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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/

122 REPLIES 122
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. 

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.

Grace
Hagerty Employee

I totally support a reboot of the Magnum. 😞 

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
Navigator

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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
Passenger

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.

Johnsfolly
New Driver

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.

Adam
Passenger

Pontiac had a good idea with the Aztec. As a Pontiac fan, I loved the Formula Firebirds and the 1986 2+2 based on the Grand Prix, so I wanted to love the Aztec- yet I found certain proportions and details were just not cohesive. But to their credit Pontiac was on the right track with a Cross Over; just look at the similar Nissan Murano which was launched just after the Aztec.

WillieG12
Pit Crew

Correct on the Magnum. The Aztec??? The camper "thing" had been available as early as on the 1973 AMC Hornet X. A great car which I used to pull an RV trailer 25k and sold in perfect shape at 153k.  The Aztec is crap. The writers of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, know thier cars. The use of the Aztec was brilliant as was Saul's Suzuki "Esteem".

AngryBird
New Driver

Aztec.... Pontiac...what were you thinking?

RSorenson1
Intermediate Driver

It wasn't even mentioned that the Aztec is generally considered the ugliest ever made.
Pmartin27
Passenger

I apologize for this minor criticism of your interesting article, but as to the Phaeton, 72 degree air wafting from the HVAC vents would result in a stuffy cabin in summer heat.  The thermometer in the vent of my 112 HP 2001 Chevy Cavalier 🙂 reads somewhere around 40 degrees F on a summer day which makes for a comfortable cabin as it mixes with the solar-heated air.  

hoser48
Pit Crew

You took the Aztek over the Solstice?  Shame.

toy83h2ssj53
Intermediate Driver

Was on a tour of Germany, and one of our stops for a couple of days was Dresden. One of the attractions of the city for gearheads in the tour was the VW factory that was producing the vaunted Phaeton. A beautiful facility with plenty of daylight inside and an impressive assembly line.  We were not allowed to take photos inside the building, unfortunately, as there was some nice architectural features in the lobby.  The tour ended with the traditional gift shop and a couple of phaetons for people to try on for size and feel.  My reaction and that of the group as a whole was shock at the price that was attached to the car. It was small, and didn't seem to us as offering anything worth that much money, and it was no surprise to me that it failed in the marketplace.

The Dodge Magnum was a different story however.  I fell in love with the styling, and even got a ride in one once, which was pleasureable.  I would love to  have had a barn and the $$ to have be able to buy one of these, along with about a hundred of my other "dream cars", but unfortunately reality has a bad habit of not allowing that. I was greatly disappointed that there were not enough other people that felt the same about the Magnum as I did. 

As far as the Aztek, everyone has their own vision of beauty and what really trips "their trigger".  The car manufacturers have made many cars over the years whose looks have  brought the question, "what were they thinking" to my mind. But these cars have sold, and someone appreciated them, so it's not for me to judge.

mtmdatlanta
New Driver

I think people are remembering the Phaeton with a big dose of "rose colored glasses". If you look at comparison tests at the time, It was usually at the back of the pack, or rarely mid-pack. The car did absolutely nothing exceptionally well, and came off as pretty bland. Meanwhile, it was priced the same as the far more prestigious and better performing competition, and you had to go to the same dealership for sales and service as buyers of a base Jetta or Golf. Contrast this to the introduction of the Lexus LS 400. This car won most comparisons, was priced well below the German competition, and Toyota invented Lexus, with it's superior (and practically revolutionary) sales and service experience. That car was a hit, and changed the luxury industry in the process. The Phaeton may have been the basis for the Bentley Continental GT, but you couldn't tell that easily, and Bentley thoroughly re-engineered the thing into an excellent car with virtually no competition, and a low price for a Bentley. Success for the platform, finally.

WLGould
Passenger

I'd have included the 2002-2005 Ford Thunderbird on the list.

shoulderboards
Intermediate Driver

Yes, with the Coyote V8 from the Mustang GT under the hood!

BrianDou
Passenger

I think this kind of article is fun, but selected quotes from the article itself answer the question it poses about bringing them back: $100K VW; station wagon; cantankerous; and (beyond butt) ugly.

ridgepg
Passenger

Don't bring any of those back. Bring back wide tracks like the late 60's Chevy Belair 327 but in electric....or a 59 Cadillac with those beautiful fins

KravMaga
Navigator

The Aztek,  I was given by loaner by GMC dealership back in the day. People would laugh at the vehicle at the stop light. I can not believe you placed this on the list. 

 

MichaelA
New Driver

Chrysler had a really good car in the Magnum, they needed to take it to the next step. They did show a Chrysler model of the platform, thinking about marketing it in Europe. They should have come out with a full blow luxury model for the US, the best of the best for the suburban market. The Dodge customer was/is really not a station wagon buyer, maybe market it as a R/T and above. The VW is a great pick...but Aztec, besides ugly, it was over priced garbage ....it really is typical of GM's trip to nowhere. Maybe, just maybe CEO "Mary" can bring it back as a electric? GM  is a company that would buy the Hummer brand, run it into the ground, and drop it and develop and market the Aztec?...what were they thinking?

Autocar
New Driver

I like the styling of the Magnum except for the front. It looks out of place with the sleek bodylines and rear.

Reliableron
Passenger

You could always add a Chrysler 300 front end to it as was done in some other markets. 

DJ
Passenger

Like to see Ford bring back the Ranchero.

And when we going to see the Lincoln Zephyr ?