Friday, April 17, 2009

Time For a General Rant About The Auto Industry

I already posted a reply to yet another news story about what brands of GM will be killed off next. Let's do a quick review of what brands GM has killed off in the US since...THE DAWN OF TIME!

Elmore (low price car bought by GM in 1909 and killed by 1912)
Oakland (produced through 1931, created Pontiac in 1926 which survived to today)
La Salle (similar to Cadillac, sold from 1927 to 1940)
Marquette (sub-model of Buick in 1929 and 1930)
Viking (sub-model of Oldsmobile in 1929 and 1930)
Opel (European compacts sold in Buick dealerships in the 1960s and 1970s)
Geo (Japanese subcompacts sold in Chevrolet dealerships from 1989 to 1997)
Oldsmobile (GM bought it in 1910 and killed it in 2004)
Reliance and Rapid truck companies (combined to create GMC)
Daewoo (the designs live on as the Chevy Aveo, Suzuki Forenza, and Suzuki Verona)

That's probably not a complete list, either. Opel still sells in other countries and Opel models such as the Astra sell as other brands like Saturn. Holden is GM in Australia and they produced the Pontiac GTO (VT Commodore aka Monaro) and G8 (VE Commodore). Vauxhall is just another name for Opels sold in the UK. And then there is the Ranger (sold in South Africa) and countless other badge-engineered messes around the world. Ever seen a Toyota Cavalier? Take a 2000-2002 Cavalier and put amber turn signals out back. PRESTO CHANGE-OOOO!!!

GM pretty much invented badge-engineering with the "Parent Make" mess back in the late 20s. Pontiac is the only survivor from that, but for how long? Pontiac stopped making their own cars a few decades ago. They rebadge Chevys and put amber-backlit gauge panels in them. How cool is that? It isn't. And it's not profitable to make four different bumpers/grilles/light housings/interiors/wheels and more bits, just to put on one chassis or platform. A car is a car. A truck is a truck. Stop trying to make us believe you sell four different SUV's in a certain size range when they are the same truck with the same motor and some cosmetic changes. The Buick Rainier IS a Chevrolet Trailblazer which IS a GMC Envoy which IS an Oldsmobile Bravada which IS a Saab 9-7. Aren't you glad they didn't come out with Pontiac, Saturn, and Hummers in that same model? They almost did that with the minivans. Didn't they learn back from the J-cars that badge engineering brings the fail? You had the Cadillac Cimarron (sold 82-88), the Buick Skyhawk (sold 82-89) and the Oldsmobile Firenza (sold 82-88). They all died. The Cavalier lived on until 2005 as did the Pontiac J2000, I mean the 2000, I mean the 2000 Sunbird, I mean the Sunbird, errrr, I mean the Sunfire.

HEY GM!!! RENAMING YOUR BADGE-ENGINEERED CAR EVERY YEAR DOES NOT MAKE IT NEW CAR!!! PONTIAC, WHAT THE &#$% WERE YOU THINKING? It was awful, and now we have the Pontiac G5, which is a 2-door Cobalt with the tail lights of a 4-door Cobalt, amber-backlit gauges, colored piping on the interior fabrics, and a few different hubcap or wheel choices. Oh, THEY CHANGED THE GRILLE? IT'S SPLIT DOWN THE MIDDLE??? WOW, IT MUST BE A PONTIAC THEN!!!

*earth shaking groan sound*

OK, so now you killed off Oldsmobile, you're getting rid of Hummer, Saab, and probably Saturn. Pontiac and GMC might go, too. Wait. Why GMC? Keep them building trucks. Tell Chevy to STOP building trucks. Then you keep the GOOD LOOKING truck!!! Cadillac needs to die. Buick can live on, they sell to the golfing set, and lots of guys play golf. Girls play golf, too, but they don't buy Buicks, so screw them. Tiger will sell you a Buick but it can't be pink. Unless you're a Mary Kay consultant. And even then the latest MK cars have been white, red, or silver. I haven't seen a pink Mary Kay car since a handful of pale pink 1990 Buick Centurys showed up in a junkyard near me last summer.

I'm getting off topic again. Here's the deal. I have new rules for GM. Rules that make SENSE and should be followed to the letter.

GMC gets all the true trucks. Colorado/Canyon, Silverado/Sierra, Medium Duties, and Semis. If it is a cab/chassis, has a pickup bed, or has a cargo box of ANY KIND, it is a GMC truck. That's it. No Acadia. No SUV's. Nothing with carpet behind the second row of seats. No third row seating. If you can't hose down the cargo area and avoid getting carpet, vinyl, cloth, or leather wet, IT IS NOT A TRUCK AND SHOULD NOT BE A GMC.

Chevy gets all the other trucks. SUV's, Crossovers, Truck Hybrids, whatever you want to call them. The HHR, Equinox, Traverse, Trailblazer, Tahoe, Suburban, Avalanche, minivans, whatever. If a soccer mom would drive it, brand it Chevrolet. If you offer Navigation systems and DVD players in it, brand it Chevrolet.

Chevy also gets the small cars. Sell the Aveo (if you HAVE to, I'd rather see it go away), the Cobalt, the Malibu, the Impala, the Camaro, the Corvette, whatever. Those are Chevrolet cars. They stay Chevrolet cars. Get rid of Pontiac and make the Impala and Monte Carlo rear drive. Then take the Pontiac G6 lineup and make them Buick Skylarks (or whatever you want to call them). Or expand the Malibu lineup. Call them Chevelles. Whatever. Pontiac is done.

Buick has several good vehicles. The trucks need to go. The Rainier is redundant and could be replace by the Trailblazer in a "Limited" package or something equally gaudy. The Enclave is a Traverse with leather. Gone. The Terrazza minivan is already gone, but I just want to say it needs to be gone again. I mean, please, a Buick minivan? That's sick, dude, what were you smoking when you thought that would be a good idea? The Lacrosse and Lucerne are terrific. Please bring the 3800 back in the Lacrosse, that was a great motor for damn near 50 years and could keep Buicks going for 50 more. What else do you sell, Buick? Nothing? How about coming up with a good sporty name for a small roadster and steal the Solstice from Pontiac? I just don't think it would be a good Chevy. But a Buick sports roadster, I can see that. If you have to make it a Chevy, fine. Chevy Solstice. That doesn't sound too bad, does it?

And now we come to Saturn. I just want to go on record as saying that Saturn was already dead in 2003 when they dropped the S-Series in favor of the ION. You had a car that lived for 13 years, providing no less than 25mpg city, up to 40mpg highway, was comfortable, reliable (if you don't mind checking your oil often), kept its value (if artificially through Saturn dealer networks), and had plastic polymer body panels that never rusted or looked ugly. Genius design, fair-to-middlin execution, and it would have been better to introduce the Cobalt as the 2003 Saturn S-Series and leave center dash pods to Toyota and Scion. NO ONE LIKES IT! STOP FORCING CENTER DASH PODS DOWN OUR THROATS! I'm better now. The L-Series didn't help your reliability concerns from the oil burners of the early 90s, and although the VUE was a great addition, it didn't do well enough, did it? Then you bring in the Aura which SHOULD have been the 2008 Malibu. The 2008 Malibu should have been the Aura. You take a conservatively styled sedan and sell it as a Saturn why? To make up for the abomination of the ION? Then you bring over the Astra and limit body styles and options to a select few things no one wanted brought over from the UK? And a Saturn minivan? Dude, that's sick, what wer....wait, I said that about the Buick, didn't I? I don't have anything else to say, it was a piss poor idea from the start. Chevy can have a minivan for all I care, but the other divisions don't need one. You want a premium minivan, make it a Cadillac.

The Cadillac of minivans. Oldsmobile. No, the Cadillac of minivans should be a CADILLAC. Duh!!! I saw you sneak that into my Elmore Leonard movie. Sick little twisted freaks.

Speaking of Cadillac, you know, I just can't say enough how I enjoyed Cadillac back when they made their own engines. The 390. The 429. The 472. The 500. Then you lost your sack. 425? 368? 4.1 liter? Where did my cubic inches go? 4.1 liter is about 249 cubic inches! That's one of the SMALLEST American V8's ever!!! Ford's flathead was 239, were you trying to relive Maybelline? Don't you remember the flathead in Maybelline was OVERHEATING trying to catch UP to a CADILLAC? It took RAINWATER to cool it off enough to basically COAST DOWN A HILL TO CATCH UP?!! And now we have Cadillac selling CTS's, DTS's, XLR's, ESV's, EXT's, STS's, and God knows what other 3-letter acronyms they are coming up with. I say go all the way. Forget 3 letters. Name them with the 4 letters they need to be called.

Oh wait, I have to interject here. Cimmarron!!!!!!!!!

Back to the drawing board. Or the wastebasket. I suppose GM could keep Cadillac but they better quit with trying to be everything to everyone or they're going to lose the few people still willing to buy GM vehicles by alienating their customer base.

The last real Cadillacs in my opinion were the 1979 models. 425 engine, big cushy interiors, wire wheel covers, and chrome tailfins. And they were even downsized and depowered from the massive 1975-1976 behemoths with the 500 engines. Cadillac was the Standard Of The World. That standard no longer applies. It's like DOS. No one uses DOS anymore. Cadillac is trying to be HIP and they want to play to the YOUNG people and have a BOLD statement. That's not a Cadillac. That's an Audi, or a BMW, or a small Mercedes. A Cadillac is a car you buy to say you've made it in this world. A Cadillac is fat, uses a lot of gas, and is a real bitch to park. Which is why God invented VALET PARKING. As a former valet attendant myself, parking a 1953 Eldorado convertible is one thing. Parking a 1970 Fleetwood Sixty Special is another. But parking a 2002 Seville SLS really isn't anything special. A CTS might as well be a Malibu. And the Escalades do nothing for me. OH PLAYA YOU GOT REAL WOOD ON YO STEERING WHEEL! Yeah, it burns my hands when I get in during summertime, so what's your point? Give me skinny plastic any day.

There is a reason I drive an old Buick station wagon. Because Buick, in 1988, still knew how to make a proper station wagon. The car seats eight people with seatbelts. It gets mid teens in town and up to 24 on the highway. It has a V8. It makes noise when you stand on it. The seats are comparable to overstuffed living room sofas. Everything is power operated except the glove box and the ashtray. The cigarette lighter.......IS. The seats fold down and you can fit 4x8 sheets of plywood with the tailgate closed. Outside, there is chrome and fake wood everywhere. Heck, INSIDE there's chrome and fake wood everywhere. It's just right. It's what I expect from a Buick. It delivers the pillowy soft ride and the mushy handling characteristics that let me NOT SPILL MY COFFEE BEFORE I LEAVE MY DRIVEWAY. That's what a car should be able to do.

If I left anything out, I'll be posting about this again when some more details are finalized. They have until what, June? I'll talk more by then.