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Bryan
Hagerty Employee

4 canceled vehicles that deserved a second chance

The automotive industry is brutal. Dollar signs drive design decisions every day, and if a product doesn’t continue to satisfy bean counters and board executives, it’s tossed aside regardless of the cult that might follow the nameplate to its grave. 

 

Today we both celebrate and mourn the loss of several models that were axed before they could be polished or refined to the full extent. Read the full article on Hagerty.com:

 

https://www.hagerty.com/media/lists/4-machines-that-deserve-a-second-chance/

174 REPLIES 174
Pepperalls
Detailer

I agree with the VW Phaeton assessment. Wrong badge for the price, lives on under other skins.

 

Magnum... should be brought back. Still the same platform so its not a full retooling to put the modern front on it, just do a 3rd refresh and bring it back then. And yes... Demonize it.

 

I'll agree on the GT300/Stealth. These things have quite the following, but pretty much all the Japanese makes stopped making their fun cars. Mitsubishi held out with the evo  --its a different kind of fun and deserving of its own mention in this article. Mitsubishi should just make all Lancers wide body (and better looking) to amortize the cost of the Evo platform ---(Lancer = base Mustang vs Evo = Shelby is the pricing concept, not that they are comparable vehicle niche)

 

Aztek was ugly to the public at the time. That is why it failed. Lose the cladding, simplify the styling a bit to the trends of the time and maybe you sell more (pricing may still have been a factor). I disagree with saying Aztek had anything to do with Pontiac's demise  --Pontiac was selling more cars than Buick when it was axed to my knowledge, just not in China. Pontiac's direct overlap with Chevrolet was reasonable to cut... it was silly to toss away one of the fiercest brand followings and identities. Purely not a car person decision.

 

Ford Focus, especially RS should have remained available in North America. I think USA gets some sort of hybrid version now? We don't see them in Canada.

 

Chev SS (Pontiac G8)  --the great car no one bought or no one could find at a dealership?

 

And then there is all the ended-when-sorted  examples like Fiero, Corvair, SS trucks, Lightnings, etc.

Sajeev
Community Manager

There were several SS's at every dealership in my city. Nobody was buying, and that's likely because of the $47,000+ asking price. I remember being in a drag race at a 24 Hours of Lemons race between a new automatic SS and a 3.6L Impala rental car, and the SS only pulled ahead over 40(ish) mph.   They seriously tuned it down, and it made the Impala seem even better than it already was.

Actually, we need to bring back the Impala. And the Taurus. 

DougL
Intermediate Driver

Interesting race. I had the opportunity to put a hundred miles or so on an SS automatic. I did not try any drag races but the passing power certainly put any 3.6 impala to shame and the cornering was impressive too. It was the kind of car that brought out the boy racer in you. Yes, the price was high and I bet insurance was high also. I still wish I could have afforded one.
MichaelA
New Driver

Pontiac was outselling Buick, and overlapped the Chevrolet line, mainly because GM lost the vision of the line. Since the 60's Pontiac was GM's popular priced performance line, the GTO, the TransAm. They just walked away from their niche, their market, like you said it became just a Chevy "me too" line. GM's thinking was likely that performance business was gone, yet they GAVE to Dodge. Just look at the business Chrysler is doing with the Charger/Chalanger line, from police cars to SRT and Hellcats, all on a aging platform, and the certainly don't give those SRT or Hellcat's away. The Charger/Chalanger is the only sedan platform Chrysler can manage to sell, and they will make it until their tooling wears out.

JackVan
Intermediate Driver

Pontiac had Catalina and Bonneville 2+2, 421 Super Duty for an image. GM screwed Pontiac with their final act sticking a Chevy engine in an Australian car and calling it a GTO. Quick 4 door, but not a GTO. Buick's version of the Azrek was much easier on the eyes and a nice, usable ride.
elldorado2000
Intermediate Driver

I have the V6 version of the Pontiac G8 and I can tell you after having lived a lifetime in GM vehicles, they screwed the pooch when they quit making them. The best 4 door sedan GM ever made that most people don't even know about. It should have been the Impala/Bonneville/LeSabre. I'm looking for a V8 version and some people have it figured out, because they are expensive and only getting more expensive.
Rider79
Instructor

The 2004-2006 GTO was not a four-door, but a two-door. A subtly good-looker, too. The G8 was a four-door.
JackVan
Intermediate Driver

VW was a great buy used. Price fell so fast that it became affordable luxury.
avanti5010
Pit Crew

If you could afford to fix it.
Grace
Hagerty Employee

I totally support a reboot of the Magnum. 😞 

JackVan
Intermediate Driver

Buick Regal Tourx. Opel station wagon. Decent ride, decent mileage, decent performance. Stopped in 2019.
RG440
Detailer

I totally support your support! Google; Magnum with Demon front clip and Magnum with Challenger front clip and the hits are amazing, along with the killer “Grocery Getter Muscle Car Ambiance” . That is if any automaker is going to make “cars” anymore. If Direct Connection doesn’t jump back on the Magnum bandwagon than aftermarket suppliers should.
TinCanSailor
Intermediate Driver

I support a reboot as well! I was trained and took my driver's test in a behemoth (to a 16 y/o kid) 66 Impala Station Wagon, so I've had a soft spot in my heart for them.

By the time it came back to production, the Hellcat engine will be history. I could see it coming back as an EV. You could put a large battery under the cargo floor and give it credible range and performance.
ThomasC
Pit Crew

I liked the TV ad where the Magnum driver had just beat some performance car to the next red light.

Impressed driver in the other car, "Hey, what have you got in that thing?"

Magnum driver, turning to look in the back, "Um, some drums, an amp and a step ladder."
cal333
Pit Crew

Count me in on a new Magnum wagon...I still have my 2005 hemi powered AWD...and recently sold my 2006 SRT8...I didn't drive it much due to the uncomfortable front seats and stiff ride...it was very fast but that did not overcome it's marginal usage...

tbva
Passenger

I have my 2005 RT Magnum too. Love it. 40,000 miles.

raspantienator
Passenger

Magnums are real nice and never see them on the road. Wrong Pontiac chosen. The most hated and least understood 2004 GTO should be listed.

westpismo
Passenger

Agreed!

any8p
New Driver

The Aztek concept originally was built on the S-10 truck platform.  Then, the bean counters decided it was best to do it using the U(boat) platform.  The END.

Tim
Instructor

One wonders how many of the engineers that worked on the Aztek actually list that on their résumés. 😁

33halfton
Passenger

I spent my life working at GM but being a car guy I always thought the Dodge Magnum looked like a chopped top hot rod right from the start.  I can only imagine what Havoc a flamed all-wheel drive Hellcat Magnum would have wreaked on the automotive world!

 

But for me the big loss was Fiero!  At a time when Corvette had lost it’s way in the World, the new mid-engine 1989 Fiero would probably have finished it off.

 

I worked on the new Fiero program as the stamping plant support engineer and had seen the mockups and mules many times.  Being a car guy, hot rodder and owner of 3 Corvettes and a 32 Five Window by then, I knew Chevrolet would not like the new Fiero!  It had grown enough to become a beautifully proportioned mid engine car and an engine that had also been improved giving the Fiero a performance advantage on Corvette.

 

When we learned Pontiac was going to GM Corporate for final approval there was a lot of apprehension on Chicago Road that we were not going to be able to go with the new design.  We never considered that GM would kill the car totally.

 

The next week, I walked into the design building on Chicago Road for a Fiero design meeting with John Fricko the Body Stamping Design Boss and oh boy!  Everyone was just kind of milling around, looking like they had lost their best friend.  

 

John gave me the news that Chevrolet had told GM Bosses that GM only had one sports car and Chevrolet built it!

 

It only took Chevrolet another 30 years to do what Pontiac did for 1989!  No surprise then that the GM I worked for went bankrupt!

 

TKDMaster
Pit Crew

"beautifully proportioned mid engine car" It was, but yet on the street, it assumed a generic look.

turbobill
Intermediate Driver

GM has made so many mistakes in the last 30 or 40 years it's a wonder they are still in business. In fact, without a bailout, they'd have been gone years ago.

They sell nothing today I'm remotely interested in.
Lightning1
Detailer

GMs heyday was in the late 50s through early 70s. Since then they have had a few moments of brilliance (TPI, LS) followed by mass stupidity (giving the mass market to the Japanese, cancelling 3 of the most fanatically popular car lines Pontiac, Saturn, Olds, not investing in new tech family cars instead relying on truck sales, dumping lots of $ into the EV1 experiment before good batteries were available). And what are they doing today, pimping overpriced C8 corvettes.
LarryL
Passenger

I believe there should have been 5 Vehicles.

#5. Chevrolet HHR

WillieG12
Pit Crew

I rented one once. Put about 1,000 miles on it in the flat South East, mostly Florida. Second worst car I have ever driven in my 52 years of driving, some as a mechanic. (Nissan Versa was by far the worst. Was a brand new either 2012 or 2013).  Horrible vehicle. Usable perhaps for local plumber or similar service person who does not need a big storage area, stand up van and takes short trips in suburban traffic. Otherwise - a horror show.

avanti5010
Pit Crew

I'e driven close to 70 cars over my lifetime, including the Nissan Versa. The 2 worst did not include the Versa, but a 1985.5 Porsche 944 and and 1973 Audi 100LS. WAY worse than any Nissan.
shoulderboards
Intermediate Driver

Yes on the HHR, and also the PT Cruiser.  I miss them both.

Yarbles
New Driver

I owned a fully loaded HHR for approximately seven weeks before it was rear ended and written off,the idea was good but it was poorly executed and it's a car that gets boring very quickly,not one that makes you want to get in and drive  I wasn't sorry that it was a total loss after less than two months of ownership.

janedon
Detailer

yea--The HHR/the Prowler/& so many other models were close but not close enough--hot rod Looking ones underpowered--Van ones a little too Small to be useful-- PUs that could'nt be used as pick-ups at all-- All useless so they could squeeze a few dollars more profit -That sure backfired-
Tim
Instructor

I think the Phaeton's problem was that it was a leap too far forward for VW. It left a big hole in the price point between it and VW's next most expensive sedan. VW also hadn't necessitated any change at dealerships to treat big-ticket car customers like big-ticket car customers. Other brands solved this by creating new luxury sub-brands. For a VW, that would have been...Audi, meaning any upscale customer of VW was likely heading to Audi without a second thought about VW. The final nail was relegating the Phaeton to second-class tech compared to its corporate cousin. It used a steel frame where Audi had been using aluminum for years. Why pay almost as much for a lesser car? Oh, because you wanted a lesser brand label on your car to prove you weren't a snob. Every potential customer bought one.

ThomasC
Pit Crew

In 1980 I bought a Rabbit GTI. Loved the car but getting anything done under warranty was a royal pain.

I thought if I'd bought an Audi, maybe I'd get some respect. Then a friend's boss bought a 5000 Turbo Quatro that spent more time at VW than in his garage. They kept giving him Audi 4000s to drive until he got fed up, demanding at least a base 5000. No sir, they explained. We have to reserve those for the Porsche customers because they're fussy. Big mistake, lol ! After that he always got a 5000 but of course hated everything about the experience and traded the car elsewhere a year later. Shortly after (my GTI was still under warranty) I had a conversation with the owner of a new 911 Turbo. He said forget it, their treatment of Porsche owners is no better!

I've no idea whether this was the reality everywhere or just at that specific dealership. I've also no idea whether they're still as bad. Needless to say, I've never been interested in repeating that ownership experiment with any part of their product line! There are plenty of other manufacturers out there who have yet to treat me so poorly.
Goes2fast
Pit Crew

Aztek? Why not the Solstice? It could have been the Chevy for those that couldn't afford a Corvette. The Aztek was the ugliest car GM ever produced!

PJ
Navigator

Aztek is a classic example of domestic vehicle thinking.... besides being plain butt ugly and looked like it was the work of a committee and a polling survey rather than being designed.  Is it any wonder why our domestic producers are giving up on small cars and cars in general when they have spent the last few decades sending them over to the rubbermaid store and outfit it with air flow appendages, plastic cladding, decals and badges telling the buyers that you bought the real wizz bang thing and then having to persuade buyers by offering discounts and cash back incentives when they should have been putting that same money into producing dependable quality rather than to sucker buyers to take this rubbish off the dealers floor plan....who then are forced to have their wallets washed and waxed after the warranty expires.    

TKDMaster
Pit Crew

"the rubbermaid store".  oh, yes, so true!

ThomasC
Pit Crew

Yeah, hilarious! If Coleman and Rubbermaid got together to make a tent on wheels they might have come up with the Aztek.
Joseph
Passenger

I totally agree on the Aztek. I happen mo have been an owner of 3 of these vehicles. At the time back in 2005 I  had a private Courier company for a Lab company. All their fleet consisted of Aztek's. Your talking nation wide. These cars were driven daily and at the time before they reached 100,000 miles they were available for sell to the employee's for almost 75% off. It was at this time I started to used these car's . Yea they were ugly as sin but they were great. I was driving a stop and go routh daily of 260 miles. Then the same car would go to Houston from San Antonio and back nightly for a total of 420 miles.That's almost 700 miles daily. Oil was changed every 2 weeks . These car never let me down or stranded  on the road. These car's came with all sort's of goodies like a tent and cool features. Every car from the time they were purchased from the Lad company had the rear seats removed and stored. I finally gave my niece my favorite Aztek as a present with a total of 427,000 miles. Every thing  including the a/c working and the Goodies. She drove it for 2 more years. She sold it because the a/c stop working. I still see that car on the highway. Best car ever...but Butt Ugly.

djkorson
New Driver

I still love my Dodge Magnum.  I purchased it new back in February of 2005 and its been my daily driver ever since.  I haven't looked at a new car as there is nothing out there like it in the market today.  Its big, comfortable with a very roomy interior.  And with the full time all wheel drive system powered by a HEMI there is truly nothing else out to compare.  Dodge/Chysler doesn't even offer the HEMI/AWD system to the public anymore.

Reatta
Pit Crew

The Aztek needs to be forgotten. We might still have Pontiac around if it wasn't for this ugly mistake. 

I would like to see the Magnum return with a better front end. 

Why not consider the Chevrolet SS/R?

If we could bring back cars from the 1960s, I would like to see the 1969 Firebird.

From the 1950s, I would like to see a new version of the 1959 Dodge Coronet.

shoulderboards
Intermediate Driver

GM shot itself in the foot by axing Pontiac and retaining the much weaker Buick brand which has struggled ever since to be relevant.  GM should have sent all Buick manufacturing and sales to China, where people actually want to buy them and kept Pontiac going in the US where it outsold Buick by a 2 to 1 margin in its final years.  Just imagine what a 2020 GTO would be like among the Dodge Hellcats and Shelby Mustangs.

quaybon1
Pit Crew

The Phaeton was way too expensive for a VW.

quaybon1
Pit Crew

"It looks like it will always pull to the left." David Letterman about the Aztek...

TKDMaster
Pit Crew

Oh Yes, I get that;  for as long as I can remember political lefties have always gone for the ugly cars, as if there was some virtue in being ugly, and vice versa.

quaybon1
Pit Crew

@TKDMasterYou actually found a way to make the comment political? You need to get a life and a sense of humor. Wow.

Oldroad1
Instructor

That is because David Letterman's comment about the Aztek was political and he is a lefty comic.
Johnsfolly
Pit Crew

No! The worst characteristic of the Aztek was styling that proved you can go through art school and learn almost nothing about proportion and esthetics. Or did somebody in the front office pen it while experiencing a god-awful hangover?

Sharx
Pit Crew

VW should have taken a page from the Toyota and Nissan playbook by creating a new badge (aka Lexus/Infiniti).  They knew it would be difficult to sell upscale cars with names more closely associated with low priced ones.  I thought the Magnum was a great idea, maybe most didn't.   Still waiting for the re-design, modern version of the El Camino/Ranchero after all that's been done with Camaros/Mustangs. As for the Aztek, it was the styling that scared people away before even getting in one.  It was not designed by anyone under 60, but by a bunch of old farts sitting around a big long table.  I think the idea is sound, people like getting outdoors more now and and the right vehicle that could convert to a pseudo-camper might still work.

Michaelmotorcyc
Pit Crew

VW upscale badge is Audi...
Bunka
Intermediate Driver

The Phaeton fascinated me very much.  My wife and I are both former Beetle owners and the fact that VW came out with a high tech luxury sedan was awesome.  It was time for my wife to get a new car and it came down to an Audi A8 or a Phaeton.  We went for the A8 rationalizing that the VW was new and it was best to give them more time to prove their technology.  The Audi turned into a repair nightmare.  On the day of the last repair we drove it from the dealership straight to the Honda dealer and it was theirs within an hour.