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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

4 cars that couldn't save their doomed brands

The last-minute Hail Mary play is an age-old Hollywood cheat that's saved hundreds of third-act plots from imploding on themselves. In the world of automotive drama, life occasionally imitates art. Not always so successfully, of course. Car companies, like other large corporations, are sometimes victims of far-reaching economic circumstances beyond their control.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/automotive-history/4-cars-that-couldnt-save-their-doomed-brands/
78 REPLIES 78
964c4
Intermediate Driver

All of these vehicles were the punchline to a really bad joke played on the buying public.
GrumpyOne
Pit Crew

Well, perhaps one of the greatest "hail Mary's" was the Studebaker Avanti styled by Raymond Loewy, Engineered by Gene Hardig et al...

Not only did it not save the brand but it did not save the company.

Never the less, the Avanti has proven its mettle time after time by influencing automobile design standards for decades afterward. Not only that, the 29 world records set on the salt flats proved overwhelmingly the design and engineering for time infinitum...
MrBill-1943
Detailer

With the exception of the Hummer, and agree with hypen6 lays out, have no problems with the choices made. The good thing is Chrysler chose to update the 300 Series, as opposed to any further investment into the 300 Eagle Series. I am not sure but I think it was in 2006 Chrysler gradually made the 300 Series a better looking and preforming car. I own a 2016 300S and must say I still really enjoy the style, comfort and power from the 5.7 Hemi.
VancMike
Pit Crew

I dunno. Regardless of marque, with their unique styling, everyone who wanted a Cruiser or a Hummer eventually got one, either used or new. Then the market dried up.
TrustyRusty
Intermediate Driver

I'd love to have an HX, a GMC version, like the previous poster suggested. As a gasoline-powered vehicle, it is truly suited for off road, without the need for charging stations out in the jungle. I don't really understand the EV concept for anything but an urban commuter...
TG
Instructor

I have often pointed out the same EV concept to my sister who lives fairly close to Urbania. She in turn points out that the majority of folks who live in that environment have a hard time parking within half a block from their house - so EVs don't even work for them

TrustyRusty
Intermediate Driver

For you YOUTUBERS, you will recall Matt's MORRVAIR, an LS-powered, custom-chassis, 1962 Corvair station wagon. GMC should take the que from Matt's Off Road Recovery and purchase a license from Matt Whetzel of Winder Towing, in Southwestern Utah and create the ultimate JEEP/Bronco buster. Could you imagine this beast with an LT4 connected to All-Wheel drive?
okfoz
Detailer

Someone needs to save GM...
Jstarr11
New Driver

Let it die!  

TBob
New Driver

Kinda makes you wonder how Corvette survived it's first three years without suffering the GM hatchet.
rokky
Intermediate Driver

The PT cruiser was nothing more then a copy of the 1937 Ford.
A poor copy if I should say so.
The 37 Ford had a V8.
TG
Instructor

with exception to the H1, which is ridiculous for entirely functional reasons, Hummers are just completely ridiculous cars with ridiculous overblown proportions. There may be a lot of people who want one, but there are only a limited number of people who are actually willing to be caught dead owning and driving one. The whole idea behind the wrangler is that it is a simple machine. if GM wanted to chase that concept, something without a lot of unnecessary chrome and bulging dimensions where they serve no real purpose would have served better

Mini-vans; simple concept. Car drivetrain and van-like dimensions with SLIDING DOORS. As simple as it is, it is amazing how many manufacturers have hosed it up over the years
OldCarMan
Instructor

NO SUV is as functional, flexible, and useful as a Chrysler Minivan. Even as the market has shrunk for soccer-mom vehicles, Chrysler still sells more than anyone else and does a better job with Stow n Go seating and more.

BTW, Daimler ripped off the American consumer and our economy by stealing Chrysler by calling it a merger. It was a hostile takeover and the corrupt, or incompetent SEC, let it go. Even after Schremp admitted to lying about it, he was never indicted.
TG
Instructor

I remember seeing a letter from DaimlerChrysler to the USEPA where they basically demanded that the EPA align their standards with the european standards so Daimler would not have to produce two different car lines - The EPA apparently told them where to go and Chrysler ended up sold of to Cerberus not too long after. At least the EPA stood up to them

Buzz
Pit Crew

Make no mistake. What killed Plymouth was DIAMLER BENZ. Chrysler was in the black and thriving at a worth of $35Bn before Daimler raided the piggy bank, grabbed the manufacturing tech, and left it a $7Bn shell of itself. The Germans were clueless about what appealed to American drivers. Viper was here, PT was here, cab forward was here, the new Ram was kicking butt. Charger and PT were in concept. All of Chrysler’s success came from the American team before Daimler entered the picture. Ok. SRT was a good plan, but the worst part was the revisited AMG Crossfire. That’s about it. Plain and simple, they were handed a gem and made a dirt clod. Plymouth was the sacrificial lamb and nothing was going to save it. Daimler and all but liquidated what could have been an amazing partnership and basically killed off one of the big three.

One honorable mention on your list could be the Pontiac GTO. Relegating the body style to the Aussie Holden that bore zero resemblance to one of the most iconic muscle cars of all time was one stupid move. They got the powertrain spot on and totally sucked gravy on the rest. Should have sold a gazillion of those.
Oldroad1
Instructor

Don't forget about the 4.7 liter V8 truck engine. Total POS.
4wheel2wheel
Intermediate Driver

I agree completely agree, the Daimler / Chrysler merge was nothing more than one company looting another while pretending to be the white knight of salvation.
Then dumping the gutted shell at the side of the road.
The best example I can use is when Deiter Zetche announced his new world car, the. Dodge Caliber he made the callous slight of saying that he didn't want to make another mistake like the NEON.
The U.S. sales numbers tell a different story.
Neon production ran from 1994 to 2005 with total U.S. sales of
2,168,202 units.
Caliber production ran from 2005 to 2012 with total U.S. sales of 403,884 units.
Neon outsold Caliber by 1,764,328 units.
So much for Deiter's grasp of what constitutes a successful idea for American car buyers.
Sadly Chrysler has all but dissolved into a the global stew called Stellantis.
BTW, I love my 1997 Plymouth Neon, Chrysler Corporation built and running fine every day.
Alan62
New Driver

It took them 40 years but Dodge killed Plymouth.
OldCarMan
Instructor

NO. One guy high up on the food chain, kept trying to kill Plymouth, since 1980, and finally did!
Oldroad1
Instructor

It looks to me like Ford copied the Espace and produced the Aerostar. Both look to be victims of incest. Frightful!
farna
Advanced Driver

The end of AMC wasn't quite as described. AMC was poised to bring in several Renault models and to build the new Premier in a new plant. They already had the Medallion which was a pretty good "mid size" car of the time. The Alliance COULD have been a great small car, but Renault insisted on keeping the little 1.4L engine despite AMC execs saying they'd be better served in the US with something a bit larger (Renault engineers basically told them they sold cars world-wide and weren't on the short end of a partnership -- they knew better). Had it debuted with the later 1.7L as stock and the GTA's 2.0L an option they would have lasted much longer. The little 1.4L wasn't terrible... around town. On a longer interstate trip though... There was another one or two cars to be imported from Renault, I'd have to look that up to name them, but the automotive press seemed to think the Renault/AMC partnership was finally coming together, especially after reviewing the new Premier (which saved Chrysler, by the way!). Alas, turmoil in France led to the CEO being assassinated by a French labor group (party?) due to Renault laying French workers off while pouring money into AMC (which would have paid off for French workers the following year with the imports!) , and the new CEO decided to sell AMC off rather than face the possibility of the same.
Revellcraft02
Intermediate Driver

I think Chrysler made a huge mistake phasing out the Plymouth brand. It could have been hugely successful if they made the right cars.
Maestro1
Instructor

Ben, very interesting and I thank you.
You picked some really intriguing cars here; I know several folks here on the Left Coast who own PT Cruisers, they are still driving them with very little difficulties. All say they wish Chrysler had continued with the product.
The Espace is stunning, should have an automatic for those not wanting to row through traffic, and of course air conditioning for the hot summer months here and elsewhere. The design would have sold like cookies. My experience with Renault is really poor dealerships, lack of parts, and so on, but the cars themselves were very French and terrific.
Chryslers sedans (L Models) were beautiful and very sophisticated designs for their time.
I always thought this was another Management mistake: The people that owned them here complained about poor quality assembly, reliability issues, and just plain lousy body integrity. If more attention had been paid to the product at origin and marketing would have taken it seriously the cars may have sold well.
I always thought Hummer was extreme. One of the Governors of our State had four. I think a Hummer buyer is a distinct customer so absorbing it into an existing brand may not be a good idea.
I think the only reason General Motors was rescued in downturn of 2006-8 was because
it had at that time 250,000 workers who were VOTERS and the rescue had nothing to do with the Company. Management was lousy then and I don't see any improvement now.
I was a third Generation GM buyer and I won't go near the cars.
When Lee Iaccoca was running Chrysler it was a monster and now it is Stellantis, merged with others which I hope will improve its cars. I've had several Chryslers in my collections,
mostly mid sixties when Chrysler was in its Monster Period, big inches, bullet proof transmissions, flat cornering in very large cars, a blast.
Ben sorry for the long e mail. You and all Hagerties stay well.
janedon
Detailer

My wife wanted a PT cruiser Until we went & saw how Small it was--
wirekat
Pit Crew

When you try to dress up a Neon...
Bluemusic67
New Driver

Had a PT for a while. .durable and bulletproof, boring to drive, a turning radius a full size truck would laugh at...it should have been more like a panel truck, like the HHR, which suffered many of the same maladies
4pizon
Pit Crew

All horrible cars for sure. What about the Gremlin, or the Pacer ? So many come to mind.
77GL
Intermediate Driver

I always wondered why the PT Cruiser ultimately failed and was ridiculed and the re-popped Challenger gets at least some following with enthusiasts. They both seem like feeble attempts to dredge up old ideas when you are fresh out of new ones?
Ty
Intermediate Driver

I owned a 1997 Eagle Vision Tsi (Black exterior with Quartz leather interior) in 1997-99. It was an awesome car. Fast, big, comfortable, attractive, handled well, decent gas mileage... basically everything one would want. I also owned several LHS/New Yorkers both new and pre-owned over the years. I can say that those cars, too, were all of the aforementioned accolades. As a self-professed "car guy", the LH cars are my favorite cars of all-time. So much so, I convinced a half-dozen friends and family members to buy their own LH vehicles. They, too, loved their cars. And I also owned a 2005 PT Cruiser I bought new in May 2005. I didn't hate it. That said, it was woefully under-powered. The ride wasn't great. Neither was the MPG. I traded it in December 2005 for a new Honda Accord EX-V6 Coupe. Just a bit of my car history and experience!