Lexus, it is a toss up to me between the latter two with Acura in a distant third, and that is only due to Infiniti having the G37.

Scion - Toyota threw another brand under their corporate umbrella when the founded Scion.  Scion is the low-end/Gen-Yish auto manufacturer.  They make low-end models with lots of customization available.  The tC is the only one I have found at all appealing, but the xA, xB and xD have all sold well also.

The "Out with the Old" section will wait for my next post.