General Motors just made a bold announcement similar to the one Ford made recently about cutting sedans from its lineup. GM’s move isn’t quite as extreme as Ford’s as The General will still have some sedans left in its fleet, but a lot of them — including the Chevrolet Impala, the Buick LaCrosse, the Cadillac CT6 and several other slow-selling cars — are being put out to pasture.
This got me thinking: if GM was still bloated with too many brands, like it was before its high-profile bankruptcy a decade ago, what would they look like in the automotive climate of 2018? I’m not going to look at every brand that’s ever been part of the GM conglomerate, or this would be a very long article. Also, I have no idea what Oakland or LaSalle would look like in 2018. Instead, here’s what I think some of the more recent defunct GM brands would look like if they were still around today.
There are a lot of defunct American car brands that are missed by no one, like Plymouth and Mercury. Pontiac, however, is up there with DeLorean as one of the most missed dead car brands by enthusiasts and casuals alike. If Pontiac were still around today, I could see it continuing in the direction it was going in before its death and become a muscle car brand, not unlike Dodge. It could still have the G8, maybe a 2-door variant called the GTO (but with more retro styling this time) and probably a muscle SUV or two. And of course, the Firebird and Trans Am could have been resurrected alongside the Camaro when it came back in 2010.
Here’s one that was hard to mess up, but GM somehow mismanaged it out of existence. Hummer could have been an SUV brand with a military heritage that builds both serious off-roaders and more road-friendly crossovers ingrained with that brand’s unique identity. Sound familiar? Of course, it does. Hummer should have been GM’s version of Jeep, but instead, it had an overpriced flagship that was just an uglier Suburban and a great intellectual property was wasted.
GM has never gotten the whole idea of the cheap small car brand quite right. Geo was a bust, and so was Saturn, but I think Saturn could still make business sense today by building cheap entry-level cars that people actually want. The Spark and the Sonic could be Saturns instead of Chevrolets, and so could the Trax as an entry-level crossover. GM is now making a big bet on electric cars, so maybe Saturn could have some cheap little EVs in its lineup. Also, I could totally see one of those goofy little hatchback/wagon/crossover things that are getting popular, like the Toyota C-HR or the Kia Niro, in the form of a Saturn.
GM wasn’t sure what to do with Saab, and I don’t blame them. It’s just a weird brand that’s most famous for its weird cars, and I’m not sure how to make that work in the mass market. One thing I do think Saab should have done differently is compete more with Subaru than it did with Volvo. I think people like Saab for its quirkiness more than its luxury, so adding more AWD wagons and crossovers to Saab’s lineup might have saved it. Also, a proper Saab SUV that wasn’t just a Trailblazer with the ignition cylinder between the seats would have helped, too. If Saab went in that direction, it could be benefiting from the crossover craze today.
OK, here’s a crazy idea. Since GM already has Cadillac as its luxury brand and Buick as its pseudo-luxury brand, Oldsmobile could be an electric luxury car brand. This is in an alternate universe where GM got really serious about competing with the likes of Tesla and it could have a Model S fighter (maybe called the Aurora?) and maybe a crossover or two. I know it’s a big dream, but maybe even an electric sports car with a cool name like Toronado could be in the mix.
What do you think? Is there any hope that any of these brands could survive today? If so, what do you think they’d look like in the modern era?